Jennifer's Body and KingTom,
and a few more films

#240  [archive]
JAN. 19, 2024

Jennifer's Body (2009)
Streaming free 

"Do you know how hard it is to make it as an indy band these days?"

This is built on the framework of a high school horror movie, but gussied up with smart script-work, cynicism-stuffed brassieres, and some surprisingly good music from an evil band. All high school murder sprees should be such fun.

Megan Fox plays Jennifer, a cheerleader who has nothing going for her except that she's somewhat attractive. All the boys want to bang her, as do a healthy subset of the girls and teachers.

Amanda Seyfried plays Jennifer's best friend, named 'Needy', whose dilemma is that Jennifer, the school superstar she's long admired and latched herself to, has been killed by a demonic band, then resurrected as the school succubus, leading the student body to doom one by one.

Despite years of hype about Fox, this movie is the first thing I've seen with her in it. She's annoying, but she's supposed to be annoying. Seyfried is supposed to be 'plain', but she's Hollywood plain, and she can act, which makes her the star here. J.K. Simmons has fun playing an earnestly squishy teacher, but he's not on camera enough.

Written by Diablo Cody, the movie is more realistic than Juno despite the supernatural elements. Feels a little rushed at the end, with 15 minutes worth of plotting reduced to five, but it's the best high school murder flick I can remember since Heathers.

It's no Heathers, but it's good.

Verdict: YES.

♦ ♦ ♦ 

KingTom (2024)
Streaming free

Here's a joyous mini-documentary about Tom Peha, a skateboarder who snuck into Seattle's Kingdome days before it was demolished in 2000, and shredded the roof.

He didn't get far, though. The surface of the roof was wet, slippery, and steeper than he expected. The point, though, is that he got up there, and he did it.

Like the ride itself, the film is brief. The video imagery is terrific, and it's a blast watching a bunch of aging 2000s punkish boarders, bald or balding or wearing stocking caps, talk to the camera about the thrill of it all when they were young.

Verdict: YES.

♦ ♦ ♦ 

The Lawyer (1969)

Petrocelli was a 1970s lawyer show I watched when I was a kid, which taught me everything I don't know about the law. The shtick on the show was that every week, all the evidence seemed stacked against the defendant, but then lawyer Petrocelli would tell the jury a story with the same facts, but implicating someone else.

I hadn't known the TV show was based on a movie, though, and this is the movie. Like the TV version, it stars Barry Nelson as a cocky lawyer named Petrocelli, which to his frustration is often mispronounced.

Here he's defending a doctor accused of murdering his wife, and to its credit, neither Petrocelli nor the movie much cares whether the doctor did the dastardly deed. It only matters that he have a good defense in court.     

The movie is loaded with antiquated sexism, and TV-lawyer tricks that wouldn't be allowed in real courtrooms. It's basically an episode of the TV show, plus brief nudity and adult language — a courtroom drama that gets stupid toward the end. Harold Gould and Diana Muldaur co-star.

It's never a comedy, but has an oddly comedic score by one Malcolm Dodds, consisting almost entirely of one short, jaunty tune that plays a few dozen times during the movie. The music is guaranteed to get on your nerves, and conveys the wrong mood every time it's played again.

Also, could they have come up with a blander title?

Verdict: MAYBE.

♦ ♦ ♦  

Secret Weapons (1983)

Dratted Russkies Sally Kellerman and James Franciscus run the Marx-Engels Institute for American Studies, training beautiful young Soviet women to act as spies and infiltrate Amerika. Pre-fame Linda Hamilton and Geena Davis are among the recruits.

All the Russians speak Russian-accented English, but in training they lose the accent, while also learning aerobics, promiscuity, 'hot dogs', and other forms of American decadence.

This was made for commercial TV, and it's deadly serious, never even slightly believable, and sadly nowhere near as salacious as the poster. It's a cheesy waste of an hour and a half, which is exactly what I was looking for. 

Verdict: YES, but only as schlock.

♦ ♦ ♦ 

What We Do Is Secret (2007)
Streaming free 

This is about Darby Crash, frontman for the Germs, an "anarchic punk pioneer band." I came in ice cold — never heard of Mr Crash, never heard of the Germs, and I am old and fat and only slightly, only philosophically punk. It's not the music for me.

The film is constructed as a documentary, but it's soon clear that it's not, just because most of the people talking to the camera are not good actors.

The band's shows are what you'd expect — punk music, sometimes rockin' by my standards, sometimes just noise that devolves reliably into riots. Off-stage, though, Crash and the band seem almost Disney normal, which makes parts of this feel like an earnest, PG-rated B-movie about troubled teens in a band.

After Crash's inevitable death — don't do drugs, kids; you can see the OD coming reels away — the film fades out not with Germs music, but with David Bowie's "Rock and Roll Suicide," which is a better choice.

I respect punk rock, even the sounds and bands I don't like. The Germs ain't for me, but the music's beautiful, and some of the readings of Crash's poetry presented here sang to me.

To be clear, then: This is a lukewarm review of What We Do Is Secret, not of the Germs.

Verdict: MAYBE.


• • • Coming attractions • • •  

Not of This Earth (1957)
The Saint in New York (1938)
Same Kind of Different as Me (2017)
The Shooting (1966)
The Spook Who Sat by the Door (1973)
The Train (1964)
Welcome to New Orleans (2006)
Winter Soldier (1972)

... plus schlock and surprises

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 twenty-plex, you're missing out.

To get beyond the ordinary, I recommend:

AlterCineverseCriterionCultCinema ClassicsDocsVilleDustFandorFilms for ActionHooplaIHaveNoTVIndieFlixInternet ArchiveKanopyKinoCultKino LorberKorean Classic FilmChristopher R MihmMosfilmMubiNational Film Board of CanadaNew Yorker Screening RoomDamon PackardMark PirroPizzaFlixPopcornFlixPublic Domain MoviesRareFilmmScarecrow VideoShudderThoughtMaybeTimeless Classic MoviesVoleFlixWatchDocumentaries • or your local library

Some people even access films through shady methods, though of course, that would be wrong.

— — —

Illustration by Jeff Meyer. Reviews are spoiler-free, or at least spoiler-warned. Click any image to enlarge. Arguments & recommendations are welcome, but no talking once the lights dim, and only real butter on the popcorn, not that fake yellow stuff. 
← PREVIOUS          NEXT →


  1. Haven't seen Jennifer's Body. Cody's best work by far has to be Young Adult. I think you reviewed that. She and her husband used to post on a Beach Boys board I used to frequent about 20 years ago before she was somebody. I'm still nobody, hey!

    The director, Karen Kusama, has made one superb film: The Invitation (2015). The ending, which is its best aspect, was ripped straight off of a genius Japanese filmmaker, though, named Kiyoshi Kurosawa - best horror director of the last several decades.

    KingTom looks similar to Man on the Wire. Have I recommended that? I was surprised how much I liked it and was moved by it.


    1. Thanks, man. Young Adult was terrific, yeah. Downloading The Invitation and Man on Wire.

      Haven't watched a movie, only some Doctor Who eps, since getting the job; these are all movies I watched months ago, but when I'm back in the groove I'll be watching great movies again...

  2. Well, it was going to happen. I don't have a busy social life and I mask everywhere I go, but those are only statistical defences. I'm on Day 2 of Covid and on Day 1 of Old Man Covid Protocol, which involves taking eight purple Swedish capsules daily for five days, followed by five additional days of isolation. The Swedish treatment is supposed to give a little extra protection to my heart and all my other organs that have seen better days. Actually, I guess that pretty much includes all of them. And I'd just as soon prefer to avoid going through that first full day again if it's all the same to you. Of course it reminds me of the Dead. Everything reminds me of the Dead.

    Lyrics By:Robert Hunter
    Music By:Jerry Garcia
    Well the first days are the hardest days, don't you worry any more
    'Cause when life looks like easy street, there is danger at your door
    Think this through with me, let me know your mind
    Wo-oh, what I want to know is, are you kind?

    It's a buck dancer's choice my friend, better take my advice
    You know all the rules by now, and the fire from the ice
    Will you come with me, won't you come with me?
    Wo-oh, what I want to know, will you come with me?

    God damn, well I declare, have you seen the like?
    Their walls are built of cannon balls
    Their motto is "don't" tread on me"

    Come hear Uncle John's Band, playing to the tide
    Come with me or go alone
    He's come to take his children home

    It's the same story the crow told me, it's the only one he knows
    Like the morning sun you come and like the wind you go
    Ain't no time to hate, barely time to wait
    Wo-oh, what I want to know, where does the time go?

    I live in a silver mine and I call it beggar's tomb
    I got me a violin and I beg you call the tune
    Anybody's choice, I can hear your voice
    Wo-oh, what I want to know, how does the song go?

    Come hear Uncle John's Band, by the river side
    Got some things to talk about
    Here beside the rising tide


  3. Forgot the tune. Gotta have the tune.



    1. Well hell, COVID's coming for all of us I guess, Glad you have medical coverage and you're following med advice and staying alive. Everyone I know who's gotten it since the vaccine — which is almost everyone I know — has come through AOK, so please don't mess up that winning streak.

      Fine Dead, yes, but as usual I sacrilegiously prefer the perfection of the studio version.

    2. Compared with the live version with the singers and musicians talking back and forth in the language of chords and keys and all playing at once instead of overlaying over a month, one part at a time, it is a sacrilege. I find you easy to pardon.


    3. Well, pardon me!
      Good music either way, of course, but for me, the live version of any song feels like publishing a rough draft instead of the polished version. Jeez, I'd be so embarrassed publishing a rough draft.

  4. The Dead are more a more subtle case of live vs "recorded" because they were fine musicians who improvised, even in the studio. And on their best albums they recorded playing as a band rather than adding one part at a time. I suspect you have a good ear and notice that stuff one way or another. Mr Garcia was so good at the guitar that he learned to play it twice. He had a stroke that demolished the guitar playing part of his brain. I think it took him a year to get ready to perform again. Did he have a few remaining guitar neurons? He and the band say no, but who knows? In any case, even in the studio the boys (and one girl, god bless Donna Jean Godchaux) were doing a certain about of improv. I call this a draw. Let's remember that this is the band that voted Dylan out. Dylan was a hell of a guitarist, but he wasn't good enough to be n the Dead.


  5. Jesus, typos. I feel like shit -- I might as well write like shit.


    1. Typos are part of any rough draft, same as with music. And there's a beauty to the typos, same as with music.

  6. Workingman's Dead, the album this song is from, broke the Dead into the general consciousness of the "straight" AM world. Its album-mate, Casey Jones, was better known at the time, and is, perhaps, better remembered. Casey Jones is a mile wide and a foot deep, and is still heard on late-night FM. Uncle John's Band, which is a foot wide and a mile deep, can still be heard, but you gotta stay up until just before first light. The morning after Jerry died, the News Tribune, once a very good newspaper in its last days of greatness, ran a cartoon of Jerry on its editorial page with a line from Uncle John's Band hand-printed below Jerry's likeness: "It's the same story the crow told me it's the only one he knows; like the morning sun you come and like the wind you go." As a borderline deadhead, I was never more proud of my hometown newspaper.


    1. Id' never say this to Mr Garcia, of course, because it sounds like a diss but it's not, really. I cut about half the Grateful Dead from my playlist because it sounded so much like the other half. There's a lot of beautiful sameness in the mix.


The site's software sometimes swallows comments. For less frustration, send an email and I'll post it as a comment.