Kraft Macaroni & Cheese; or, Kraft Italian Movies & Cheesy King Kong Ripoffs (ha ha, get it?!)

That's probably my most-unclever out of many, many unclever post titles, but I decided that its so unclever that it almost wraps back around and becomes clever again! In any case, I have no shame, so I'm usin' it.

Just a few movie reviews this time, a couple of 'em recent DVD releases and a couple others which star Evelyn Kraft, who is crazy-gorgeous:


Black Swan, The (C, 2010) Natalie Portman (in an incredible performance) plays a ballerina who's striving for "perfection" in her strongly-desired lead role in Swan Lake. She's a mousy "sweet" girl under the thumb of her mother, a guilt-flinging oppressive force who's something worse than just a "stage mother." Her director doubts that she can pull off the black swan half of her role because she's so repressed and frigid that it's unlikely she can access her dark, seductive side. But Natalie's character is striving for perfection so hard that she's losing her sanity, aided by her wilder understudy (Mila Kunis), who may be darker in Natalie's mind than she is in reality, and who serves as an object for her corruptive fantasies (including a really hot lesbian one). As she lets go of her repressions she also lets go of her sanity, and things get darker and darker, and the film grows increasingly nightmarish. This is an unusual horror film that's not about murder or mayhem, but explores a character's mental darkness. There are plenty of chilling moments even though it's a highly artistic film. Director Darren Aronofsky handles the story with no shortage of style and keeps it fast-moving and compelling even though it's not a terribly eventful story; by all rights it should get boring but it never does. And Portman is masterful in gradually transforming from a timid, unsure mouse to a seductive, unstable force; she becomes everything she's afraid of, and erodes under the weight of it. It's not easy to pull off a gradual decline (which is probably why Jack Nicholson didn't even try it in The Shining and just started out crazy). The horror is unusual because you're not afraid of her but for her. Extremely, sometimes suffocatingly creepy and reminiscent in some ways of Repulsion and Persona. Even if you're not interested in ballet (I'm not even remotely) don't let that put you off. Shares some thematic points with Aronofsky's The Wrestler, which is also highly recommended.

French Sex Murders, The (C, 1972) aka Casa d'Appuntamento, Murder in Paris, Murder on 17th Avenue, The Boogeyman and the French Murders, The Paris Sex Murders. An unwelcome bordello customer whose anger management issues are burying the needle on the pissedoffometer becomes the chief suspect when his favorite hooker is found beaten to death. An inspector who's a dead ringer for Humphrey Bogart (Robert Sacchi, who's even dubbed with Bogie's "pork shopsh and apple shaushe" speech impediment) catches the loonietoon but he swears that he's not guilty and will return to haunt his accusers if he's executed. He escapes custody on his way to death row, steals a motorcycle, and gets decapitated in a highway accident before the guillotine can get him. But even though he's dead, the murders continue (they're not terribly gory but they're all shown over and over again through different colored filters in a cheap attempt at being artsy), so either his curse is coming true or someone's trying to make it look like it is. There's also some weirdo who has a mania for messily dissecting eyeballs, just to try to spice things up, and some incest to add to the sleaze, but it's still a pretty low-rent giallo overall. The Paris locale is wasted over than a finale (which also opens the film!) on the Eiffel Tower. Howard Vernon is on hand, and you get to look at Anita Ekberg, Barbara Bouchet, Rosalba Neri, and the gorgeous Evelyn Kraft, so that's a plus.

Mighty Peking Man, The (C, 1977) aka Goliathon, Xing Xang Wang. Shaw Brothers knockoff of the 1976 King Kong is even goofier and more terrible than its inspiration, but also a lot more entertaining. Because his girlfriend cheated on him with his brother, archaeologist Johnny Fang agrees to lead an expedition into the jungle to find a giant ape. He also finds Samantha, a Sheena Queen of the Jungle rip-off (Evelyn Kraft, who's so gorgeous it's unreal) in a leather bikini that barely stays on (seriously, it's worth seeking this movie out just to look at her). She's a friend of the giant ape and also plays with tigers and leopards like housecats (guess she's so pretty that even animals wouldn't dream of hurting her). She and Johnny fall in love and, wide-eyed innocent that she is, she agrees to help bring the giant ape back to Hong Kong. Once they get him there he's kept chained up and mistreated, which makes Samantha very upset and the Peking Man enraged. When he sees a sleazebag try to rape Samantha, the Peking Man breaks loose and goes on a highly-unoriginal rampage with poor Samantha trying to help him. It doesn't even try to break the King Kong mold, and the special effects are hilarious. Mostly it's a guy in a second-rate gorilla suit stomping around model landscapes, but there are insert shots of a clumsy rubber ape-puppet, I guess just to create more facial mobility. There's also a slight amount of gore, such as a ridiculous tiger-bites-a-guy's-leg-off scene, and an elephant-trampling (after which a rear-projection elephant is brought down by a couple shots from a .38 pistol). A must for bad movie fans or anybody wanting top-notch eye candy, because Evelyn Kraft will make you want to bite yourself.

And a much better reviewer than me, Roger Ebert, actually reviewed this movie... and liked it!

Rite, The (C, 2010) I'm always glad to see another exorcism movie, but unfortunately that's all this really is -- another exorcism movie. It's about as standard as it gets: a guy studying for the priesthood has a crisis of faith and is about to drop out, but they send him to Rome to train him to become an exorcist. He, of course, has his doubts about the whole thing, even when he starts working with the "unorthodox" exorcist Anthony Hopkins. Hopkins treats a supposedly-possessed pregnant girl and a boy who's suffering attacks from a demonic mule, and he's not above using a bit of trickery to pull everything off, even though that reveals a lack of faith on his part. His younger student tries to take a pragmatic approach to the whole thing, but some of the events he's unable to explain. Then Hopkins has a crisis of faith of his own, which leaves him open to the demons who'd consider him a major prize, and being forced to believe in the devil forces our hero to get over his doubts. It's supposed to reaffirm one's faith, but it does a better job of showing how dependent religion is on "the devil," because evil is more evident than good in this supposedly God-ruled world, and "the devil" scares believers to seek God. It all comes down to fear. Unfortunately this movie's scare tactics are too familiar to evoke much of that. If you're a big Anthony Hopkins fan you can add a few points, because he gets an opportunity to go all-out acting possessed. I've never considered him the genius many do, but he's still good, and gets an opportunity to use his range here. It's not a bad possession film, but it's just so basic that it almost couldn't be more generic for the genre; the film offers no surprises and is about as inspired as a Lifetime movie. The filmmaking is solid, though -- it's a well-done rendition of a very vanilla story. But, worthwhile viewing for exorcism fans.

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