Having only last month tried my hand at translating a smutty French poem into lolz, I now put forward a lolz treatment of another thing popular among the French, serious reviews of non-serious films. Now that I am more than a half century old, one might think I would have lost my juvenile taste for films with outlandish plots, violent action and women gratuitously dressed in suggestive clothing and put in sexually charged situations.
Yes, one might think that. And one would be wrong.
And here are three quick reviews of cheesy films from last year, which run the gamut from truly stinky cheese to fine cheese that is worth savoring.
Up first is Southland Tales. Written and directed by Richard Kelly, whose earlier film Donnie Darko is a well-deserved underground cult hit, this latest work had a much higher budget and a cast of well-known actors, some in very small roles indeed. Among the folks with speaking roles are Sarah Michelle Gellar, Sean William Scott, Justin Timberlake, Miranda Richardson, Mandy Moore, Wallace Shawn, Christopher Lambert, Nora Dunn, John Laroquette, Jon Lovitz, Cheri Oteri, Will Sasso and unfortunately, former wrestler Dwayne Johnson, previously known as The Rock, in a pivotal role as a mentally troubled movie star with amnesia. The best thing I can say about Mr. Johnson's work is that he still looks really good when he takes off his shirt. As for portraying a conflicted and tortured soul... not so much.
The film premiered at Cannes, and the audience booed. It was re-edited and new scenes were shot. About the version you can now get on DVD, let me say this.
Next up, we have Death Proof, Quentin Tarantino's ouvre that was half of the double feature Grindhouse, a tribute to the drive-in movies of the late sixties and early seventies. Mr. Tarantino's film is a female revenge flick, which recalls the kind of movies that would have starred Pam Grier or Tamara Dobson or Claudia Jennings back in the day. Being a Tarantino film, he turns it into a hot chick buddy film, with no nudity but lots of dirty talk among the hot girls who are supposed to be best buddies. The problem is that one of the hot girls, played by the very sexy Rosario Dawson, does something unforgivable to one of her female pals, and Tarantino plays it as though it were a joke. Ms. Dawson called Tarantino out about this plot point while the film was being made, but it still made it into the final cut. The unspeakable thing does not happen on screen, but it does make it harder to enjoy the rest of the film.
The other half of Grindhouse is Richard Rodriguez' Planet Terror. Rodriguez liked the title because it makes it sound like an outer space thriller, when it actually takes place in Texas. Roger Corman often did this in his cheesy movies, giving a film a title that doesn't have much to do with the actual action. While Planet Terror also has many attractive female characters in the cast, including Rose MacGowan as a go-go girl who loses her leg and is outfitted with a high powered automatic weapon as a prosthetic, the main heroes are mostly guys. Rodriguez' male cast includes Bruce Willis, Naveen Andrews, Josh Brolin, Jeff Fahey and Michael Biehn, he chose Freddy Rodriguez (no relation) to play el hombre mas macho. Freddy Rodriguez is best known as the embalmer on Six Feet Under. He's a little guy, but he's a big actor in a cool and quiet way. You believe he is the ultimate bad-ass by the end of the film.
Also, while there is lots of senseless violence and innocent victims destroyed by the zombie horde that is the main danger of the film, Richard Rodriguez has a more developed sense of honor and justice than Quentin Tarantino, so the bad guys end up dead and the good guys kinda sorta win at the end.
All these movies are cheese, but this is the best of the cheese.