Your Netflix Instant Weekend: ZOMBIE GIRL: THE MOVIE, DETOUR (1945), and more
My apologies for last week, friends. I had begun my column and then life got in the way. These things happen and all we can do is wipe the tears away and move on. Right? For the curious, my picks last week were RED WHITE & BLUE and MARRIAGE ITALIAN STYLE and I still encourage you to add both to your queues.
This week, we're going to look at a documentary about a up-and-coming filmmaker, a sloppy mess of an awesome noir, and the (technically) worst movie I've ever had the guts to recommend to you.
In 2005, Emily Hagins wrote, produced, edited, and directed a zombie film called PATHOGEN. The 2 year road to completing the film is chronicled in ZOMBIE GIRL: THE MOVIE. Oh, I forgot to mention, Emily wrote the script when she was 10 and finished the film when she was 12. This documentary explores the pains and heartaches associated with being a first time filmmaker with a "day job" (in this case middle school) as well as a curfew. While some of Emily's obstacles are somewhat unique, her journey is a microcosmic view of independent filmmaking.
What sets ZOMBIE GIRL: THE MOVIE apart from other movies about making movies isn't just the novelty of Emily's age (which in and of itself makes for fascinating viewing) but also the joys of watching the earliest seedlings of filmmaking urges sprouting in a young, talented filmmaker. Emily's struggles in creating PATHOGEN are clearly frustrating but she perseveres not because she simply wants to but because, one gets the sense, she absolutely has to. Anchored by supremely supportive parents, Megan and Jerry Hagins, one feels while watching ZOMBIE GIRL: THE MOVIE that Emily has every chance to "make it" with a combination of true ability and understanding friends and family. In fact, Emily has gone on to make two more films, the latest, MY SUCKY TEEN ROMANCE (which I reviewed), premiering at SXSW at the festival's largest venue to a standing ovation.
Al Roberts is on a cross-country trip to join his girlfriend Sue in LA. Hitchhiking his way, he is picked up by Charles Haskell Jr. who happens to be going to the same place. Things take a bad turn when Charles ends up dying. Deciding to hide the body and take Charles' identity, Al continues on the road only to pick up a wanderer, a beautiful woman named Vera. Soon, Vera is blackmailing Al and in a whirlwind of back-stabs and double-crosses, everyone gets hurt.
I'm no Eddie Muller, I find it hard to choose unique words for my favorite noir pieces. I generally think a noir works or it doesn't. DETOUR most definitely works despite being clumsy, cheap, and full of low-rent actors. There's a dream-like quality to the film and the characters are generally despicable so the bargain-basement elements combined to bring their story to life seem all that more fitting. There are far better made noirs you could be watching this weekend, but I promise one with hefty impact if you give DETOUR a try.
This is the point in the life of this column where you are either with me or you aren't. See, I don't just love good movies, I also love bad movies. In fact, it's really only mediocrity that I can't stand. As such, I can't help but recommend one of my favorite entertaining bad films from last year, STANDING OVATION. It's a simple story, about a group of girls that form a team called The Five Ovations to compete in a music video contest. However, you have your usual sub-plots about Irish grandfathers with gambling problems, deadbeat dads, 12-year-old tough gals with trained scorpions and... wait, what?
Yeah, it's that kind of movie. There are so many out-of-left-field elements in STANDING OVATION it's very hard to keep track of them all after just one viewing. Consider The Five Ovations' main competition, The Wiggies, a group of multi-racial tweens all with the same father (I think?) who happens to be a jolly bald man who owns a wig company and has his own musical, risqué bathing scene. The film does have some honest-to-goodness heart hiding in between the Xbox headsets used as stage microphones in a dance number and the pre-teens that inexplicably have drivers licenses that keeps it from being a lifeless failure. With an honest critical eye one can only call this movie a disaster. As a plain movie-watcher, one can't help but be entertained by the film. And isn't that enough? [For more films like STANDING OVATION, look for director Stewart Raffill's other films such as MAC AND ME, TAMMY AND THE T-REX (in which Paul Walker is mauled by a lion!), and THE ICE PIRATES.]
The Wildcard - THE ADVENTURES OF FOOD BOY
What sold me in the trailer for this movie was the shot of Food Boy huddled in the corner of a bread-covered bathroom. The story of a boy who finds out he has the ability to shoot food out of his hands, THE ADVENTURES OF FOOD BOY looks preposterous and super fun. Nothing about helping to feed starving children all over the world looks even hinted at. Instead, it seems it's purely a high-school/love story comedy. This could be the best kids movie since THUNDERPANTS.
If you're looking for more...
The micro-budget holiday horror oddity, THANKSKILLING, has returned. HIGHLANDER is '80s fantasy/sci-fi cheese at its most epically awesome. James Franco shines in the Nicolas Cage directed SONNY. The recent phenomenon of bee populations dying off is explored in the documentary COLONY. Another interesting documentary, NAKED STATES, is about photographer Spencer Tunik's quest to photograph people nude all across America. A very unlikely friendship is forged in KISS OF THE SPIDER WOMAN. Finally, for interesting indie sci-fi check out 11 MINUTES AGO.