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The Bottom Shelf #145

Jan. 31, 2008by: AwesomeZara

Low budget and loving it. Even when a movie is cheesy, full of cliches and loaded with implausible lines and even more implausible story arcs... I don't care. Well, sometimes I do. But in the case of these two movies, I overlooked it.

NO VACANCY (1999)
Directed by: Marius Balchunas
Starring: Christina Ricci, Timothy Olyphant

-- click here to buy this DVD at Amazon.com --
-- click here to rent this movie at NetFlix.com --

I tend to search out and watch movies based on people that I like. Sometimes I find some really great gems, on the rare occasion I'll find something exceptional and the rest of the time I'm left with that gross aftertaste in my mouth where I feel dirtier than the actor must have felt when they made the movie. I'm not going to put NO VACANCY into that last category although after watching it I discovered that a good deal of people were not big fans. (That being my anonymous NetFlix comrades.) See, I watched this movie for a different person than most of them were watching it for. I wasn't looking for another one of those cinema moments where we get to see Christina Ricci and her fuller figure. Nah, I'm all about the delicious Timothy Olyphant.

While the movie doesn't have a script as witty as Olyphant's summer foray (honey, I love you - but a villain to Willis' hero you are not) there are enough good moments sprinkled around this wanna-be screwball comedy. A cheap motel, lots of different personalities and a low-budget look that rivals the conditions of the establishment (I actually think that adds to the movie's charm, but I'm a sucker for purposeful low budget) and you have some perfect opportunities to throw a cinematic gumbo in someone's lap. Two drug addicted friends and their mission to get more intoxicants while attempting to come up with the $500 that they owe to a couple of hookers, a girl who wants to be an astronaut who wakes up next to some stranger who turns out to be a refrigerator repairman and a father and daughter running the madness who are arguing over the potential future (and white) husband that he doesn't want her to have. And much like those knife commercials on at 3 am, there's more!

The movie didn't get wide distribution for good reason. It looks cheap, it has no point, aside from Ricci there's no name (at the time) talent in it and the script is spotty at best. The humour contained within its abbreviated 84 minutes is pretty damn stupid. But that's what I liked about it. I liked that it was cheap and stupid and low rent. After awhile I need something inane to take me away from the slick and polished features which might have better writers and flashier effects but lack any sense of a f*cking pulse! Olyphant might have been in a huge role for LIVE FREE OR DIE HARD, but it's clear that he dialed in the performance in order to get his name and face out there. His face looks better here, full of life and color, that gleam in his eyes that signals that he's having fun. Because dammit! Comedies are supposed to be about fun, aren't they!?!?

Favorite Scene:

When one of the coked-out residents of the motel is accosting Olyphant, going through several different hand gestures for various governmental agencies.

Favorite Line:

"What's wrong?"
"Psycho chick."
"That term's redundant."

Trivia Tidbit:

Director Balchunas was a producer on the uber-cool flick, MAY.

See if you liked:

200 CIGARETTES, WHO IS CLETIS TOUT?, DESTINY TURNS ON THE RADIO

CRIME AND PUNISHMENT IN SUBURBIA (2000)
Directed by: Rob Schmidt
Starring: Monica Keena, James DeBello

-- click here to buy this DVD at Amazon.com --
-- click here to rent this movie at NetFlix.com --

Tacking on the last two words is about the only thing that this movie has in common with the book that it is supposedly retelling, Dostoyevsky's Crime and Punishment. The main thing that it carries in it that the book does is the moral implications associated with murder. Which, depending on the kind of book reader and movie goer that you are, will cause you to either love or hate the movie. I had to stew on it for awhile before I came to a conclusion. I think it's because I grew up with an English teacher as a mother, or perhaps my opinion of the movie is in spite of that fact. In either case, I'm more prone to fall towards the being affectionate of the movie side of things.

A young, pretty, pampered and popular high school girl (as all need to be in this sort of set-up since no one is going to give a shit about the ugly fat girl killing her step-parent) is living in turmoil at home. Her mother walks around in a Prozac haze while her alcoholic step-father bitches about how hard he works for the two women in his life without the appropriate showing of gratitude. So mom goes out one night and starts an affair with a bartender and dad flies off into a rage, raping his step-daughter. Daughter goes a little nuts, convinces her doting and dumb jock boyfriend to help her kill her stepfather and then her mother is accused of the crime. While deciding if she can handle the guilt, jock boyfriend goes nuts and popular girl starts spending too much time with the dark weirdo who has been stalking her and taking her picture for weeks.

There's a whole lot of mess going on in that set-up. It's pretty much Lifetime TV-Movie-of-the-Week fodder. What sets it aside from the usual trappings is the way in which it's shot. With a soft hue around the edges of the shots, as if in some narcotic haze, we start to question just how much of what is going on is reality. Then factor in that murder is going to produce some off-the-wall reactions from normal people. Ever found yourself holding the evening newspaper, reading about some teenager who killed their parents and wondered what the f*ck that was all about? Now try to imagine yourself in their shoes. Either they're mentally deranged or they're a normal kid who was pushed to the breaking point by abhorrent circumstances. Their lives are filled with the simplistic dialog that feels most comfortable to them and their grasp on reality becomes more like a child's ignorant view of the world. In a bass-ackwards way, this movie managed to make itself come off more like teenagers in these circumstances might actually act than it probably intended to. With its dramatics, it made itself exactly the way that teenagers normally are: over the top and cringe worthy with every step they take.

Favorite Scene:

The empty way that Keena says that they can kill the football coach as well, if need be, when she's discussing the murder of her stepfather with DeBello.

Favorite Line:

"Yesterday was the first time that I came with someone else."
"Who's the champ?"

Trivia Tidbit:

Director Rob Schmidt went on to direct WRONG TURN which could be considered an unofficial companion piece to CABIN FEVER, another movie that DeBello was in.

See if you liked:

O, THE BASKETBALL DIARIES, DONNIE DARKO

Remember back when people were freaking out over the y2K thing? Eight years later and now what? We need another thing to get wicky over. Any suggestions?

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