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Monday, March 28, 2011

Mary Ingalls Sees Dead People

    The true tragedy of Happy Birthday To Me is that it could have been a great movie. It had a good set-up, interesting plot, and a fantastic ending. To bad everything in the middle couldn't uphold those standards.

    Our favorite prairie diva Melissa Sue Anderson, plays Virginia. Virginia is a shy, quiet, girl who is a part of an elite group of teens called the "Top Ten". Unfortunately for Virginia, she suffers memory loss due to a tragic car accident four years prior.

    Soon, her friends begin falling prey to a mysterious albeit, creative murderer. Virginia begins to suffer blackouts and fears that she may be responsible for the possible murders of her friends. Is she the killer or is someone going to great lengths to frame her.

   Happy Birthday To Me is probably one of the better slasher films of it's era, but it had the potential of being a classic. To start off with there is no character development, it's hard to tell them apart let care about them.

  Like Sleepaway Camp, the majority of the characters are massively unpleasant. One of Virginia's "friends" even breaks into her house in order to steal her underwear. Don't worry, he's not a pervert, stolen panties apparently bring good luck in motorcycle races. The storyline gets convoluted and there are one too many red herrings for my taste.

   Melissa Sue does well as Virginia, she expresses a great level of vulnerability and is enjoyable to watch. However, the film focuses too much on her neuroses and not enough on the plot. At one point, you wish she'd just spank her inner child and get on with it.

   As I said before, the gem of this movie is the ending. It could've have come off as rushed and tacked on but the phenomenal acting makes up for it. It has a great downer ending that is pretty realistic to the plot. This film is a must see for any slasher fan if you have the patience to sit through the boring parts.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Retro Flashback: Bio-Dome

   After I saw Son-In-Law, I thought, "Good movie, maybe Pauly Shore's not that bad of an actor."  After seeing his other films I amended that sentence. His other movies are truly bad but Bio-Dome is a disaster of epic proportions.

   The film stars Pauly Shore and Stephen Baldwin as well, themselves, a couple of slacker stoners sharing a brain cell. Their girlfriends (yes, they get love interests and poor Joey Lauren Adams is one of them) are fed up with their lack of ambition and trick them into following them into the desert.

   On their return home, they come across the Bio-Dome and promptly mistake it for a mall. Great security that government sponsored megadome has. They find themselves locked in with a group of scientists for a year. For some odd reason, merely letting them out would destroy the whole project and mercifully end the film.

    At first, they are upset until their "selfless act" impresses their girlfriends and makes them popular. They basically waste an hour of the film doing stupid things and annoying the scientists. Kylie Minogue plays a scientist, yes, the goddess of pop, reduced herself to this treacle.

   The head scientist played by William Atherton (how did this movie garner such a top-notch cast, was blackmail involved? Bribes?) gets fed up with them and ditches them in the Bio-Dome's desert area. The bumbling oafs find a key in one of the walls and escape. Of course, fear of losing everyone's respect leads them to not only return to the dome but decide to throw an eco-friendly rager.

  They, of course, destroy the Bio-Dome  but using their single brain cell and the litter left behind from the party, they salvage the project and become heroes. The head scientist snaps and attempts to blow up the Bio-Dome. Even though he's the "villain", it's hard not to root for the guy trying to kill Pauly Shore and the Diet Coke of the Baldwin brothers. Just one calorie, not Baldwin enough.

   But the Bio-dome survives, nobody learns anything, and I die a little inside. Even a cameo by Tenacious D couldn't improve this film.

Getting To Happy: A Terry McMillan Novel

    I am a bad constant reader. Somehow I managed to miss the release of the new Terry McMillan novel. Not only that but the missed novel was a sequel to my favorite book Waiting to Exhale. 

  A lot of readers complained about this book, they describe it like a literary snuff film, depressing being the main words. Yes, there are dark moments but there are also light ones as well. McMillan has always had the gift of maintaining a balance between the two.
  The books picks up fifteen years after Waiting and things have definitely changed for four main characters. Bernadette is a bitter divorce', Gloria is a recent widow, Savannah is trapped in a boring marriage, and Robin is still searching for Mr. Right in the Internet age.

  A lot of reviewers complained about the changes in this novel. They didn't want to see their favorite characters die or end up with a less than happy ending. But, that's the point of a sequel, if you don't want the story to change, then don't read it.  

  Getting to Happy provides a wonderful blend of new and old characters, a realistic evolution to the previous installment and avoids the tacked on happy ending that plague so many novels.

  What really impressed me about the novels was the author's approach to the character of John, Bernie's unfaithful hubby. John evolves from the "bad guy" to a likable, if flawed character without whitewashing (no pun intended) his past behavior. Robin's "lying sneaking whorish Pisces" boyfriend Russell receives a similar treatment, also without ignoring the past. Robin's storyline is my particular favorite as she finally gets the happily ever after that she so truly deserved.

  The only storyline that didn't ring true was Gloria's daughter-in-law, Nickida. I understand that the book needed an antagonist but all her scrapes and troubles came off as Soap Operish and one dimensional. It could have trimmed down considerably.

   Overall, if you enjoyed Waiting to Exhale or McMillan's work in general, then you'll enjoy this one. As long as you're an adventurous reader unafraid of change, that is.