Be well come to the Summer edition of Reaper Rick’s Movie Reviews. This issue I am going to review an old Johnny Depp flick, the very first X-Rated Animated Movie, a George Romero remake—without zombies—and a Robert Di Niro film with a bunch of drag-queens in it. What could be more fun?
The 2010 version of “The Crazies” was a remake of George Romero’s 1973 effort of the same name. Oddly enough, neither of these movies featured zombies, although in the end it was hard to tell the difference because the monsters were just as crazed as any zombies might have been. Timothy Olyphant starred in this remake as the Sherriff of a small town in Iowa. Admittedly, Tim has been somewhat type-cast as a Sherriff over the years—in “Deadwood” and “Justice”—but he makes a very good and believable Sherriff. In this movie, when a military plane which carries a deadly toxin crashes in a bog outside of town, the toxin leaks into the drinking water, and slowly most of the townspeople turn into maniac killers. They don’t eat you; they are just become really pissed-off and kill everything that moves.
A few of the people in town are somehow immune to this poison (the Sherriff and his pregnant wife among them), and they at first try to figure out what is happening, but when the military quarantines their town and rounds up everyone—sick or not—it makes things more difficult for Olyphant. And when he learns that there is no cure or antitoxin for the victims and the military is simply trying to eliminate all evidence of the outbreak, the situation turns even more deadly.
This was not a great film, but it wasn’t terrible, either. The action starts quickly, there are lots of suspenseful moments, there is quite a bit of gratuitous gore, and it has an interesting and somewhat surprise ending. This is just another example of why you should never drink tap water. For a fair amount of tension and fun, “The Crazies” is a good weekend rental and a nice popcorn flick. I give this remake Two and a Half Howls of Pleasure .
Back in 1990, baby-faced Johnny Depp was not a well-known movie actor, but John Waters decided to star Depp in his first big budget flick, “Cry Baby.” This movie also starred Amy Locane, Iggy Pop, Ricki Lake, and Traci Lords among other famous and infamous people. It takes place during the 1950s and Depp is the leader of The Drapes, a gang of teens also known as Greasers during the 50s. This was writer and director John Waters first serious musical comedy (he went on to bring “Hairspary” to the big screen and then to the Broadway Stage).
Depp falls in love with a ‘good’ girl who doesn’t want to be good anymore, and goes against her mother’s wishes to date Depp, who is considered a delinquent, at best. There is also a lot of singing and dancing in this movie, but it is all 1950s music, so is entertaining, even if the story line is a bit old fashioned. It is interesting to watch Depp sing, although he really only lip-syncs the songs.
Look for a lot of cameo performances by people you might not expect, including Patty Hearst, who was kidnapped by the SLA during the 1970s. A fun rental, it might even be considered a good ‘date’ movie by some, and I give “Cry Baby” Three Howls of Pleasure .
And speaking of the 1970s, for those of you who were not born at that time, you really missed some weird shit go down. If any of you might be interested in what life was like back then—at least on the fringe—or what you may have missed, I suggest you check out “Fritz the Cat” from 1972. This was the first X-Rated animated movie released to the public, and that should say something about how things really were at the time.
Fritz was a college educated Tom Cat who decided he wanted to know more about life than just what he could learn from textbooks and tired old professors, so he dropped out and tuned in. What that basically means is he went on a drug binge and explored his mind as well as his own little corner of the world. Back in the 70s that meant sex, drugs, rock and roll, and suburban terrorism—pretty much like today—but seen through the eyes of someone who lived during that period of emotional and psychological turmoil.
The characters in this movie were created by Robert Crumb, and if you don’t know who Crumb was, then you don’t know anything about the 60s or 70s. So go find out. I am not saying that this movie depicts a factual representation of how things were back then, but for some people and in some cases it is a pretty close and rather freaky likeness. You must watch this film with a completely open mind and realize that if you were not there, you have nothing to compare it to.
So, for educational purposes and a lot of kinky and quirky fun, I give “Fritz the Cat” Three and a Half Howls of demented and mind-boggling Pleasure .
Okay, and now onto something completely different. The following movie with Robert Di Niro must have been a sleeper at the box office, since it apparently didn’t even make back the film’s production costs, but Robert and Phillip Seymour Hoffman teamed up for a great love/hate relationship in the 1999 release of “Flawless.”
Di Niro plays a typical, middle aged security guard who is both an ignorant homophobe and a bigot. He has a debilitating stroke one night while trying to stave off a shooting in his run-down, seedy hotel and ends up paralyzed on one side of his body. Embarrassed and frightened by this new condition (he can no longer speak coherently or walk without a cane), he feels that he is no longer a ‘man,’ so cuts off all ties with his former friends and contemplates suicide. A counselor from the hospital insists he start physical therapy to learn how to walk again, and recommends that he take up singing lessons to strengthen his vocal cords, which would enable him to speak better.
Since he can’t leave his hotel, he asks a singing drag queen (Seymour) who lives across the courtyard from him for lessons. Di Niro hates gays, and Seymour has little if any love for gay bigots, so they do not hit it off well at all—at least initially. And the fact that Seymour also coaches a trio of other drag queens who sing at the club where they all work together doesn’t make it any easier for Di Niro to tolerate his lessons.
There is also a second and even a third plot to this story. ‘Flawless’ is the name of a drag queen contest that is put on every year—the winner being the most Flawless beauty—which all of the queens in question have entered. Plus, there is a big robbery of drug money in the neighborhood as the film opens, and the money ends up being hidden somewhere in Di Niro’s hotel. The local drug lord is slowly tearing apart the hotel and busy killing people (one such killing occurred the night Di Niro had his stroke), so there is a lot of interesting stuff going on in this flick.
Seymour and Di Niro slowly and painfully discover that each of them are seriously disabled in a different way and do become friends, in a manner of speaking, and then enemies again, and go back and forth several times during the run of this picture. There is also a ‘love’ story which involves Di Niro, but that is a decidedly off the wall addition, except that it allows him to become a bit more human and less of an ignorant bigot, as he starts off as at the beginning of the movie. And in the end they both learn important life lessons that if both of them were not so functionally disabled neither would have discovered.
This is a fun, funny, sad, tension-filled festival of being reborn, full of singing, cursing, shootings, laughter, and music. I highly recommend this movie to almost everyone, save children, as they would not understand most of it, and give “Flawless” Three and a Half Howls of Pleasure . Be sure to watch through the end credits, as Di Niro and Seymour sing ‘The Name Song’ for several minutes while in character, and this scene alone is worth watching the movie for. Have some fun with this one.
And that will do it for me this issue. I hope to see you next time…