Leader of the Pack

Cry-Baby is director John Waters’ answer to the success of Hairspray. Turns out going a more family friendly route was a good idea. Cry-Baby is somewhere in the middle with a mostly tame PG-13 rating. It’s probably the only other John Waters movie I’m willing to see. The only disgusting part is a particularly graphic french kissing session. Cry-Baby is just as campy as Hairspray with another Baltimore set story taking place in a bygone era. Except this time it’s the counterculture from the 1950’s. Cry-Baby is a post-Grease musical love story between a juvenile delinquent and a good girl.

“Cry-Baby” Walker is a sensitive “drape” who charms girls with a single tear. Allison is a “square” yearning to shed her perfect image. They’re a passionate couple who turn the whole town upside down. Amy Locane is hot, but it’s Johnny Depp who embraced his heartthrob status before going the opposite route with Edward Scissorhands released the same year. The rest of the motley cast is full of John Waters mainstays like Ricki Lake, counterculture icons like Iggy Pop, controversial former pornstar Traci Lords, and even a cameo from Willem Dafoe.

All of the “drapes” standout, but it’s the aptly named Hatchet-Face who makes the strongest impression. Newcomer Kim McGuire fills the role that Divine would’ve had had he not passed away. Cry-Baby is a strange film that ends up being funny, because it takes itself so seriously. The 50’s inspired songs are so good that they inspired another musical adaptation. Cry-Baby is a cult hit for those weird enough to understand it.

Cry-Baby

Allison talks to Cry-Baby and his Drapes

Failure is Not an Option

G.I. Jane gets the job done. Believe it or not, I’ve been meaning to watch and review G.I. Jane for over 3 years. So the recent attention the movie’s gotten is purely a coincidence. For one reason or another, it’s always been on my radar. I think I was drawn to the idea of a female soldier proving herself in the military. Lieutenant Jordan O’Neil is hand selected by female Senator Lillian DeHaven to prove women can handle basic training and combat in the U.S. Navy.

Demi Moore put herself through hell by putting on muscle and infamously shaving her head for the part. O’Neil’s training is rough, but she doesn’t want any special treatment or to be the poster child for women’s rights. It’s actually kind of inspirational. Especially when she wins the respect of her ruthless Master Chief played by Viggo Mortensen. Ridley Scott is no stranger to girl power after directing something like Thelma & Louise. Despite his direction, G.I. Jane drew a mixed reaction.

Demi Moore won the Razzie for Worst Actress, but I think she was unfairly treated after Striptease. Though they do find an excuse to get her naked. I honestly think G.I. Jane deserves a reevaluation, because it’s actually a pretty solid action movie. The feminist message isn’t too heavy handed and Moore gives it her all. I guess my only complaint would be the confusing direction Anne Bancroft’s Senator takes and the way Scott shot some of the war scenes. All I can say is G.I. Jane isn’t worth a slap in the face.

G.I. Jane

Lieutenant Jordan O’Neil falls in

The Scorpion and the Frog

The Crying Game is all about human nature. Something I was never aware of, because I only ever knew about its shocking twist. Spoilers were unavoidable since shows like The Simpsons and movies like Shallow Hal both gave away the big reveal. Much like Soylent Green, I doubt I would’ve seen The Crying Game without knowing the twist ahead of time. The Crying Game is mostly about a volunteer member of the Irish Republican Army during the Troubles in Northern Ireland. The movie deals with a variety of controversial subjects that practically guaranteed its nomination for Best Picture.

Nationality is most present when Fergus struggles with remaining loyal to his country. Race is apparent when the black British Jody is held hostage at the beginning. Miranda Richardson is especially cruel as the woman who lures him in. The bond Fergus forms with Jody showcases a brief but memorable performance from Forrest Whitaker. When their friendship is tragically cut short, Fergus tries to make a mends by comforting Jody’s girlfriend Dil back in London. Dil is a hairdresser who frequents a bar and ultimately sparks a romance with Fergus under the alias “Jimmy.”

Sexuality is the most major theme, because (SPOILER ALERT!) Dil is actually a man. The character is transgender, but first time actor Jaye Davidson plays the part. His androgynous look and feminine British accent probably fooled a lot of people back in 1992. Davidson’s transformative performance earned him a nomination for Best Supporting Actor, but Stephen Rea’s subtle performance was equally deserving of a Best Actor nomination. The stories complex nature did earn it an Oscar win for Best Original Screenplay. The Crying Game is a matter of fact thriller that feels realistic.

The Crying Game

Fergus and Dil in a bar

Alright! I’m Up!

Big Daddy best represents Adam Sandler’s late 90’s transition from good to bad. I haven’t seen The Waterboy, but I know Big Daddy was a little better. Sandler gets it somewhere down the middle with several crude jokes balanced by a heartfelt story. The comedian’s appeal got so big that Big Daddy became his highest grossing film at the time. Sonny Koufax is a man child with a law degree who becomes responsible for a 5 year old child that shows up on his front door.

I mostly wanted to see Big Daddy because it features the cinematic debut of longtime twin actors Dylan and Cole Sprouse. They both play Julian, but I can’t tell the difference. Even though Sonny teaches Julian to swear, commit felonies, and pee anywhere he wants, their relationship is genuinely cute. Product placement is usually pretty obnoxious in his movies, but the scene where Sonny gets Julian a Happy Meal is hilarious. Steve Buscemi is also pretty funny as a homeless man who wants a Sausage McMuffin.

There’s also a lot of talk about Hooters since Leslie Mann plays a former employee. Rob Schneider plays his usual foreign stereotype, but he’s not too bad in this movie. Although Sonny could have someone like Kristy Swanson, he falls for Joey Lauren Adams playing an accomplished lawyer. Jon Stewart plays Julian’s biological father who shows up for the sentimental finale. Big Daddy is an unconventional father-son comedy that makes responsible choices for the sake of the children.

Big Daddy

Sonny with Julian in the park

The Man in the Mirror

Candyman: Day of the Dead is dead on arrival. Any amount of dignity the franchise had is long gone in this direct-to-video third installment. Although it’s a direct follow up to Farewell to the Flesh, Candyman’s origin is reshot to be at night instead of day. Now Candyman’s legend springs up around Day of the Dead instead of Mardi Gras and takes place in Los Angeles for no good reason. There’s way more emphasis on Mexican culture instead of black culture. The final girl is of course the third blonde in a row.

Since the movie takes place in the distant future of 2020, Annie’s daughter has grown into Donna D’Errico. Despite the almost constant nudity, the former Playboy playmate never gets fully naked. Her acting is unsurprisingly terrible just like everyone else in the movie. Not even Tony Todd can save it. Caroline once again makes the brainless decision to invoke Candyman and has to deal with the bloody aftermath. There’s also a racist cop that she has to deal with.

Just as annoying are Caroline’s constant nightmares that remind me this is a late 90’s movie. Dead of the Dead is now your run of the mill gorefest. Bees continue to ravage people and his hook is always in use. It was already icky before, but Candyman continues to seduce one of his descendants. Only this time it’s his paintings that kill him instead of a mirror. Even though they once again go for a cheap fake out. There was supposed to be a fourth Candyman set in New England, but Candyman: Day of the Dead practically killed the legend.

3. Candyman 3 Day of the Dead

Candyman arrives

Preceded by: Candyman: Farewell to the Flesh

Sweets to the Sweet

Candyman: Farewell to the Flesh removes all mystery from the legend. Even though he’s a horror movie slasher, I never knew Candyman had sequels. Apparently Bill Condon was the director and more recognizable actors like Bill Nunn and horror legend Veronica Cartwright are it. Farewell to the Flesh is an icky sounding title that has something to do with Mardi Gras. The sequel inexplicably takes place in New Orleans despite Candyman’s strong ties to Chicago. His lynch mob origin story loses its impact when you see it clumsily depicted on screen.

His name is revealed to be Daniel Robitaille, he got the name Candyman from the honey that was smeared on him, and they even reveal why he’s summoned through a mirror. Aside from a less reserved Tony Todd, the only returning actor is Michael Culkin as the naysaying professor from the first movie. When he’s brutally murdered, another blonde final girl takes Helen’s place. Despite New Orleans having strong emphasis on black culture, Farewell to the Flesh is still predominantly white.

TV actress Kelly Rowan plays inner city school teacher Annie. She tries to clear her brothers name after several Candyman victims are linked to him. Like Helen, Annie foolishly summons Candyman and deals with the repercussions just like the original. The sequel doubles down on the unnecessary gore and gross imagery involving bees. Annie is later revealed to have close ties with Candyman, but I’m not sure I accept it as canon. There were several ideas for Candyman 2, but Candyman: Farewell to the Flesh should’ve been left on the cutting room floor like all the rest.

2. Candyman Farewell to the Flesh

Candyman crumbles

Preceded by: Candyman & Followed by: Candyman: Day of the Dead

Be My Victim

Candyman feels like a genuine urban legend. Like most urban legends, I never knew the whole story. My parents never encouraged me to watch Candyman, because it was too icky. I agree, but I’ve already seen the likes of Freddy Krueger, Jason Voorhees, and Michael Myers. Candyman intrigued me since he’s the most iconic African American horror movie slasher ever created. His original short story titled “The Forbidden” was the biggest stand out in a book by Clive Barker. Director Bernard Rose developed Candyman into something of a modern day Bloody Mary. Just say his name 5 times in a mirror and he’ll claim his next victim.

Candyman stands out for his long fur coat, bloody hook hand, and gruesomely exposed chest containing a hive of bees. Horror legend Tony Todd is a dignified menace who speaks in booming whispers. He was so dedicated that he endured several bee stings. Despite the strong emphasis on black culture, the final girl is married grad student Helen Lyle played by the caucasian Virginia Madsen. She researches the murders and graffiti linked to the urban legend with her friend. While also looking into the Cabrini-Green housing projects for a majority of the film.

It’s surprisingly tense, psychological, and reminded of Child’s Play with a strong emphasis on Chicago. Music by Philip Glass makes it feel more opretic. Even Candyman’s tragic origin as the artistic son of a former slave who was lynched after falling for a white woman is more nuanced than most 90’s horror movies. They kind of sacrifice a subtle tone for overly gory kills. Helen is made to look insane and I wasn’t crazy about a baby being put in harm’s way. Candyman is defeated, but Helen pays a terrible price. Candyman will be remembered whether I want to or not.

1. Candyman

Candyman presents himself

Followed by: Candyman: Farewell to the Flesh

Put the Bunny Back in the Box

Con Air is literally Die Hard on a plane and I love it. Between The Rock and Face/Off, I knew I needed to complete the Nicolas Cage 90’s action trilogy. I just wish I’d seen it sooner. Con Air is just as cheesy and far fetched as most movies starring Cage. Especially if it’s produced by Jerry Bruckheimer or directed by Simon West. This time Cage has an interesting Alabama accent and sports a glorious mane. Of course they play “Sweet Home Alabama,” but I never knew “How Do I Live?” originated from this film (or that it was Oscar nominated).

Cameron Poe is an Army Ranger turned convict who spends years in prison after defending himself from punks. He leaves behind his wife and unborn daughter who turns 7 by the time he’s paroled. Poe is transported on the titular Con Air airplane filled with murderous convicts. What could possibly go wrong? Aside from the guitar riff that plays whenever he does something badass, Cage isn’t the biggest overractor in the movie. The cast is loaded with familiar faces from the 90’s. John Malkovich is the insane, yet calculating Cyrus “The Virus” who organizes a prison escape. You got Ving Rhames as a black militant, Dave Chappelle as a coke fiend, Danny Trejo as a sex criminal, and several other criminals with their own trademark.

Steve Buscemi is a particularly fascinating serial killer who feels like he belongs in another movie. Poe’s only allies are his diabetic cellmate ironically played by Buba himself Mykelti Williamson and Rachel Ticotin as the only female prison guard. John Cusack and Colm Meaney take care of things on the outside as a feuding US Marshall and DEA agent. Although there’s an extended sequence at a landing zone and a tacked on climax on a firetruck, most of the action is on the plane. It’s tense, action-packed, and hilarious. The most memorable moment involves a criminal threatening the stuffed bunny Poe got for his daughter. Con Air gave Cage the perfect vehicle to unleash.

Con Air

Cameron Poe runs from an explosion

It is the East, and Juliet is the Sun

O Romeo + Juliet remade. Thou art more beautiful in modern day. ‘Tis the finest way for teachers to introduce William Shakespeare’s immortal play to thine youth. School is where I and a great many in mine generation hath learned of the two star-crossed lovers. Director Baz Luhrmann is all style and borrowed substance. True to keep Shakespearean dialect in spite of contemporary change. ‘Twas the second of three in his own Red Curtain Trilogy. After Strictly Ballroom, Romeo + Juliet set the stage for a tragedy told in a manner not seen. Unless West Side Story be counted.

Fair Verona hath become Verona Beach. The Montagues and the Capulets art feuding gang members with the same petty squabbles. Before Leonardo DiCaprio found romance aboard the Titanic, he won the heart of the fair and beauteous Juliet. Romeo ’tis a beachfront pretty boy with a lust for trouble. After My So-Called Life, Claire Danes played Juliet with her head in the clouds. Both art more passionate with loving glances and tender kisses. The ball is an elaborate costume party that drugs and musical interludes do enhance. The balcony monologue is all the more loving in a pool where they swim. Be they wed by thine Father Laurence and helped along by Juliet’s nanny.

Their union is consummated through tasteful passion. Mercutio is in part black and possibly gay as Romeo’s friend now faces the longsword of a gun. Tybalt is ruthless and crazed with John Leguizamo in the role. Violent means lead to violent ends as police Captain Prince banishes Romeo. Paul Rudd is Dave Paris, the governor’s son betrothed to a saddened Juliet. When death cometh to Romeo and Juliet, ’tis made more tragic as Juliet awakens before her beloved Romeo is poisoned. Her happy dagger is a gun that ends this tale of woe on the saddest note I may ever know. Romeo + Juliet ’tis a hip young modern classic.

Romeo + Juliet

Romeo and Juliet profess their love

Chubby Rain

Bowfinger showcases the ups and downs of filmmaking through a comedic lense. It’s yet another underrated movie within a movie that my mom recommended. Bowfinger is a cross between The Producers and Ed Wood directed by Frank Oz. Bobby Bowfinger is an optimistic B movie producer with dreams of directing his own hit film. So he comes up with a convoluted plan to film the ridiculously titled alien movie Chubby Rain with the hottest action star in Hollywood. The only catch is that actor Kit Ramsey has no idea he’s being filmed.

Steve Martin and Eddie Murphy are an unlikely comedic duo who do what they do best. Martin’s Bowfinger is determined, a little sleazy, but genuinely loves making movies. He’s supported by a motley crew of outcasts with their own hopes and dreams. There’s a loyal young actor, his accountant/screenwriter, an aging thespian played by Christine Baranski, cameraman played by Jamie Kennedy, and a whole crew of illegal immigrants. Heather Graham stands out the most as aspiring actress Daisy who literally sleeps with everyone on set to further her career.

Robert Downey Jr. has a brief but memorable role as a top Universal executive that Bowfinger tricks into making the movie with Ramsey. Murphy has a dual role satirizing himself as an overconfident, yet paranoid star who falls into Scientolo- I mean a totally fictional organization called MindHead. Terence Stamp is the perfect cult leader. Murphy is even funnier as Kit’s nerdy twin brother Jiff who stands in for him when they get desperate. His reaction to Daisy getting naked and running into heavy traffic are the funniest scenes in the movie. Bowfinger is for anyone who ever dreamed of making a movie. “Gotcha suckers!”

Bowfinger

Bobby Bowfinger hires Jiff Ramsey