Archive for January 19, 2009

Showgirls

Posted in Drama, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on January 19, 2009 by Mystery Man

PLOT:

Nomi Malone (Elizabeth Berkley) is a hot young drifter who hitchhikes to Las Vegas hoping to make it as a showgirl. After being stranded with no money or spare clothing, Nomi meets Molly Abrams (Gina Ravera), a seamstress and costume designer who takes her in as a roommate. Molly invites Nomi backstage at Goddess, the Stardust Casino show where she works, to meet Cristal Connors (Gina Gershon), the diva-like star of the topless dance revue. When Nomi tells Cristal she dances at Cheetah’s Topless Club, Cristal derisively tells her that what she does is akin to prostitution. This makes Nomi furious and sparks a rivalry (similar to that between Margo Channing and Eve Harrington as portrayed in All About Eve).

When Nomi is too upset to go to work that night, Molly takes her dancing at The Crave Club, where James Smith (Glenn Plummer) works as a bouncer. James asks Nomi to dance with him, and when he criticizes her dancing, she kicks him in the groin. James falls into the crowd, starting a brawl on the dance floor with several male patrons. After Nomi is arrested for causing the melee, James bails her out of jail, but she still pays him little notice.

Shortly, Cristal and her boyfriend Zack Carey (Kyle MacLachlan), the entertainment director at the Stardust, visit Cheetah’s and request a lap dance from Nomi. Although the bisexual Cristal is attracted to Nomi, her request is also informed by her desire to humiliate Nomi by proving she is little more than a hooker. Nomi reluctantly performs the lap dance after Cristal offers to pay $500 for it within earshot of Nomi’s boss, Al Torres (Robert Davi), who pressures her to perform. After giving Zack an explicit nude lap dance which brings him to orgasm while Cristal watches, Nomi takes the money from Cristal, who gloats that she has made Nomi feel cheap.

Cristal arranges for Nomi to audition for the chorus line of Goddess. Tony Moss (Alan Rachins), the show’s director, humiliates Nomi by asking her to put ice on her nipples to make them hard. Furious, Nomi leaves the audition and again runs into James, who says he has written a dance number for her and contends that Nomi is too talented to be a stripper or showgirl. Despite her outburst at the audition, Nomi gets the job and quits the Cheetah. Cristal further humiliates Nomi by suggesting she make a “goodwill appearance” at a boat trade show which turns out to be a thinly disguised form of prostitution.

Undeterred, Nomi sets out to destroy Cristal and claim her mantle. She seduces Cristal’s boyfriend, Zack, who secures an audition for her to be Cristal’s understudy. Nomi wins the role, but when Cristal threatens legal action against the Stardust, the offer is rescinded. After Cristal gloats and taunts Nomi at a performance, Nomi pushes her down a flight of stairs, breaking her hip. Unable to perform, Cristal finds herself replaced by Nomi as the show’s lead.

Although Nomi has finally secured the fame and fortune she sought, she alienates Molly, who saw her push Cristal down the stairs. Later Molly relents and attends Nomi’s opening night celebration at a local hotel, where she meets her idol, musician Andrew Carver (William Shockley). In a bizarre twist, Carver lures Molly to his room, where he and two of his security guards brutally beat and rape her.

Molly is hospitalized after the assault. Nomi wants to prosecute Carver, but Zack tells her the Stardust will give Molly hush money instead; their primary interest is to protect their high-profile celebrity client, not to seek justice. Zack then confronts Nomi with the details of her past: she is a runaway and former prostitute named Polly, her father murdered her mother and then killed himself, and she has been arrested several times for drug possession, prostitution, and assault with a deadly weapon. Zack blackmails Nomi by vowing to keep her past quiet if she will play along.

Unable to obtain justice for Molly without exposing her past, Nomi resorts to vengeance: she gets Carver alone in his hotel room and violently assaults him by kicking him repeatedly with her boots until he is bloodied and unconscious. Nomi then pays two hospital visits — one to Molly to deliver news of the assault, and another to Cristal to apologize for injuring her. Cristal admits she pulled a similar stunt to get cast in the lead of a show years before. Because of her world-weariness — and the fact that her lawyers managed to secure her a large cash settlement — Cristal forgives Nomi. Before she leaves, Nomi grants Cristal one passionate kiss. The movie comes full circle when Nomi, leaving Las Vegas, hitches a ride to Los Angeles with Jeff (Dewey Weber), the same man who gave her a ride in the opening scene. The film’s last shot juxtaposes a billboard advertising Nomi’s starring role in Goddesswith a road sign indicating the distance to Los Angeles.

REVIEW:

My, my, my how Jesse Spano has grown up. Everytime I watch this film, it takes me a while before I can watch Saved By the Bell again. I just don’t see her in the same light, especially since I have the unrated version.

Elizabeth Berkley probably took this role as a way to shed her good girl image, but I can’t imagine she envision the controversy and universal panning that this film would receive, nor its cult status. As far as performances go, she doesn’t do a bad job, but having seen her other work, she could have done better.

Gina Gershon really steals the show ans the bisexual star of Goddess, Cristal. Though, she’s only a supporting actress by definition, she very well carries this film. Her post-Showgirlscareer has proven that.

Kyle MacLachlan plays the token creep that works with naked women all day and ends up sleeping with the stars of the show. However, he does have a couple of raunchy scenes with Elizabeth Berkely, one in the strip club, and the other in his pool.

There a couple of other actors that should be noted for their performances, Gina Ravera and Glenn Plummer, as Molly and James respectively, don’t exactly light up the screen and are far from being household names, but they do bring their ‘A’ game to this film, and as a result, are two of the most memorable characters.

As bad as critics like to think this film is, I didn’t find it that bad. No, it’s not great, but I’ve seen worse. The major downfall of the film is that it just doesn’t seem to gel. At times it feels as if it’s an independent film, rather than a big budget film. Other moments, it has that made-for-TV feel, and then there are moments where it goes back and forth between soft core porn and legit film. I guess what I’m trying to say is that this film doesn’t know what it wants to be, and that hurt it more than anything else. If it had an identity, then maybe it would have gotten more respect, and Elizabeth Berkley would have a better career.

As a guy, of course I was going to be excited about a film about strippers and topless dancers, then I actually watched the film and was seriously disappointed. This film is good for a viewing here and there, if you have the unrated version, but otherwise, don’t waste your time. If you want to see a good stripper film, try Striptease, it’s head and shoulders above this one. However, as I said before, I’ve seen films that way worse than this one.

2 out of 5 stars

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A.I. Artificial Intelligence

Posted in Action/Adventure, Horror, Movie Reviews, Sci-Fi/Fantasy with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on January 19, 2009 by Mystery Man

PLOT:

The story is set at an unspecified date in the future. Global warming has led to ecological disasters all over the world, and a drastic reduction of the human population. Mankind’s efforts to maintain civilization lead to the creation of “mechas”. David, an android child programmed with the ability to love, is created by the Cybertronics company. They test their creation on one of their employees, Henry Swinton and his wife Monica. The Swintons have a son, Martin, who has been placed in suspended animation until a cure can be found for his rare disease. Although Monica is initially frightened of David, she eventually warms to him after activating his imprinting protocol, which irreversibly causes David to feel love for her as a child loves a parent. As he continues to live with the Swintons, David is befriended by Teddy, a mecha toy, who takes upon himself the responsibility of David’s well being.

Martin is suddenly cured and brought home, but a sibling rivalry ensues between Martin and David. Martin’s scheming behavior backfires when he and his friends activate David’s self-protection programming at a pool party. Martin is saved from drowning but David’s actions prove too much for Henry. It is decided for David to be destroyed at the factory where he was built, but Monica rather leaves him (alongside Teddy) in a forest to live as unregistered mechas. David is captured for an anti-mecha Flesh Fair, an event where useless mechas are destroyed before cheering crowds. David is nearly killed, but the crowd is swayed by his realistic nature and he escapes, along with Gigolo Joe (Jude Law), a male prostitute mecha on the run after being framed for murder.

The two set out to find the Blue Fairy, whom David remembers from the story The Adventures of Pinocchio. Like the story, he believes that she will transform him into a real boy, so Monica will love him and take him back. Joe and David make their way to the decadent metropolis of Rouge City. Information from a holographic volumetric display personality called “Dr. Know” eventually leads them to the top of the Rockefeller Center in the flooded ruins of Manhattan. David’s human creator, Professor Hobby, enters and excitedly tells David that finding him was a test, which has demonstrated the reality of his love and desire. A disheartened David attempts to commit suicide by falling from a ledge into the ocean, but Joe rescues him, just as he is captured by the authorities.

David and Teddy take a submersible to the fairy, which turns out to be a statue from a submerged attraction at Coney Island. Teddy and David become trapped when the park’s ferris wheel falls on their vehicle. Believing the Blue Fairy to be real, he asks to be turned into a real boy, repeating his wish without end, until the ocean freezes. 2000 years later, Manhattan is buried under several hundred feet of glacial ice, and humans are extinct. Mechas have evolved into an alien-looking humanoid form. They find David and Teddy: functional mechas who knew living humans. David wakes up and realizes the fairy was fake. Using David’s memories, the mechas reconstruct the Swinton home, and explain to him via a mecha of the Blue Fairy that he cannot become human. However, they recreate Monica from a lock of her hair which has been faithfully saved by Teddy, but she will live for only a single day and the process cannot be repeated. David spends the happiest day of his life playing with Monica and Teddy. Monica tells David that she loves him and has always loved him as she drifts to sleep for her final time. This was the “everlasting moment” he had been looking for, he closes his eyes, falls asleep for his first time, and goes “to that place where dreams are born”.

REVIEW:

This was Stanley Kubrick’s last film. Sadly, he didn’t live to see it to completion and Steven Spielberg took over. I’ll get to my thoughts on that in a bit.

Hayley Joel Osment is mega creepy as the mecha, David. At times, if I didn’t know any better, I would have thought they actually made a robot version of him, or that he really was a robot.

Jude Law’s appearance was unexpected, but I’m sure the ladies loved him in this film. Too bad we never find out exactly what happens to him in the end, but at least he helped David along his journey.

I’ve read some reviews where people felt they couldn’t really relate to nay of the characters, except the Teddy Bear. I have to agree. I mean, Monica, the mom, had a few moments where you felt her pain, but the fact that she caved in to her husband’s paranoia about David made me lose all compassion for her and the aforementioned Jude Law is a male prostitute, so for the most part, you’re not supposed to care for him, not to mention he doesn’t really have any character to latch onto. There is a scene about a 1/3 of the way though the movie where David is being captured along with other runaway/obsolete mechas and he’s holding onto Teddy. Teddy then says, “I’ll break, David.” This is one of the most touching scenes in the film, and is what causes him to be such an enduring character.

The movie does drag on a bit and just doesn’t go anywhere. It’s like the filmmakers just put stuff to fill time.

Speaking of the filmmakers, the last 30-45 minutes where David and Teddy are trapped underwater with the Blue Fairy statue as 2,000 years pass, should not have been made. The narration at that time makes for the perfect ending, but instead it takes a turn similar to the final Lord of the Rings, where it just doesn’t want to finish. The whole alien/advanced mecha scenes just don’t make any sense. The best thing about those scenes are that we get another view of Monica and more Teddy, but that’s it.

This is a pretty good film, and for Kubrick fans, its good to see his last work. However, the last scenes ruin the film for me. You’ll have to see it for yourself to make a decision on your own, and I recommend that you do.

3 out of 5 stars