Confessions of a Shopaholic Recap

Jamie

Rebecca Bloomwood has a problem. She’s deep in debt and she just got a job at a financial magazine. The irony! While doling out advice and trying to overcome her crippling shopping obsession, she’s also trying to evade her debt collector. Can she avoid public embarrassment (and perhaps get the guy) before it’s too late? Find out in… Confessions of a Shopaholic.

How?! Rebecca Bloomwood has big dreams. She wants a place in the world of fashion, writing for the top magazine Alette. Unfortunately she’s stuck at a gardening magazine while blowing all her money (and more) on the latest trends (that honestly and objectively look hideous). When she fails to get an interview at Alette she settles for an interview at the financial magazine Successful Saving helmed by Luke Brandon. She blows the interview and while drinking to forget that (and her crippling debt) she writes two letters: one to Alette telling everything she wished she could, and a second to Successful Saving raking them over the coals. Unfortunately in her drunken stupor she mixes up the letters! Uh oh! Or not so ‘uh oh’ as her spunk gets her a job at Successful Saving after all. Despite the irony of her position, Rebecca immediately charms everyone around her and starts churning out a wildly successful column tying sensible financing to the financial troubles she’s experiencing under the pseudonym The Girl in the Green Scarf. Soon she’s falling for her boss, booking appearances on TV, and trying everything to avoid her debt collector. Unfortunately on her big TV interview day disaster strikes and her debt collector is in the audience. The fallout is immense as not only does she lose her job, but her boss is also forced out. Realizing that her shopaholic tendencies have ruined all the relationships around her (including the one with her best friend), Rebecca declines a job offer from Alette to work on herself. Through Shopaholics Anonymous she organizes an auction of all her clothes (including her signature scart) and pays off her debt. Rebecca mends her relationships and finally runs into Luke, who reveals that he in fact bought her scarf and that he wants her to work with him at his new company. They then smooch a bunch probably. THE END.

Why?! Love, duh. Actually I take that back. This film is probably one of the least love-centric rom coms I can remember. Luke is very much a side character and they barely kiss before her addiction derails things. The film is much more interested in exploring the root of her addiction than love… at least on the surface. So I guess the motivation is, uh, shopping.

Who?! Funny cameo in this one as one of the members of Shopaholics Anonymous is John Salley. Yes, 4-time NBA champion and 0-time all-star John Salley. Not nearly his only BMT film, either as he also appeared in the film Eddie and Bad Boys II. I learned from wiki that he was friends with Eddie Murphy and used to do some stand up when he was on the Pistons. He was funny in this.

What?! Uhhhhhhhh, I mean, the film is a giant advertisement. It would actually be hard to list anything of particular significance as so many brands were spotlighted that they kinda washed each other out. The only thing I’ll reiterate is that I thought that a fair number of Fisher’s outfits were objectively terrible to the point where I wondered if the point was that she would realize that she was meant to be a financial writer rather than a fashion writer.

Where?! Big time NYC film, which is interesting as it’s not till the second book that the Shopaholic series went to America (and even then, just for that entry). A little weird they changed the setting and made Rebecca America, but whatever. Sprinkled in a little Miami too for good measure. A-. Could have been London.

When?! Another film, another purposeful dodging of the temporal setting. There are multiple parts where they could easily have dropped a “Sale of the Century, March 2nd” in there but they didn’t. Clearly this took place in winter and into the early Spring just given the general attire and mood of NYC. But never specified. D.

This is a hard film to review. On the one hand it’s a generic rom com that has some charming actors, some nice to look at locales, and literally no surprises (if you’re into that kind of thing). On the other hand, it takes everything good about the book and throws it in the trash in favor of shameless and mostly off-putting consumerism. I guess as far as a straightforward rom com my biggest gripe is the lack of love. There doesn’t seem to be much building of the Isla Fisher/Hugh Dancy love connection and can we get more than just a very PG-rated smooch? As far as the consumerism goes, I think this suffers mostly in trying to fit a not-very-generic rom com book into a generic rom com package. The idea of the book is kinda that Rebecca is actually very qualified for financial writing because she sees through all the lies that everyone is fed by the financial institutions because she herself has been duped into debt by them over and over. That’s a very prominent part of the book, her snide remarks as she listens to financial PR campaigns. They threw that all away in favor of someone who seemingly just bumbles and stumbles her way to success by mostly looking at her shopping bags and being like “credit cards are like… empty shopping bags…” and people are like ‘Brilliant!’ That being said, I also didn’t like the book very much. Rebecca is a giant liar in the book and it’s hard to take at times as she just keeps lying and lying and lying. Patrick?

Patrick

‘Ello everyone! A film about rampant consumerism literally moments after the financial collapse? What is this, Sex and the City 3?! Kind of, yeah. Let’s go!

P’s View on the Preview – I swear to god I’ve been racking my brain trying to figure out how to not do this film. It just is one of those films I didn’t really have an interest in. I figured it would be boring, and if not boring it would just be Sex and the City, and if not that it would be like … a bad adaptation of the book or something. Hugh Dancy was the only thing that gave me hope, he tends to be in weird secretly-good BMT films like the weirdo animated Oz film where he was a nutcracker. What were my expectations? An unfunny film that mostly people hated because of the rampant consumerism which was unbecoming in 2009.

The Good – Isla Fisher and Hugh Dancy are very charming and play their roles well. Actually, all of the actors do a serviceable job in the film. Outside of the context of the financial collapse the consumerism is probably not quite so disgusting. Really good NYC film with a very out of place excursion to Miami. Very much felt like they left NYC solely because that’s what Hollywood films are supposed to do. Best Bit: Isla Fisher.

The Bad – Much like Sex and the City the comsumerism is really gross feeling in 2020, and the film isn’t funny. The humor is actually mostly like The Office, which I guess makes sense considering this came out in the middle of its most popular run, but the awkwardness is a bit of a shock watching in 2020. The main character is also quite unappealing. If she was just a shopaholic that would be okay, that’s something she needs to learn to get over, good for her. But she’s also a compulsive liar, and the lies are what actually gets her in trouble. Why anyone would ever believe a word she says is beyond me. Fatal Flaw: Dated humor.

The BMT – Well, I don’t think I’ll ever think of this film again. Probably, the main issue is the film is kind of okay? I didn’t mind it. Isla Fisher saved it to a large degree. I can’t imagine a single situation in which I would recommend anyone watch this film … huh, usually at the very least people could marvel at a bad-BMT film for its blandness, but this is just not really much of a film if you don’t care for the book series. Did it meet my expectations? Kind of, I do think that the rampant consumerism is why the film got terrible reviews. It would get terrible reviews today as well though for its dated awkward humor, so nothing has changed for it unfortunately.

Roast-radamus – This might actually be the greatest Product Placement (What?) in the history of BMT. Is “all fashion brands” a valid product placement? Do you think any of them had to pay for their placement? Solid Setting as a Character (Where?) for New York City. I won’t count Miami, but that is one of the worst uses of a city in a film I’ve ever seen. And a small Worst Twist (How?) for the reveal that Dancy was both bidders for the green scarf at the end. Like why both? Why not outbid the actual people there? Whatever. Closest to Good in my opinion with some distance from the financial collapse.

Sequel, Prequel, Remake – This is obviously prime for a Netflix streaming remake. It is already a book series so you have built in stories for multiple seasons. From what I can tell the movie isn’t super faithful to the book, so you have an opportunity to draw in fans there as well. And you move it to London (with Rebecca still being from the US) and you have some real Emily in Paris energy going. I can see it now, a woman, trying to escape her financial obligations in the US, moves to the UK to try and turn her life around. Initially lying about her experience and her financial situation (to employers and the UK government alike), the first series would basically be like the movie except you replace the debt collector with a government employee trying to unravel Rebecca’s web of visa application lies! I would actually probably watch that.

You Just Got Schooled – Final week for the suspension of You Just Got Schooled for the Hall of Fame rewatches. This week I rewatched both Endless Love films. Those previews and the Endless Love (2014) induction are all now live. Stay tuned as this section returns next week.

Cheerios,

The Sklogs

Confessions of a Shopaholic Quiz

Oh boy, I am in some serious debt. So serious in fact that to even bear to look at my bills I had to get mega-drunk and now I can’t remember a thing. Do you remember what happened in Confessions of a Shopaholic?

Pop Quiz Hot Shot!

1) At the beginning of the film they go through Rebecca Bloomwood’s debts. Approximately how much does she owe?

2) What magazine does Rebecca originally work for? And what magazine does she go to work for and why?

3) Where does Rebecca say she is from (and is fluent in the language of) multiple times during the course of the film and why?

4) Throughout the film Rebecca is trying to avoid Derek Smeath, a debt collector. Who does she tell people he is?

5) How much does Luke buy the green scarf for at the end of the film? 

Bonus Question: How long does it say that Luke’s business, Brandon Communications, last?

Answers

Confessions of a Shopaholic Preview

With bated breath Jamie and Patrick slowly turn to page 473 in the book. This could be the key to confronting their cyborg doppelgangers and saving Rich and Poe. They lean in close to read the all important words: “Fuck you, dweebs.” Gah! The only words on the page and they leave them just where they started. “I don’t get it,” Jamie says slowly, “what’s so important about calling us a couple of dweebs? Cause we aren’t… we aren’t dweebs.” Patrick assures him they aren’t and looks past page 473 for any clue. The half-cyborg terminator has finished bible class for the day and is walking with Mary out of the church.

“Oh, Cyborg, you’re so handsome and cool,” sighs Mary, “We just need to find you a nice lady to keep your mind off all those dweebs that need crushing.” The half-cyborg shakes his head, embarrassed. No woman would like a ¾ man like him… could she? He dares to dream. He imagines meeting a sweet gal who shares many of his passions. They crush dweebs together, but also crush cans of Diet Crush during their down time. She would be a rising star at the salt mines while he wrangled bounties in the Pit Station of Zaal. They would raise a couple of ⅜ boys and… sigh… but no. “Beep boop clothes,” he says sadly motioning towards his ratty battle armor. Mary laughs, “You know what? I’ll set up a hot date with Rachel down at the Pretzel Stand and then I’ll help you improve your style. And you know what that means.” Cyborg smiles, “beep boop shopping.”

Shopping? What does that help? “That’s funny,” says Jamie, “I used to know a Rachel down at the Pretzel Stand.” Suddenly Patrick knows exactly what to do. That’s right! We’re watching Confessions of a Shopaholic. You may be wondering why we are doing that. Well, against all odds it was the only BMT qualifying film we could find to connect back to The Skulls in the Chain Reaction. So congrats. Let’s get shopping. Let’s go!

Confessions of a Shopaholic (2009) – BMeTric: 36.2; Notability: 56 

StreetCreditReport.com – BMeTric: top 29.6%; Notability: top 12.0%; Rotten Tomatoes: top 22.2% Higher BMeT: Dragonball Evolution, Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li, The Twilight Saga: New Moon, Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel, S. Darko, Stan Helsing, Dance Flick, Year One, The Unborn, All About Steve, Halloween II, Bitch Slap, Paul Blart: Mall Cop, Obsessed, The Final Destination, Madea Goes to Jail, G-Force, Survival of the Dead, Sorority Row, Miss March, and 27 more; Higher Notability: Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, 2012, X-Men Origins: Wolverine, Angels & Demons, G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra, Fast & Furious, The Lovely Bones, Terminator Salvation, Nine, Halloween II, Surrogates, G-Force, The Twilight Saga: New Moon, Land of the Lost; Lower RT: Old Dogs, Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li, Miss March, All About Steve, Whiteout, Beyond a Reasonable Doubt, Echelon Conspiracy, Post Grad, Driving Aphrodite, Malice in Wonderland, The Unborn, Couples Retreat, Bride Wars, The Stepfather, The Pink Panther 2, S. Darko, I Love You, Beth Cooper, The Ugly Truth, Stan Helsing, Year One and 27 more; Notes: That notability is amazingly high. I guess that is what happens when you create a film chock-a-block with high fashion product placement? An IMDb of 5.9 is basically exactly what I would have expected of this.

RogerEbert.com – 2.5 stars – Look. “Confessions of a Shopaholic” is no masterpiece. But it’s funny, Isla Fisher is a joy, and — of supreme importance — it is more entertaining to a viewer with absolutely no eagerness to see it (like me) than “Sex and the City” was. Also, no movie can be all bad where the heroine attends a Shopaholics Anonymous meeting and meets a former Chicago Bulls star.

(Spoilees. We are on an interesting streak of films here. 3.0, 2.0, 2.5 stars by Ebert in the last three. This is the second one he seemed to genuinely enjoy. He seemed lukewarm on Message in a Bottle, but he liked The Rite and this it seemed. Nice to hear Isla Fisher was good in it though.)

Trailer – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=npFBRp716Qw/

(Her fashion is so in your face and crazy. Not at all what is in fashion now. Seems like an easy breezy comedy … so basically it is going to turn out that it is aggressively not-funny right? The only possibility sadly.)

Directors – P.J. Hogan – (Known For: Peter Pan; My Best Friend’s Wedding; Muriel’s Wedding; Unconditional Love; Mental; The Humpty Dumpty Man; BMT: Confessions of a Shopaholic; Notes: Australian. Was nominated for a BAFTA for Muriel’s Wedding which he also wrote.)

Writers – Tracey Jackson (screenplay) – (Known For: The Guru; The Other End of the Line; BMT: Confessions of a Shopaholic; Notes: Created the series Babes for Fox in 1990 which is kind of wild. Seems to have made multiple Bollywood inspired films in the 00s.)

Tim Firth (screenplay) – (Known For: Kinky Boots; Calendar Girls; Blackball; The Wedding Video; BMT: Confessions of a Shopaholic; Notes: Pretty big name in British theatre, he won an Olivier award in 2003 and has made a few productions which have been nominated as well. Kinky Boots itself became a huge British musical.)

Kayla Alpert (screenplay) – (BMT: Confessions of a Shopaholic; Notes: Mostly a producer, producing Ally McBeal and LAX among other shows. A good number of television writing credits as well.)

Sophie Kinsella (books) – (Known For: Can You Keep a Secret?; BMT: Confessions of a Shopaholic; Notes: Her sister is also a novelist. Both credits are for adaptations of her books.)

Actors – Isla Fisher – (Known For: Blithe Spirit; Tag; The Great Gatsby; Nocturnal Animals; Now You See Me; Godmothered; Rango; Greed; Wedding Crashers; Rise of the Guardians; Horton Hears a Who!; The Beach Bum; Definitely, Maybe; I Heart Huckabees; London; Bachelorette; The Lookout; Life of Crime; Wedding Daze; Burke and Hare; Future BMT: Scooby-Doo; Grimsby; Hot Rod; BMT: Confessions of a Shopaholic; Keeping Up with the Joneses; Notes: Scottish, but born in Oman and raised in Australia, she considers herself Australian. Has been Married to Sasha Baron Cohen for ten years.)

Hugh Dancy – (Known For: Martha Marcy May Marlene; Black Hawk Down; Ella Enchanted; Our Idiot Brother; Late Night; Savage Grace; Hysteria; The Jane Austen Book Club; The Sleeping Dictionary; Adam; Shooting Dogs; Tempo; Future BMT: Blood & Chocolate; King Arthur; BMT: Basic Instinct 2; Legends of Oz: Dorothy’s Return; Confessions of a Shopaholic; Evening; Notes: British. For me at least he’s most famous for playing Will Graham in the Hannibal series which is quite good if a bit gross.)

Krysten Ritter – (Known For: El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie; 27 Dresses; She’s Out of My League; Big Eyes; Margaret; Search Party; Veronica Mars; The Hero; Vamps; Animal Attraction; Killing Bono; Listen Up Philip; L!fe Happens; How to Make Love to a Woman; Frost; Asthma; Refuge; Slingshot; Heavy Petting; Future BMT: Mona Lisa Smile; BMT: Confessions of a Shopaholic; Notes: The B in apartment 23 and Jessica Jones. She was also in Breaking Bad for a bit.)

Budget/Gross – $55 million / Domestic: $44,277,350 (Worldwide: $108,394,089)

(Not bad. I imagine they were, as usual, hoping for that unlikely $100 million hit. Didn’t get it, but I bet it came out even.)

Rotten Tomatoes – 26% (44/169): This middling romantic comedy underutilizes a talented cast and delivers muddled messages on materialism and conspicuous consumption.

(Uh oh. Middling. So unfunny and kind of boring. But maybe we’ll get some hilarious 2009-level “whoops, we made this gross materialistic film as the economy is falling apart, sorry” storylines going. Reviewer Highlight: Not only is it an unfunny movie shrilly told, it probably is the most ill-timed and appallingly insulting movie in recent memory. – Claudia Puig, USA Today)

Poster – Confessions of a Sklogaholic

(I like the artistic leap they took on this one, even if it doesn’t entirely work. I hate white space on posters, so I wish they could have avoided that, and the font on the bag is real boring. But gotta give credit when they take a risk. B.)

Tagline(s) – All she ever wanted was a little credit… (A-)

(I do like this. It’s clever in that special tagline type of way. The biggest problem with it is that the double meaning doesn’t totally work with the film itself. I wouldn’t describe her character as someone who doesn’t get the credit she deserves… but that’s besides the point really. It’s solid.)

Keyword – department store

Top 10: Wonder Woman (2017), Catch Me If You Can (2002), Prisoners (2013), Superbad (2007), Ocean’s Eight (2018), Baby Driver (2017), Love Actually (2003), Suicide Squad (2016), The Terminator (1984), The Man from U.N.C.L.E. (2015)

Future BMT: 60.4 Maid in Manhattan (2002), 49.3 Mannequin: On the Move (1991), 46.1 Sleepover (2004), 44.7 Simply Irresistible (1999), 41.3 I Think I Love My Wife (2007), 38.2 Masterminds (2016), 35.6 Indecent Proposal (1993), 34.5 Suicide Squad (2016), 32.8 Mannequin (1987), 31.9 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze (1991);

BMT: Confessions of a Shopaholic (2009), Keeping Up with the Joneses (2016), Left Behind (2014), The Darkest Hour (2011), The Women (2008), Proud Mary (2018)

(Probably follows the growth-collapse of the department store through time. This film didn’t have very many good keywords in my opinion. Mannequin: On the Move is definitely the pinnacle of department store film.)

Welcome to Earf (HoE Number 16) – The shortest path through The Movie Database cast lists using only BMT films is: Kristin Scott Thomas is No. 7 billed in Confessions of a Shopaholic and No. 2 billed in Random Hearts, which also stars Harrison Ford (No. 1 billed) who is in Hollywood Homicide (No. 1 billed), which also stars Josh Hartnett (No. 2 billed) who is in Here on Earth (No. 3 billed) => 7 + 2 + 1 + 1 + 2 + 3 = 16. If we were to watch Toys, Jack, and The Glass House we can get the HoE Number down to 15.

Notes – At the end, Rebecca Bloomwood (Isla Fisher) pays off her entire debt in coins, saying that she was doing it in the most inconvenient way possible. In real life, Derek Smeath (Robert Stanton) could have refused to accept it. While coins are legal tender within the Federal Reserve System, no law requires a merchant or anyone else to accept them. However, if he had refused payment, the debt would legally be considered paid off. (So … he couldn’t have refused? If the debt is paid off if he refuses or not what is the point in refusing?)

The novel is set in London. The movie changed it to New York City to connect with an American audience. Following the success of Sex and the City (1998), New York City was seen as a selling point to female audiences.

Dame Kristin Scott Thomas revealed in 2014 that she didn’t like the experience of filming. “I thought it would be quite good fun. But I spent my entire time waiting. I hated it, hated it, hated it, and I said that I wouldn’t do another one. Funnily enough, I haven’t been asked to.” (I don’t know what this means … she didn’t direct it or anything. She’s been in plenty of films prior and since. Weird.)

Isla Fisher researched her role by visiting some overspend/under earner groups, people whose lives have essentially become unmanageable because of their compulsive shopping.

Isla Fisher wore five-inch stilettos during filming.

Isla Fisher is only fourteen years younger than Joan Cusack, who played her mother.

In the book Rebecca Bloomwood wishes she was ‘someone really cool like Kristen Scott Thomas’ who stars in the film. (Fun)

The Skulls Recap

Jamie

Luke McNamara just wants to become a lawyer despite his humble origins. With the help of his crew prowess he gets a chance to join the elite and secretive Yale club called The Skulls. Soon, though, his friend is dead and he realizes that maybe the club is not just bad, but dangerous. Can he stop The Skulls (and maybe get the girl) before it’s too late? Find out in… The Skulls.

How?! Luke is a rad dude who can win any crew meet with one oar tied behind his back. But really his main goal is to make it out of the ranks of the New Haven townies and into the ranks of successful lawyers without debt up the wazoo. The key? The Skulls, a Yale club that rumor has it will pay your entire tuition. His friends, roommate Will and love interest Chloe, don’t understand his obsession and are a little shocked when he indeed gets the invitation and accepts. Suddenly they are feeling a little left out as Luke and his new BFF Caleb are palling around and keeping secrets. One night while working late, Luke goes to talk to Will and is distressed to find him dead. Knowing it doesn’t make sense he searches around and finds that Will was working on a news story about The Skulls. Confronting Caleb he admits that Will didn’t commit suicide, but actually died from a fall in the Skull’s building, but insists it was all an accident. Luke doesn’t entirely believe him and so following this lead and with the help of his genius (and somewhat criminal) townie friends, Luke gets his hands on the security tape from the club. Watching them he sees that while Will’s fall was accidental, he was still alive afterwards… that is until the Provost of Yale, acting on the order of Caleb’s high powered father, snaps his neck! Luke tries to get help from upper level club members before going to the police, but is stymied and the tape is switched before he can bring it in. The Skulls get Luke committed, but Chloe helps break him out. On the run they are nearly taken out by the Provost, but a sympathetic police officer kills him and lets them go. Knowing his only chance is some real coolz rulez, Luke confronts Caleb and challenges him to a duel and by the club’s coolz duelz rulez he must accept. During the duel Luke tells Caleb that he knows it was all an accident and that his father actually killed Will and a dismayed Caleb shoots his own father. When he tries to take his own life, Luke stops him. Luke then withdraws from The Skulls because he’s gonna be pretty busy smooching Chloe. THE END.  

Why?! Luke just wants a rad life of lawyering and had already put his lean muscles and endurance for days to work getting into Yale. Now he needs The Skulls to finish the job. Unfortunately their only motivation is power and will stop at nothing to keep it. Particularly that damn Provost of Yale.

Who?! I personally think they should give Caleb’s father a pass on the whole murder misunderstanding because he was in line for a Supreme Court seat and it would be a pity to miss out on that for this section. Still, we do have a Senator and, of course… the Provost of Yale… or at least he was before he was killed following his participation in a murder.

What?! There is a slew of cars shown off in this film because that’s one of the clear perks to being in The Skulls: a super rad car that lets everyone know “I’m in a secret society, but shhhh it’s secret.” The one that’s most involved in the plot is Luke’s 1963 Ford Thunderbird, which he gives to his townie friends in exchange for their help.

Where?! This is a really really good Connecticut film. Set very hard in New Haven, CT (did I mention the Provost of Yale murders someone?) it’s not a great look for Yale. Then again, The Skulls is a perfect 10/10 film so maybe it is a good look despite all the murder cults involved. Obviously not an A+ like A Haunting in Connecticut but it’s an A+ in my heart (but really it’s an A). 

When?! Don’t be tricked! There is a scene in The Skulls where Judge Mandrake is all like “come to TGivs with me and my disappointing son” and you’d be tempted to be all like Secret Holiday Alert. But hold the phone! Leaves on the trees? Light jackets? A race that’s a leadup to the goddamn Ivy Sprints (guess they couldn’t get past the trademark for Eastern Sprints)? It’s clearly Spring so Judge Mandrake is really getting ahead on his TGivs planning. C

I unabashedly loved watching this movie. It is one of the stupidest things I’ve ever seen. The Provost of Yale is running around with a gun trying to kill the school’s star rower. The Provost! They should be making these films 24/7 to air on Netflix because this proves that no matter how ludicrously stupid they get I still cannot get enough of them. Like Swimfan before it they can just churn this stuff out. Where are the Jesse Bradfords and Jashua Jacksons of this generation to take on the newest aquatic sport and start cooking up the thrills? Even when they by accident make an Abduction starring Taylor Lautner they still at least made something dumb and unintentionally hilarious. This is dumb, unintentionally hilarious, and great. I loved it so much I even almost watched The Skulls 2… almost. Patrick?

Patrick

‘Ello everyone! Do you ever wish you were in some secret society where people literally die and weird old people buy you prostitutes and stuff? No? Huh, then why was The Skulls written that way? Let’s go!

P’s View on the Preview – I didn’t need no preview for this! I’ve seen this movie multiple times in my youth, and am obviously rather excited to give it a rewatch years after I could have been in a secret society myself. I could talk about what I remember, which is the opening scene where Charlie from The Mighty Ducks wins a crew race with one less rower than the other teams … yeah, that’s ain’t happening man. What were my expectations? Much like that opening crew race I expected the film to be absurd. Front to back, just absurdity that melts my mind, but in a good way.

The Good – This film is absurd and melts my mind in a good way. It is juuuuuuust dumb enough to be funny, but also it has that conspiracy at the core which you just can’t wait to unravel. It is like The O.C. in movie form, the perfect level of teen melodrama, but as a thriller. This film is far from good. This film is far from even being adequate. But it is also a delight that continues to beg questions weeks after viewing. Like … how do they explain that the provost of Yale got shot in the back by a New Haven police detective on some abandoned stretch of railroad? That combined with multiple Yale alumni getting shot or having dark secrets revealed in the same week in November at least one person would be like “wait a tick … is all this connected?” This though is in fact a good thing, I love it. Best Bit: Pure teen melodramatic lunacy.

The Bad – I would say the acting isn’t the greatest thing I’ve ever seen. I like Joshua Jackson well enough, I grew up with him in The Mighty Ducks and Dawson’s Creek, but he wasn’t great in the end. I think the conspiracy at the core of the film is troublesome. It might seem strange to say it … but killing Hill Harper’s character makes no sense. He was trespassing, the fall was a total accident (complete with video evidence), and he didn’t actually learn anything terrible about the Skulls. That’s the issue with the film: it really makes no sense. Why would the head of the skulls keep the video of this crime around? It seems easy enough for them to destroy it if they wanted. Why does Joshua Jackson even join The Skulls if he wants to do “real” legal work for the common man? The Skulls will make him so indebted to these powerful people he’ll almost definitely have no choice but to become a corporate lawyer in Washington D.C. or something. It is just poorly written … but again, in a great way that I love. Fatal Flaw: The film makes no sense.

The BMT – I love these types of films. Swimfan is the closest, but something like Hackers or even I Still Know What You Did Last Summer are similar in style. Crank up that lunacy, give me some drama, and spin a conspiracy that makes no sense, and I’m in. I have a lot of trouble finding lists of films like this … I might need to start thinking of a discovery method for something where I have two BMT films and I want a third that is similar in style … hmmm. Did it meet my expectations? It exceeded them. I imagined it would just be a cheesy teen thriller, but it is a lot closer to something like Hackers in its absurdity.

Roast-radamus – A very high falutin Product Placement (What?) with each member of The Skulls getting branded on the wrist (dumb) and then getting a Breitling Old Navitimer to cover it up. Probably around $10K these days. A pretty great Setting as a Character (Where?) for New Haven, Connecticut and Yale University specifically. And a Worst Twist (How?) for the reveal that, indeed, the sneaky U.S. Senator played by William Petersen was pulling the strings all along to become the chairman of The Skulls or whatever. Definitely closest to BMT.

StreetCreditReport.com – As usual finding actual lists is difficult, and I’ve been searching for things to do in this section that veers away from using those. IMDb lists it as number 8 on its top 10 Fraternities and Sororities films, and number 6 on its Secret Society films. Watching the video it is rather interesting that The Skull and Bones society at Yale plays a prominent role in two films. This, and The Good Shepherd. That is because that film is about the establishment of the CIA, which was apparently established within The Skull and Bones around World War II. I think a huge amount of cred comes from it being one of the worst Secret Society films.

You Just Got Schooled – I couldn’t quite decide on the right angle for this one, especially since a lot of secret society films suck. And I certainly didn’t want to waste my time with the straight-to-DVD sequels (I’ll save that for a Bring a Friend in the future). In the end I went with the conspiracy angle and watched Oliver Stone’s JFK. One of the premiere ensemble casts in film history this controversial film was ultimately lauded as an epic political thriller and nominated for Best Picture (among other awards). The three hour runtime stretches one’s patience, especially near the end of act two where you could be forgiven for losing the thread on exactly who is doing what where. Shockingly watchable though all things considered, and if you didn’t know about the controversy (Stone does more than merely suggest Lyndon B. Johnson was responsible for the assassination of JFK) then the movie makes a compelling case for the deep state cover up, especially in the minutes long monologue by Costner that ends the film. Knowing that Stone is credibly accused of stretching the truth beyond recognition unfortunately leaves it in a tier below more true-to-life political thrillers like All the President’s Men. A-. The best thing about the film in the end is the cast, and it definitely gets you interested in reading up on the mystery surrounding the JFK assassination.

Cheerios,

The Sklogs

The Skulls Quiz

Oh man. So here’s what happened, I was in this insane induction ceremony at Yale (because I’m great at rowing, natch). We were all drugged and put into coffins, you know, normal induction stuff. Well when I woke up I sat up in m’coffin and bopped my head! And now I don’t remember a thing. Do you remember what happened in The Skulls?

Pop Quiz Hot Shot!

1) Luke McNamara is just a normal New Haven townie who through guts and grit managed to make his way into Yale. But as a gross townie, why is he considered for the elite of the elite secret societies, The Skulls?

2) Describe the induction ceremony for The Skulls. It has three parts occurring on three different days.

3) How does Will Beckford (Harper Hill) die? And what initially tips Luke off that everything is not how it seems about his suicide?

4) Name three of the gifts Luke receives as part of being a part of The Skulls.

5) What was Ames Levritt’s (William Peterson) plan to take over The Skulls in the end and how/why did it involve Luke?

Answers

The Skulls Preview

Poe shields his eyes against the blinding lights of the club and taps the glass of a giant aquarium filled with semi-nude women. The disguises worked like a charm to get into the club, but now what? Suddenly a mermaid lady swims up and after looking from the ghost back to Poe, winks and tilts her head towards a table in the back. Poe whispers softly to the sassy ghost, trying to make sure no one can hear them in the deathly quiet club. “Good,” murmurs the ghost, “that’s my contact. Seems like the key to getting to the book is already here.” The group sashays their way towards the back of the club, careful not to spill their flirtinis and Poe doing his best to wink dramatically at every guy that passes by. They are stopped by a security guard before reaching the table, but a voice behind them demands that the man let them through. A big man (let’s call him Mr. Big) gets up from the table and ignoring everyone else he extends his hand out to Poe. Poe smiles coquettishly and, channelling all the Samantha possible make a winking comment about the size of his hands, much to the embarrassment of the rest of the group. The man smiles devilishly, “My my, you are a sultry minx. What are you doing in a club like this? It’s so… 2000’s, am I right? Allow me to take you someplace a little more… exclusive,” and leaning in he whispers softly, “You ever hear of a club called The Skulls?” Poe titters shyly and Mr. Big takes Poe by the hands and leads him away. Alarmed, he looks over at the sassy ghost who nods her head and urges him forward. Looks like it’s all up to Samantha now. That’s right! We are watching the true classic of Dawson’s Creek era college thriller in The Skulls released 20 years ago. Much like Swimfan I can’t wait for this to both be incredibly stupid and yet my favorite thing ever. Let’s go!

The Skulls (2000) – BMeTric: 42.8; Notability: 25 

(Delightfully low IMDb rating there. I feel like this is often exactly the right spot you want to be in. A 25 notability is right in the ranger where the film is a wide release film, but there aren’t so many people involved that a disaster can be averted by throwing money at it. And a 50ish BMeTric is a genuinely bad movie that a bunch of people still managed to see when it was released to theaters. I wonder if I collected 40+ BMeTric and 25-35 Notability whether we’d end up finding a bunch of hidden gems. I bet so.)

RogerEbert.com – 1.0 stars – I would give a great deal to be able to see “The Skulls” on opening night in New Haven, Conn., in a movie theater full of Yale students, with gales of laughter rolling at the screen. It isn’t a comedy, but that won’t stop anyone. “The Skulls” is one of the great howlers, a film that bears comparison, yes, with “The Greek Tycoon” or even “The Scarlet Letter.” It’s so ludicrous in so many different ways it achieves a kind of forlorn grandeur. It’s in a category by itself.

(I had never really heard of The Greek Tycoon, but that is quite a deep cut by Roger. And this review is just a delight. A “forlorn grandeur” … that is absolutely the perfect word for what we have been ever striving for at BMTHQ. I love it.)

Trailer – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B03lvL3pVp8/

(Hoooooooweeeee that rocking soundtrack? The dutch angles! The punctuated close up shots. I have to say … that is basically my dream BMT trailer. You know this thing is a melodramatic trash triller, which is the best type of thriller.)

Directors – Rob Cohen – (Known For: DragonHeart; Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story; xXx; The Hurricane Heist; Future BMT: The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor; BMT: The Boy Next Door; Stealth; Alex Cross; The Skulls; Daylight; The Fast and the Furious; Notes: Was a producer in the 70s, and also ran Motown Records at the age of 24. He moved into television production and direction in the 80s, and then film directing in the 90s. Was considered a “baby mogul” in the 70s.)

Writers – John Pogue (written by) – (Known For: Quarantine 2: Terminal; Future BMT: The Quiet Ones; U.S. Marshals; BMT: Rollerball; Ghost Ship; The Skulls; Notes: Graduated from Yale and claims to have been part of a secret society, which is part of the inspiration for this film.)

Actors – Joshua Jackson – (Known For: Cruel Intentions; Scream 2; Bobby; Apt Pupil; Andre; Muppets from Space; One Week; Battle in Seattle; Sky; The Safety of Objects; The Shadow Dancer; Aurora Borealis; Americano; Future BMT: Cursed; Shutter; Lay the Favorite; Racing Stripes; D3: The Mighty Ducks; Gossip; D2: The Mighty Ducks; Inescapable; I Love Your Work; The Mighty Ducks; Magic in the Water; BMT: Urban Legend; The Skulls; Notes: You might also know him as Pacey in Dawson’s Creek, or his leading role on Fringe. A rare child actor who has managed to transition from a real deal kid actor through to teen soaps, to now adult television roles.)

Paul Walker – (Known For: Fast & Furious 7; She’s All That; Furious 6; Pleasantville; Fast & Furious 5; Flags of Our Fathers; Varsity Blues; Running Scared; Tammy and the T-Rex; Eight Below; Hours; The Lazarus Project; Future BMT: Vehicle 19; Brick Mansions; Meet the Deedles; Into the Blue; Hustlers; Takers; Noel; Brokedown Palace; BMT: The Skulls; Timeline; 2 Fast 2 Furious; Fast & Furious; The Fast and the Furious; Notes: Sadly passed away in 2013 as a passenger of a supercar which crashed in California. Was also something of a kid actor having a role in the tv show Throb in his teens.)

Hill Harper – (Known For: Concussion; He Got Game; The Sun Is Also a Star; Beloved; An Interview with God; 1982; Get on the Bus; Premium; Love, Sex and Eating the Bones; The Visit; Future BMT: The Breed; All Eyez on Me; For Colored Girls; In Too Deep; The Badge; Hav Plenty; Loving Jezebel; Destined; BMT: Steel; The Boy Next Door; The Skulls; Notes: Mostly a television actor, he had a major role in both CSI: NY and currently is in the main cast of The Good Doctor.)

Budget/Gross – $35,000,000 / Domestic: $35,046,120 (Worldwide: $50,802,120)

(Not great. I imagine the budget was inflated after it was clear it wasn’t going to do very well though. $35 million just seems way to high for a schlocky teen thriller. Still not a huge success though.)

Rotten Tomatoes – 9% (8/85): The Skulls is full of nonsense and empty of good script and plot.

(Always love sub-10%. And I’m always down for films that are “full of nonsense.” Yes please. Reviewer Highlight: If there was an Oscar for the Silliest Movie Category, then The Skulls might be in with a good chance of winning. – Ben Falk, BBC)

Poster – The Sklogs

(While the poster is not good from a scoring perspective I have to say it tugs a bit at my heart. Give me a thriller set in college and I’ll be pretty excited. But really, it’s a little drab and the font is terrible. I do like the artistic spacing of the whole thing and I’ll give a little shoutout to the tiny skull emblem at the bottom. So that saves it a little and gets it to a C+.)

Tagline(s) – A secret society so powerful, it can give you everything you desire… at a price. (D-)

Getting in is easy. Getting out is a killer. (B+)

(The first one is on the poster and is so long it’s almost unbelievable. What is this, school? It’s not even clever… just kind of straight forward. The second one… now that is kind of amazing and should have been on the poster. Just one note, shouldn’t it be “Getting in is hard. Getting out is a killer.”? Cause getting in was, like, incredibly difficult. Just seems weird once you watch the film.)

Keyword – secret society

Top 10: Hereditary (2018), Fight Club (1999), Get Out (2017), Spectre (2015), Glass (2019), Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (2016), Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (2007), Transformers: The Last Knight (2017), John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum (2019), The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014)

Future BMT: 87.9 BloodRayne (2005), 55.7 An American Werewolf in Paris (1997), 42.4 Darkness (2002), 41.7 Blood and Chocolate (2007), 19.3 Now You See Me 2 (2016), 19.0 Killer Elite (2011), 18.6 Mona Lisa Smile (2003), 18.5 The Hunted (1995), 18.0 Malone (1987), 17.0 The Da Vinci Code (2006);

BMT: Transformers: The Last Knight (2017), The Mummy (2017), Hellboy (2019), Assassin’s Creed (2016), Vampire Academy (2014), The Last Witch Hunter (2015), Lara Croft: Tomb Raider (2001), Queen of the Damned (2002), Silent Hill: Revelation (2012), The Wicker Man (2006), The Skulls (2000)

(These are genuinely all films about secret societies. Maybe at some point I’ll need to look through all of these and rank all of the secret societies. It’ll be a two axis ranking. One by how secret it is, and one by how powerful it is. The Skulls are more powerful than secret. The Wicker Man cult is more secret than powerful. The Hellboy secret society is both. This is already great. And as should be obvious, secret societies boomed in the 00s. I have a feeling such things will crater over the next decade or two. With QAnon and other weird conspiracies seemingly in real world news, people might not want to hear about such things in their escapist fiction.)

Welcome to Earf (HoE Number 16) – The shortest path through The Movie Database cast lists using only BMT films is: Paul Walker is No. 2 billed in The Skulls and No. 1 billed in 2 Fast 2 Furious, which also stars Eva Mendes (No. 3 billed) who is in Ghost Rider (No. 2 billed), which also stars Nicolas Cage (No. 1 billed) who is in The Wicker Man (No. 1 billed), which also stars Leelee Sobieski (No. 5 billed) who is in Here on Earth (No. 1 billed) => 2 + 1 + 3 + 2 + 1 + 1 + 5 + 1 = 16. If we were to watch Into the Blue we can get the HoE Number down to 14.

Notes – The Skull-and-Bones Society (on which this movie was based) actually gives out watches to each class of skulls, though not necessarily with the whole branding ceremony. After the movie was filmed, Joshua Jackson acquired one of the actual watches and gave it to director Rob Cohen. (Well .. obviously they don’t brand themselves on their wrists. That’s insane).

Hill Harper’s character, Will, who plays Luke’s roommate in the film, is modeled after director Rob Cohen’s real life Harvard roommate.

When the Skulls members are heading out to the island, the castle in the background is Singer Castle on Dark Island. The island that the Skull and Bone Society owns is called Deer Island. Both islands are in the Thousand Island of the St. Lawrence River. (The amount of this that is already real is insane)

Yale is never mentioned by name during the film, but there are plenty of references: – At the boat race, every team is mentioned by its school name, except for “The Bulldogs.” (They’re the Yale team.) – The characters wear Ys on their sports uniforms. – The Skulls are said to have “322 alumni worldwide.” The Yale secret society Skull & Bones uses the number 322 as an identifier on many of its symbols. – The characters are seen celebrating at a pizza parlor they refer to as “Mory’s,” drinking from a big golden cup. Mory’s is an actual place, and the tradition with the song and the big golden cup is accurate; however, it’s a formal restaurant, not a pizza parlor, and actual Mory’s cups are traditionally silver. – The new Skulls are sent to raid “Snake & Skeleton.” There is a Yale secret society called “Book & Snake.” – Some campus shots seem to purposefully mimic Yale buildings. There’s a tower that looks a lot like Harkness Tower, and the dining hall looks like the one in Saybrook College.

The wristwatch that each new member of the Skulls is given is the Breitling Old Navitimer. (This is what I come for right here, these fun facts)

The film is included on the film critic Roger Ebert’s “Most Hated” list.

Fatal Instinct Recap

Jamie

Ned Ravine is both a cop and a lawyer (hilarious) who gets a new, hot (with a capital H) case from Lola Cain. This is all a ploy to seduce Ned for reasons that will become clear later. Meanwhile Ned’s wife plots his murder while a former defendant also plots revenge. So lots of sex and murder and sex. Find out if hilarity ensues in… Fatal Instinct.

How?! Ned Ravine is the best damn cop in town. He’s never not got his man. It’s just those damn lawyers that are letting them walk. Who are these dastardly lawyers you ask? It’s him… he’s the lawyer. He’s only ever lost one case, the case of Max Shady, and now Max is out on parole and looking for revenge. Meanwhile, Ned’s wife, Lana, is having an affair with the hot and steamy young mechanic who’s not just working on her car (if you know what I mean… it’s sex). They plan to murder Ned and get a big payout from his triple indemnity clause. Also meanwhile, Lola Cain has pursued Ned to take up her case. What is it? A sham, that’s what, because all she really wants is to get into our boy Ned’s dungarees. And boy howdy, does she. But Ned is distraught. What has he done! He loves his wife and tells Lola that they can never be together again. Lola is driven mad and begins to stalk Ned. Lana’s plan comes together and they are able to get Ned onto a train bound for Santa Barbara so that they can get that sweet sweet triple indemnity. Unfortunately for her (fortunately for Ned (and unfortunately for Max Shady)) she mistakes Max for Ned and kills him instead! Ned thinks that she must have known he was in danger and saved his life so he agrees to defend her in court against the charges of murder. He is of course successful (he’s the best, remember) and following this success Ned confronts Lola about her stalking business. She reveals that she and Lana are identical twins, but she had to have plastic surgery after a horrific face accident. Her plan the whole time was to seduce and steal him from Lana. Upon returning home after hearing this news, Ned’s secretary reveals Lana’s murder plot as well and in a climactic battle Lola kills Lana, Ned Kills Lana, and Ned’s secretary kills her murderous husband we just met. Finally, Ned and his secretary smooch a bunch. THE END.

Why?! Well this is a spoof movie so in large part the motivations are besides the point. Ned wants to solve the crimes despite being an idiot. His wife wants to kill him and get money. Lola wants to seduce Ned and cause Lana pain. In the end they all want to kill each other. 

Who?! Rosie O’Donnell goes uncredited, which is notable as she was the link to the previous movie in the chain, Now & Then. My presumption is that is was simply because the role is pretty small, but it is a speaking part so maybe both sides were OK with it going uncredited in the end. The director Carl Reiner also has a cameo as Judge Arugula, which is funny only because the writers clearly thought that naming a character Judge Arugula was funny… not sure why.

What?! For a while I thought maybe the product placements were part of the joke in the film but eventually I just realized all the Pepsi and Papa Gino’s etc. etc. etc. were just regular boring product placements. It’s a little sad actually. Despite all the jokes on jokes they don’t even attempt to integrate the product placements and play with them. Seems a little banal for a spoof film. 

Where?! Clearly takes place in LA, most notably in regards to the train to Santa Barbara that Ned almost gets killed on. They didn’t do as much as they could have with that, but it was clear enough. The only weird thing is that neither Fatal Attraction or Basic Instinct take place in LA… in fact I mostly think of San Fran when I think of erotic thrillers. Again, the appears to be because this is more of a noir spoof than an erotic thriller spoof. B

When?! This is a silly question. Spoof films almost always deal outside of space and time because they are aiming to spoof films from a long time period. In this case it’s even longer as it clearly spoofs films like Double Indemnity (1944) and Basic Instinct (1992). Probably all in all the films spoofed span just about 50 years… so who’s to say when this takes place. Sometimes it seems like the 40’s, sometimes it seems like the 90’s. F.

I have a major gripe with this film. So while I think Armand Assante was incredibly game, the filmmaking is better than it should be, and (after recapping) I appreciated the humor and goofiness of it all… I can’t help but nitpick the aspect that really bothers me about Fatal Instinct. It’s just not a spoof of Erotic Thrillers. There is way more spoofing of the old school noir and hitchcockian thriller genres and that feels a bit stale. At a time when erotic thrillers were literally at their greatest power they left an awful lot on the table regarding what is already a pretty funny genre, really only using Basic Instinct and Fatal Attraction as a general scaffold and barely touching any of the other major releases. And I don’t know why. Maybe it’s hard to spoof erotic thrillers. Maybe they’re too goofy to really pull too much from or you’ll get a Poe’s Law situation. But my guess is that they just didn’t have the right people for the job. It was directed by Carl Reiner and it shows in the quality, but he was already over 70 at that point and it makes me wonder if he was just more comfortable with the noir aspects of the script. Hard for me to get around that though. As for Two Much, that film really bothered me (and it’s not just because it’s about a man pretending to be twins, which is a crime against twins everywhere). The main character is entirely and utterly unredeemable. He has pretty much no good qualities about him and represents the lowest type of person. A man who has no backbone and is so weak that he can’t simply break up with a woman he just met who is struggling with her mental health. Instead he bamboozles her and ploys her with alcohol and drugs in order to pursue her sister who he somehow is convinced he is fated to be with (and thus justifies his actions). It is terrible and no wonder a US release was scrapped. It’s a terrible, terrible movie. Patrick?

Patrick

‘Ello everyone! The saddest days in BMT are the days we have to watch bad parody films. Weep for us. Let’s go!

P’s View on the Preview – Oh boy. There are a number of parody films out there that BMT has yet to touch on. Obviously the numerous Friedberg and Seltzer films, the later Mel Brooks, random crazy ones like the Plump Fiction. This one really went under the radar. I had barely heard of it. I have, on the other hand, watched Cape Fear, Basic Instinct, Fatal Attraction, and Sleeping With the Enemy within probably the last year or two. So I was ready to see what Carl Reiner had to offer. What were my expectations? Zero laughs, but silliness with no story. Not necessarily to be bored, but it is more of just an exasperating pointlessness.

The Good – I think this film is way funnier than people at the time gave it credit for. At the very least I found myself chuckling at the silliness. It isn’t like Wet Hot American Summer, but there are at least a few fun moments in the film, which is not at all what I was expecting. The Friedberg and Seltzer comedies are just gross and raunchy, this has an innocent silliness to it that I could appreciate. A kind of funny who’s who of early 90s actors, especially the women. I really liked Sherilyn Fenn from Twin Peaks in particular, but then there is also Sean Young who was the police chief from Ace Ventura. Best Bit: Sheer silliness.

The Bad – The film isn’t that funny and the storyline is bizarre. Halfway through you could be forgiven for wondering what exactly the storyline was meant to be. It is somehow partly a copy of several movies (Cape Fear and Sleeping With the Enemy are lifted wholesale for B storylines), but then also a noir Hitchcockian thriller with characters from Basic Instinct and Fatal Attraction peppered in. Once you get away from the heyday of the erotic thriller a lot of it just makes no sense. While the film is better than one would think, it still isn’t particularly good, and it certainly isn’t funny. Fatal Flaw: Nonsense noir story.

The BMT – This is, so far, probably the best parody film we’ve done. But that isn’t saying much, we really don’t do that many parody films. Dracula: Dead and Loving it, might end up being the one that beats it in the end, Robin Hood Men in Tights narrowly doesn’t qualify. I do think we managed to watch it at the perfect time for me, I watched a good number of the (more recent) films being referenced. If we had tried to watch it 5 years ago I would have been so lost. Did it meet my expectations? It exceeded them. At least it wasn’t boring. I don’t think it’ll have much legs in BMT lore, but it’ll probably come up in terms of other more recent parody films we do.

Roast-radamas – A just okay Setting as a Character (Where?) for the clear Los Angeles setting. It is necessary for the Chinatown / general noir feeling, so definitely ends up being a very LA film. I’ll throw Worst Twist (How?) out there as an unfortunately odd and convoluted twin connection. I think I’m going to throw this lightly into the Bad bin because I wouldn’t want to watch it again, I’d rather watch Mafia!

StreetCreditReport.com – I can’t find any list that includes it. The only video I could find including it was just a Siskel & Ebert video whereby they merely gave it two thumbs down, it didn’t make their year end worst of list. And it definitely didn’t even get close to getting onto any worst spoof film lists I could find. Basically this is the definition of mid-table. If not for its twin connection I’m not exactly sure when we would have watched the film. That is 100% its cred, the fact that the plot involves twins.

Bring a Friend Analysis – This week we watched the barely-not-qualifying Two Much starring Antonio Banderas, Melanie Griffith, and Darryl Hannah. Released to around 500 theaters there was much debate at BMTHQ as to what exactly the qualifications are to be a BMT film, but we finally relegated it to Friend as the traditional cutoff is “wide release” on Box Office Mojo (i.e. 600 theaters). And wowza, is this film a doozy. The main issue is that the main character is a reprehensible monster. We meet him as he is grifting widows during their husbands’ funerals. Later on, because god forbid our “hero” learn anything, he drugs Griffith’s wine so that he can date Hannah later in the evening, but whoops! The sommelier merely thinks he’s a serial rapist and is aghast at the gaul of this monster to rape two women in the same evening by drugging the same extremely expensive bottle of wine at the same restaurant … what is happening in this film!? All of it winds away to its inevitable (happy?) conclusion. Ultimately it feels like an incredibly gross film I can’t stop thinking about … but also one that you can kind of get the gist of just by reading the above paragraph. Glad we watched it though, very strange stuff, this weirdly seems to happen whenever they adapt French farces, they come across as less funny and more gross. B+.

Twin Analysis – Both odd twin films this week. With Fatal Attraction I found myself somewhat distressed as I wondered “wait … is this actually a twin film?” But then right at the last second, phew, they pull it out. Turns out the totally different looking female leads are, in fact, identical twins. One of them just got smashed in the face with a shovel and had to receive radical face altering plastic surgery. Amusing from a twin perspective I guess, but ultimately means the twin factor is a lot less important than one would think. Too bad. C. I think this is about as bad a score as you can get for apparently identical twins playing a major role in a film. Congrats. Two Much on the other hand is an easy peasy F+. Because guess what? They ain’t twins! Antonio Banderas is just pretending to be twins. It is actually a crime against twin-hood. “But Patrick!” you scream, “the twins play such a prominent role in the film!” Yeah I don’t really care about that, they just aren’t twins. Much like clones or robots or shapeshifting aliens it just isn’t the same thing. I gave it the plus because it played a big role in the film, that’s the biggest concession I’ll make. For the record we did this partly because it felt necessary to do a non-twin twin-centric film for the cycle, but rest assured all other films in the cycle do, in fact, feature bona fide twins.

Cheerios,

The Sklogs

Fatal Instinct Quiz

Oh man. Last thing I remember I was watching Cape Fear, Basic Instinct, and Fatal Attraction all at the same time. I then fell and bopped myself on the head, and now I can’t keep the film straight, they’ve all smushed together in my mind like some sort of … parody film. Do you remember what happened in Fatal Instinct?

Pop Quiz Hot Shot!

1) We meet our hero Ned Ravine at a carnival where he’s staking out a sneaky criminal. What is Ned Ravine’s job?

2) We also soon meet Ned’s wife Lana who is, let’s just say … having sex with the mechanic played by Shooter McGavin. What is the mechanic’s excuse for hanging around all the time?

3) Under what conditions does Ned’s life insurance policy pay out?

4) Why did Lana’s twin, the smouldering blond Lola, not look at all like her sister?

5) The story of Lola is very much a play off of two early 90s erotic thrillers. What are the two films? Bonus if you can name the movie the life of Laura the secretary is based off of.

Answers

Fatal Instinct Preview

Dr. Summersly shakes out her long luxurious hair. “Wha-wha-whaaaaa…” Gruber exclaims. The killer is a… woman?! “And not just that,” explains Rich helpfully, “she’s also the inventor of the Obsidian Dongle.” Now Gruber is floored. A murderer and an inventor? What can’t this woman do? Dr. Summersly shakes her head ruefully. The Dongle was her greatest invention and yet also her most terrible. She’s roamed the earth searching for it. Here she had hoped to finally take it from the dead hands of whoever had bought it from Cock Robin. “But instead I just found you, Poe.” Rich steps towards her, extending his hand to let her know that he’s there for her. She recoils, “No, Poe, you know I love him… loved… him. Your friend, your brother. But now he’s dead and I’m…” she bites her lips, stopping herself from uttering that final, painful word. This is all so confusing. The chief, now Dr. Summersly, they both think he’s Poe and that Rich is dead. And yet if only they knew that likely the opposite was true. He’s living a lie in order to get what he wants. But what is it he wants? Is it the Dongle? Does he truly want to save the world? Or perhaps what he’s been searching for has been love the whole time. Something tugs at the back of his mind. Something is wrong. His instincts tell him to run. To find Poe and stop… something? Someone? Dr. Summersly collapses into his arms and pounds her fists into his rock hard abs, his shirt soaked with the sweat of a humid night in the city. “Cheer up, kid,” he says lifting her chin, his instincts screaming that he is making a fatal mistake. And with that they kiss. That’s right! We’re watching the long forgotten spoof film Fatal Instinct. Obviously a play on Fatal Attraction and Basic Instinct. Given that this appears to be a spoof of erotic thrillers this should be right up out alley… but probably isn’t. It also is our Chain film as Rosie O’Donnell plays a bird salesperson in the film. Let’s go!

Every corner he turns the woman seems a step ahead. With his runner’s physique and endurance for days, this should be impossible. And yet she seems to always be ahead of Poe. Suddenly he rounds a corner and there are two of them. Identical twins! Egad. Two’s company, three’s a crowd and this is a little too rich for Poe’s blood. But as he backs away he bumps up against his twin protectors who eye the women warily. “Dragons,” they say and Poe looks at the women in astonishment. That’s right! We were actually going to watch this as a main film until we realized that a) it was never widely released to theaters in the United States and b) only has Banderes pretending to be twins. We relegated it to a Friend for the Chain. Let’s go!

Fatal Instinct (1993) – BMeTric: 25.8; Notability: 43 

(Completely inexplicable that people are still watching this film and, weirdly, thinking it is underrated somehow? Whatever it is it is moving towards the mean IMDb rating, which is just bizarre. The Notability is huge … I wonder if parody films tend to have high Notabilities because of the ensemble cast.)

RogerEbert.com – 1.5 stars – It was inevitable that the genre of erotic thrillers would be given the “Airplane!” treatment. Movies like “Basic Instinct,” “Body Heat,” “Sleeping with the Enemy” and “Jagged Edge” offer themselves to parody like a steak to the barbecue. Sometimes, indeed, it’s hard to tell the put-ons from the movies with straight faces; I didn’t much like the recent thriller “Malice,” for example, but some of my correspondents assure me it was all meant as a joke. … Some of these movies work (“Airplane!,” “Top Secret!) and some don’t. And you can’t say why, except that sometimes you laugh, and sometimes you don’t, and the reasons for that are not arguable.

(Maybe some of the truest words about parody films I’ve read. That’s it isn’t it. Sometimes those films work, and it must have something to do with the director/writers and the actors they work with because otherwise people like Mel Brooks wouldn’t have been able to do the genre so well for so long. But most don’t. Apparently this one didn’t.)

Trailer – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gLYus-Z2I9s/

(Without the music the trailer would be … well it wouldn’t be funny. That is not at all how I would describe it. But at least it would be tolerable. It is a very who’s who of early 90s barely-stars which is also rather interesting. Unlike something like Men in Tights where you at least have Elwes with the Princess Bride connection.)

Directors – Carl Reiner – (Known For: Summer School; The Jerk; All of Me; The Man with Two Brains; Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid; Oh, God!; Where’s Poppa?; That Old Feeling; The Comic; Enter Laughing; Bert Rigby, You’re a Fool; Future BMT: Sibling Rivalry; Summer Rental; BMT: Fatal Instinct; Notes: Just died in June. Long time collaborator with Mel Brooks, he won 11 Emmys in his career for Caesar’s Hour and The Dick Van Dyke Show mostly. A huge comedy director in the 80s.)

Writers – David O’Malley (written by) – (Known For: Hangar 18; Future BMT: The Boogens; BMT: Fatal Instinct; Notes: Seems like an odd choice considering he mostly made thriller (the non-erotic kind), and some horror films prior to writing this film. Wrote a Corey Feldman and Don Swayze film called Edge of Honor which seems intriguing.

Actors – Armand Assante – (Known For: American Gangster; The Road to El Dorado; Dead Man Down; Little Darlings; The Lords of Flatbush; Private Benjamin; Hoffa; Paradise Alley; Q & A; The Mambo Kings; I, the Jury; California Dreamin’; Looking for an Echo; Belizaire the Cajun; Future BMT: Prophecy; Two for the Money; Trial by Jury; 1492: Conquest of Paradise; Unfaithfully Yours; Goat; Breaking Point; Citizen Verdict; Animal Behavior; BMT: Striptease; Judge Dredd; Fatal Instinct; The Marrying Man; Notes: Bizarre career in that he has been mostly a TV / video actor for over 40 years now, but was briefly a leading man in the early 90s. Won an Emmy for the miniseries Gotti which I will be watching once we get around to John Travolta’s Gotti.)

Sherilyn Fenn – (Known For: Just One of the Guys; Wild at Heart; Of Mice and Men; Raze; Three of Hearts; Ruby; Just Write; The Scenesters; Future BMT: Wish Upon; Boxing Helena; Two Moon Junction; The Wraith; The United States of Leland; Outside Ozona; BMT: Fatal Instinct; Notes: If you recognize her it is almost definitely because of her role in Twin Peaks. She also appeared in the Psych episode Dual Spires which was a send up of the series and is amazing.)

Kate Nelligan – (Known For: The Cider House Rules; Wolf; The Prince of Tides; Dracula; Frankie and Johnny; Eye of the Needle; How to Make an American Quilt; Shadows and Fog; Without a Trace; Eleni; Margaret’s Museum; Future BMT: Premonition; Up Close & Personal; U.S. Marshals; BMT: Fatal Instinct; Notes: Was nominated for an Oscar for her supporting role in Prince of Tides. Was apparently almost the Canadian Junior tennis champion.)

Budget/Gross – N/A / Domestic: $7,839,327 (Worldwide: $7,839,327)

(Unfortunately, despite lacking data, I have to imagine due to the set pieces and ensemble cast that parody films often demand, I wouldn’t be surprised if the budget was quite high. I suppose the counter is you can usually get away with television / cheaper actors … so who knows.)

Rotten Tomatoes – 18% (4/22)

(Consensus time: Rarely funny, Fatal Instinct instead just reproduces famous scene from other movies while burying its wit under layers of set pieces. Reviewer Highlight: It’s a real pity, because Reiner has certainly been funnier and more inventive on other outings and Sherilyn Fenn makes a winsome gal Friday. – Jonathan Rosenbaum, Chicago Reader)

Poster – Motorcycle Sex

(This is fine. Clever in a cheesy, cheap kind of way. Doesn’t scream “Wide Release Film” to me, though, which is in line with me being shocked that it was a wide release film. I do like the fallen over A. Adds a little pizzazz. C+.)

Tagline(s) – Sex, murder and revenge were never this funny. ()

(I like this one quite a bit. It makes a lot of sense for what they are trying to portray. Takes the three ingredients of the erotic thriller and spins it around. A little long, but all in the name of getting where they want to go. Solid. B+.)

Keyword – twin sister

Top 10: The Green Mile (1999), A Simple Favour (2018), Constantine (2005), Sin City (2005), Snatch (2000), Godzilla: King of the Monsters (2019), Sin City: A Dame to Kill For (2014), Grease 2 (1982), What a Girl Wants (2003), The Snowman (2017)

Future BMT: 87.3 Dumb and Dumberer: When Harry Met Lloyd (2003), 75.4 Grease 2 (1982), 51.2 Dude, Where’s My Car? (2000), 43.9 The Watch (2012), 42.7 The Sitter (2011), 40.3 Suburbicon (2017), 38.8 What a Girl Wants (2003), 13.5 Nothing to Lose (1997);

BMT: The Snowman (2017), 88 Minutes (2007), New York Minute (2004), Fatal Instinct (1993)

(Oh yeah, in this case it is hard to give the film the patented “twins” keyword because really you don’t get the antagonist is the twin sister of … the other antagonist (?) until relatively late into the film. Looking at these other films though … uh, did Grease 2 have a twin in it? One second we might have to redo the Romance category of this cycle … ah, its a bit part. Still would count once we launch our podcast Twinsmersion.)

Welcome to Earf (HoE Number 14) – The shortest path through The Movie Database cast lists using only BMT films is: Armand Assante is No. 1 billed in Fatal Instinct and No. 3 billed in Judge Dredd, which also stars Sylvester Stallone (No. 1 billed) who is in Expendables 3 (No. 1 billed), which also stars Jason Statham (No. 2 billed) who is in In the Name of the King: A Dungeon Seige Tale (No. 1 billed), which also stars Leelee Sobieski (No. 4 billed) who is in Here on Earth (No. 1 billed) => 1 + 3 + 1 + 1 + 2 + 1 + 4 + 1 = 14. If we were to watch The Glass House we can get the HoE Number down to 10.

Notes – Sherilyn Fenn was originally considered for the role of the femme fatale Lola, eventually played by Sean Young. Fenn opted for the role of Armand Assante’s lovesick secretary Laura and suggested director Carl Reiner cast Young as Lola. (Yep, good choice. It is incredible to me that Sherilyn Fenn didn’t have a bigger television career at least, she’s great.)

A scene was filmed with Dudley Moore appearing in drag as Max Shady’s mother, testifying at Lana’s trial. Although the scene was cut from the movie, it is included on the DVD release.

When Max Shady adjusts the setting on his silencer while planning to kill Ned Ravine on the train you will notice a volume setting that goes up to 11. This is a nod to Carl Reiner’s son Rob’s mock rockumentary This Is Spinal Tap (1984) which stars Christopher Guest. Guest’s character (Nigel Tufnel) proudly displays his amp that also goes to 11.

This went straight to video in the UK after a disastrous marketing campaign led to a shortened run at the US box office. (ha)

Laura makes a reference to Ravine as a “Mambo King type” a reference to his starring role in the film, The Mambo Kings (1992).

DIRECTOR CAMEO: The man standing next to Ned in the bathroom. (Yeah it is actually really in your face and obvious)

In 2018, when rerun on MoviePlex, the songs In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida and Brown Eyed Girl are not played during the bathtub scene and end credits. Instead you hear music from the movie sound track. (Ah makes sense, they probably lost the license. It was a wild time the early 90s for tv and movie music apparently.)

Now and Then Recap

Jamie

Roberta, Teeny, Samantha, and Chrissy are just a bunch of best pals living it up in small town America. They are navigating the pitfalls of growing up in 1970. Boys, parents, treehouses, ghost kids. You know, the classics. Can they figure out the mystery of the ghost kid and forge a friendship for both now and then… before it’s too late? Find out in… Now and Then.

How?! Samantha and Teeny return to their small town for the birth of their friend Chrissy’s first child. Cue flashback. It’s 1970 and boy howdy… it’s… quaint. Roberta, Teeny, Samantha, and Chrissy are standing by each other in small town Indiana just growing up and learning to live and love. While they begin to grapple with grown-up concepts like divorce, they also hold on to one last summer of childhood with games of Red Rover, treehouses, and séances in the graveyard. During one such séance they are convinced that they resurrect the spirit of Dear Johnny, a child who died mysteriously. In fact, no matter how hard they try they can’t seem to figure out how he died and begin to suspect that finding out that information is what will finally put his spirit to rest. Amongst a series of hijinks and teenage angst, they find that the story has been ripped from the newspaper archives. The grownups in their lives also refuse to talk about the grisly death. Finally they figure out that Johnny was killed during a home invasion and are on the lookout for his killer. Late one night, while upset over the fact that her mother has started dating again, Samantha goes out with Teeny to hash it out. On their way back home they lose a bracelet in a rainstorm and Samantha almost drowns trying to retrieve it, only to be rescued by the creepy hermit of the town. Feeling like they have to put Johnny to rest once and for all, they return to the graveyard, but are confronted by a gravedigger who chastises them for playing around in there. On their way out, Samantha notices the old man and finally realizes that he’s Johnny’s dad and… you know… life and shit. Anyway, we flashforward to current day where Chrissy has her baby and everyone is like “word, friendship.” THE END.

Why?! This film is obviously not really about the kids solving the mystery of Dear Johnny. It’s really about how certain moments change and mold you even if they ultimately are fleeting. That summer forged an inseparable bond for the four girls even though in reality they began to drift away at that point. So I guess the motivation is friendship… and growing up… and solving ghost mysteries.

Who?! I do like that I’ve collected together a nice roster of possible entries for the Why section. This film had one of the more solid uncredited roles that we’ve seen in a while. Brendan Fraser shows up as a disillusioned Vietnam War veteren turned hippie who doses the kinds with some cynicism on their journey into adulthood. Sometimes I speculate on why it might be, but he was also uncredited in GI Joe… so maybe he just did that on occasion if the film was made by someone he knew or something.

What?! What’s a period piece without some Coca-Cola (here in the form of a black cow) and I might have left it at that. Except that the whole flashback is centered around the summer where the girls were trying to save up enough money to buy a Sears treehouse. So that’s front and center and even plays a pivotal role in the film… well maybe not pivotal. They don’t even really show us when they reached their goal and actually bought the thing.

Where?! Really nice Indiana film. From start to finish it’s all about the Hoosier State and I guess you could even say that it’s fundamental to the plot, since it’s about a bunch of girls from Anonymous Small Town, USA and what’s more anonymous than Indiana… except *gasp* Delaware. What a missed opportunity! BWhen?! I believe it’s made pretty clear that it’s the summer of 1970. Nice choice since the world is making a transition from the 60’s into the 70’s and all that brought. Just like the girls are growing up. So even though maybe it was set then just to be consistent with the ages of the characters, I think there is a possibility that that specific year was vital to the plot. A-.

When?! I believe it’s made pretty clear that it’s the summer of 1970. Nice choice since the world is making a transition from the 60’s into the 70’s and all that brought. Just like the girls are growing up. So even though maybe it was set then just to be consistent with the ages of the characters, I think there is a possibility that that specific year was vital to the plot. A-.

This movie actually does seem to have a necessary place in film. It’s not every day that they are releasing a major motion picture about four girls growing up in a small town. You get to see them as successful women (in a variety of different ways and lifestyles). It’s all very sweet and winning. Could I have done without the Dear Johnny storyline? Probably. Or at least veer a bit more away from it being a ghost story. It’s like Safe Haven, where you’re like “this can’t possibly actually be a ghost story.” And then it is! This time it isn’t, but it carries on the charade long enough to have you wondering whether they want you to actually believe it. It seemed a bit on the nose with ‘the body’ aspect of Stand By Me, except that was real and ultimately disturbing. Here it just seemed a bit extra. I can only say that I enjoyed the film despite its faults and am actually a little surprised the reviews were quite so negative. Patrick?

Patrick

‘Ello everyone! We’re diving deep into the mysteries of Dear Johnny in the supernatural thriller Now and Then! Wait … no, in the heartfelt teen drama Now and Then? Oh … that’s not as fun. Let’s go!

P’s View on the Preview – Hearing the film was kind of considered a Stand By Me for young women in the early 90s was intriguing. As was the fact that Amanda Dobbins on The Big Picture podcast put it in her top five summertime films. Basically, it seemed like it was going to be cloyingly sweet, but otherwise a fine film that got dunked on more for the context in which it was released, than for the quality of the film itself. What were my expectations? A sweet and fairly entertaining film. And with that I would be somewhat perplexed that it qualified at all, but pleased that I didn’t have to watch something boring.

The Good – As a very sweet film about four friends coming together and reliving the One Big Summer of their youths, it serves its purpose well. Christina Ricci in particular is quite good for someone of her age. And while the Dear Johnny storyline wasn’t entirely my cup of tea, I have to admit I was shocking up a bit at the final (although inevitable) reveal. The film is completely manipulative, but if you’re willing to go along for the ride it ultimately is pretty satisfying. I can completely understand why women of a certain age would fondly remember this film. Best Bit: Stand-By-Me-esque nostalgia.

The Bad – The rest of the kid actors are somewhere between serviceable (Gaby Hoffman) to terrible (Ashliegh Moore). The Dear Johnny storyline is so weird, bouncing between a magical realism of “wait … is this a ghost story or what?” and the manipulative redemption arc for Crazy Pete. And it was entirely too true: the adult storyline is a complete nothing and could have (and should have) been discarded. It would have been pretty easy to handwave the entire thing away like in Stand By Me, Demi Moore’s character is even a famous author like Wil Wheaton’s character! It would have been so easy. Instead there is just a forced reunion bookending the whole thing. Fatal Flaw: Boring present day bookend.

The BMT – This was one of the first films where I can say I kind of liked the film, but also kind of understood that it wasn’t for me and that the critics had a pretty solid point. This is a film for a certain generation of young women to fondly think back on (while never watching as an adult). At least it wasn’t a downer like the film I schooled myself with. Did it meet my expectations? It wasn’t boring. Honest to god, if someone asked if I would watch this film again in about two months I would shrug and probably watch it. It is the definition of “Hey this movie is on TNT randomly … I wonder if Brendan Fraser’s part has happened yet …” rewatchability.

Roast-radamus – This film has an unbelievable Product Placement (What?) in which an entire plotline of the film is focused on the girls getting a Sears tree house using the money they earned over the summer. They barely resolve it too, they just kind of have it in the end. Decent Setting as a Character (Where?) and Period Piece (When?) for taking place in the summer of 1970 in Shelby, Indiana. I think there is a good case for Worst Twist (How?) with the “revelation” that Crazy Pete is the father of Dear Johnny. That was inevitable. Superlative category: Good.

StreetCreditReport.com – I would like to point out that we’ve seen five of the films listed here. Pretty impressive, although naturally Now and Then is nowhere in sight. As I mentioned in the preview and this recap this film was mentioned on The Big Picture podcast as one of their best summer movies ever. So that is something indeed. Possibly on some list of worst coming of age films set in the 70s? That is juuuuuust narrow enough that it would have to make it right?

You Just Got Schooled – I’ve been on a good roll with these recently. Based on Ebert’s shoutout to the superior The Man in the Moon which was Reese Witherspoon’s debut film, I decided to watch that. Pretty good! She’s incredible in it, and so is Sam Waterson as her father. About farm life in small town Louisiana in the 50s, Witherspoon is a precocious 14-year-old who falls in love with her 16-year-old next door neighbor Jason London, who in turn falls in love with Witherspoon’s 18-year-old sister. I mostly agree with other critics who complain that the melodramatic ending subtracts from what is otherwise a very well-made film. But Witherspoon is so good it ends up being worthwhile regardless. I also tend to agree with Ebert, the earnestness in which they approach a story of youth on the verge of growing up is something that you find in Stand By Me, but is sorely lacking in Now and Then which ends up being mostly silly. But that seems intentional, and I can’t say I much enjoyed The Man in the Moon‘s downer of a story. Still A-, totally worthwhile just because of a stellar performance by a young Reese Witherspoon.

Cheerios,

The Sklogs