Dhoom, and six more movies

The Musical

In the winter of 1874, Alfred Packer led a party of five across the then-wilds of Colorado, where they met bad weather, and he ended up eating them. Now famed as "the Colorado Cannibal," he was charged with murder, and convicted despite his claims of not quite innocence, but necessity. He got hungry.

Cannibal! tells Packer's mostly-true story, set to toe-tapping music by South Park's Trey Parker.

Some people hate musicals, but they're mistaken. Musicals are marvelous, especially if they're funny, and this one's funny. It has several hummable songs, including "Trapper Pride," about the joy of killing, skinning, and eating small animals, and "When I was on top of you," Packer's wistful love song to his horse.

Your eyes, your smile
Made my little life worthwhile.
There's was nothing I couldn't do
When I was on top of you.

The Neverending
Film Festival

The movie's most gruesome scene is right at the beginning, even before the opening credits have revealed Trey Parker's involvement. It's cheesy gruesomeness, not at all realistic, but it fooled me into thinking this was going to be nothing but gore, so I clicked it off.

Didn't watch the movie for another month, when I was in a rotten mood and expecting to hate it.

Didn't hate it. After the people-eating scene, this is a simply joyous celebration of the old west and, of course, cannibalism. In this telling, Packer was an innocent gent, in love with his horse, and simply the victim of bad luck and a healthy appetite.

The music is mostly ballads, mostly on key and with clever lyrics. If it wasn't for the gore and a few shits and fucks, this would be an ordinary musical comedy. With the gore and shits and fucks, it's better than ordinary — it's downright shpadoinkle.

Trey Parker and Matt Stone have been the dynamic duo of comedy for 25 years, with South Park and Bigger, Longer & Uncut and Team America and The Book of Mormon, so it's a little surprising to not see Stone's name prominently in the credits here. He's listed only as one of the film's producers, and plays two small roles.

Verdict: YES. 

♦ ♦ ♦

Dhoom (2004)

In Hindi, 'dhoom' means blast, or more literally noise or uproar. The movie Dhoom is cops and robbers stuff, gussied up with tremendous style in almost every frame.

The bad guys ride souped-up motorcycles, getting away with a series of thefts, leaving no clues, then winking at the camera and returning after each heist to run their pizzeria. Jai Dixit (Abhishek Bachchan) is a too-cool cop who teams up with a motorcycle repairman and minor crook named Ali (Uday Chopra) to go after the baddies. 

Dhoom is about chases and cheese and stunts and beautiful women. The women are mostly eye candy, and the men all pose pretty for the camera. The humor is slapstick, and your eyes will roll.

This is an entirely commercial film, with no message, political or moral. All of it is utterly impossible, and thoroughly delightful. It's Indian, so expect silly but stunning musical numbers around every corner.

There's zero subtlety here; Dhoom has all the depth of The Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Hour, and it's simply a blast.

Verdict: BIG YES.

♦ ♦ ♦

Gully (2019)

The life and times of the scum of the slum. Three guys with rotten childhoods grow up to be — surprise! — rotten. Two out of three are relentlessly rotten, mean, stupid, and hopeless. So's the third, but he's slightly less stupid and more sad.

There are people like these guys out there, lots of them. They're shitty people. A movie about shitty people doesn't have to be shitty, but this one is.

Verdict: BIG NO.

♦ ♦ ♦ 

S. Darko (2009)

Donnie Darko is a very good movie. This is its sequel, and it's not.

Richard Kelly, the original's writer-director, isn't involved. Just one of the original's ten producers is back, and the star is the actress (Daveigh Chase) who played Donnie's kid sister, Samantha, a/k/a S Darko. She was a little kid in the original, it wasn't a big role, and I wouldn't have recognized or even remembered her, almost grown up. Had to check IMDB.

She looks about 18 here, and seems to be a family-free semi-hippie chick with issues. She's traveling with a girl who's a friend, and they get stranded in a small town when their car breaks down, and guess what? It's a weird town, with more than one wingnut wandering around, and a kinda creepy guy, and another kinda creepy guy, and everal crazy Christians, like the Christians in the first movie, only crazier.    

On the surface, this sequel is built to resemble the original, with similar musical cues, swooping camerawork, and the recurring rejiggering of what's already happened. Instead of being haunted by a big bunny, Samantha is haunted by a spooky kid in a red pantsuit, and by a nutty military veteran. There's even an ongoing countdown to Something Big.

"Four days, 17 hours, 26 minutes, 31 seconds. That is when the world will end."

S Darko isn't awful. It looks and feels like a hundred other teen-centric spooky movies, but it shouldn't have been a sequel. Change the girl's last name, drop the few other Donnie Darko callbacks, and it would've improved itself from average to maybe even good.

Verdict: NO.

♦ ♦ ♦

Saturn 3 (1980)

As a small spaceship rockets down from outer space, a voice on the radio says, "You are entering the field of Saturn 3 Experimental Food Research Station."

That's a bit wordy for Traffic Control, and it made me wonder, what's "experimental food"? And are there two other research stations in the rings of Saturn, maybe more? Is there a Saturn 5? We'll never know.

When the ship touches down, Harvey Keitel steps off, and meets Kirk Douglas, who's in charge of the experimental food research station. Douglas turns to Farrah Fawcett hold-the-Majors and says, "This is my partner." No name, just "my partner."

She's Alex, but she's Farrah, so both men and even the robots tell her several times that she's beautiful, and I gotta say: I lived through the Farrah era and never quite understood it. She's certainly an attractive woman, but she was never "all that," not for me. There were several women more attractive than Farrah on my bus to breakfast this morning.

A few minutes after meeting her, Keitel says to Farrah, "You have a great body. May I use it?" That's not a winning pick-up line, and she declines, but he spends the rest of the movie insisting, so it's workplace harassment.

There's almost no mention of research into experimental food, but there is a sci-fi element — Keitel is a mad scientist robot-builder. Most of the drama, though, revolves around Douglas protecting what's 'his' (Farrah), and Keitel wanting her. It's basically Search for Tomorrow in space.

The movie's only real surprise comes early, in the opening credits: Produced and directed by Stanley Donen — Singin' in the Rain, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, The Little Prince, and Saturn 3. One of these things is not like the others. 

The science in Saturn 3 is dated, the story is soapy, Farrah's role is next-to-nothing, and I've never seen Keitel as laconic as he is here, but Kirk Douglas is having a good time, clearly — and so did I.

Verdict: YES, but it's a close call.

♦ ♦ ♦

Steel (1997)

I grew up reading comics, but I'd never heard of Steel, and didn't even know this was a superhero movie until the opening credits. My main interest was seeing whether Shaquille O'Neal could carry a leading role in a movie.

He can, but there are big limits for the big man. His nice guy public persona comes through, as he's playing some ex-military dude who hates violence. He delivers his lines adequately, but it's soon noticeable that he delivers only one line at a time. Always there's a 'cut' before his next line. Thus I conclude that Shaq can recite the dialogue, but can't do scenes with another actor.

I gave up less than halfway through, when Steel was at a rehab center visiting an old friend. The friend was depressed, so Steel's response is to lift her, in her wheelchair, and carry her away while she's hollering at him to put her down. Everyone in the background applauds like it's the end of An Officer and a Gentleman, as he is literally kidnapping this woman.

At that point, the plot had been stalled for a while, anyway. Hadn't even seen any superpowers, unless you count Shaq being big. It is a great visual seeing him argue with grown-up normal-size people who come up to his nipples or belly-button, but other than that, this is standard action fare, meaning, it's stupid. 

Verdict: NO.

♦ ♦ ♦

Troll 2 (1990)

A little boy imagines that his dead grandfather is still around, reading stories to him, and warning him not to let the family eat dinner. The kid's older sister tells him nobody would want to eat him, but maybe she's mistaken. There are trolls here, and people dripping green fluid from their hair, and a town full of vegetarians who don't drink coffee.

You might have heard of this movie; it's famously bad, which is why I wanted to see it. The fame is well-deserved. It's a sequel to Troll, which I've never seen, but that's not the problem. The script is the problem, with nary a sentence that sounds like something anyone would say. The acting ranges from bad to very bad, but Lawrence Olivier couldn't deliver this dialogue believably. 

"Let me give you some helpful advice, you dwarfs. Get out of here, or you will be in a lot of trouble."

There are five or six pretty women in the story, but they all remain relentlessly dressed, so Troll 2's awfulness is all it has going for it. Is it an enjoyable kind of awful? Maybe if you're stoned.

Verdict: MAYBE.


There are so many good movies out there — old movies, odd or artsy, foreign or forgotten movies, or do-it-yourself movies made just for the joy of making them — that if you only watch whatever's on Netflix or playing at the twentyplex, you're missing out.

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Top illustration by Jeff Meyer. No talking once the lights dim. Real butter, not that fake crap, on the popcorn. I try to make these reviews spoiler-free, but sometimes screw up, sorry. Piracy is not a victimless crime. Click any image to enlarge. Comments & conversations invited.   


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