Turbo Charged (2003, Philip G. Atwell)

With the exception of being a Hollywood production (even if it’s a Hollywood production for video), Turbo Charged plays like an amateurish short movie make on an iMac. The kind of thing iMovie was great for back in the late nineties–lots of imaginative transitions, the omnipresent music so there doesn’t need to be any dialogue or even sound recording.

And at the center of Turbo Charged is movie star Paul Walker. He doesn’t have any lines, he just has to walk around, just has to run from the cops (he’s on the run, a rogue undercover cop, or so all the national news coverage says). Right, national. Because Turbo Charged is cross country, with flashier Indiana Jones map travel lines.

Only all the locations are in Southern California.

Those unreal moments are nothing compared to Walker. He can’t even successfully essay his part when he’s silent. He’s visibly lost.

1/3Not Recommended

CREDITS

Directed by Philip G. Atwell; written by Keith Dinielli; produced by Neal H. Moritz; released by Universal Home Entertainment.

Starring Paul Walker (Brian O’Conner).

[Stopped Buttons] Day 9½ | February 29

A scene from STALINGRAD, directed by Joseph Vilsmaier for Senator Film.

Stalingrad (1993, Joseph Vilsmaier)
2008

I remember seeing the STALINGRAD VHS at Video Adventure for years and years, both as a customer and employee. When I did see it, it was because Nicheflix had it as a rental. I remember it being long and boring and not particularly good. I wish I had made a list of all the things I wanted to see in my teens because I independently thought they were supposed to be good. Strangely enough, the STALINGRAD post gets a lot of readers. The year-to-year is descending and unstable, but still rather good.


Kathleen Turner, Ricki Lake, Matthew Lillard, and Sam Waterston star in SERIAL MOM, directed by John Waters for Savoy Pictures.

Serial Mom (1994, John Waters)
2012

I didn’t see SERIAL MOM in the theater, but soon after it came out on video. We were a Kathleen Turner family. My mom and my sister also liked the more mainstream John Waters movies (HAIRSPRAY, CRY-BABY) so it was a good combination picture. I never had a John Waters period. I have friends who love his older stuff and I’ve always been aware of him, just never seeing much. Not a lot of readers for the SERIAL MOM post. Not a lot at all. Less, actually, than I was expecting to see. Really bad numbers.

[Stopped Buttons] Day 9 | February 28

Louise Brooks stars in PANDORA'S BOX, directed by Georg Wilhelm Pabst.

Pandora’s Box (1929, Georg Wilhelm Pabst)
2008

I remember almost nothing about PANDORA’S BOX, which will make these posts of particular disinterest. The film is out from Criterion now, but at the time, it was only available in R2. Maybe Masters of Cinema; it was a Nicheflix rental. I’d heard about it for years–maybe it was even covered in a film book from undergrad–but I had never gotten around to seeing it. The PANDORA’S BOX post doesn’t get much in the way of readers. Unfortunately, silent film doesn’t seem to be gaining many new fans.


Simon Pegg and Andy Serkis star in BURKE & HARE, directed by John Landis for Entertainment Film Distributors.

Burke & Hare (2010, John Landis)
2011

I watched BURKE & HARE because, usually unintentionally, I often watched John Landis movies and was curious. And Landis had a long period (right?) without a film so I was curious about him coming back in the era of DV and omnipresent CG. It’s bland and lame; I remember wondering about Isla Fisher’s regrets at not having a better career. She used to be up for big roles. Lots of readers for the BURKE & HARE post initially, then it dropped to almost nothing. The interest vanished rather quickly.


A scene from BATON BUNNY, directed by Chuck Jones and Abe Levitow for Warner Bros.

Baton Bunny (1959, Chuck Jones and Abe Levitow)
2012

BATON BUNNY is famous, right? I can’t remember why I watched it… probably because the year was right. When finding cartoons for Short Stop, I did watch a bunch of Chuck Jones, enough to think his later career was less inventive. But then I remember there are some later Chuck Jones cartoons I really loved. I was never smart about how I watched the cartoons. For a post about a cartoon, BATON BUNNY actually gets a decent amount of readers. Paltry at best, but… for a cartoon… decent.


Helen Chandler and Bela Lugosi star in DRACULA, directed by Tod Browning for Castle Films.

Dracula (1931, Tod Browning), the digest version
2013

I frequently discuss my dislike of DRACULA (novel and films). Whether online or off, it comes up regularly. But when I came across the Castle Films digest versions of old Universal movies, I wanted to watch the DRACULA as soon as I could. DRACULA, the digest version, works out a lot better than the feature length version. It got me hopeful for the Castle Film digests. Not surprisingly, not a lot of readers for the Castle Films DRACULA digest. Too bad; it’s the nicest things I ever say about DRACULA.


Kari Väänänen, André Wilms and Matti Pellonpää star in THE BOHEMIAN LIFE (La Vie de Bohème), directed by Aki Kaurismäki for Pyramide Distribution.

The Bohemian Life (1992, Aki Kaurismäki)
2014

Occasionally, I’ll see a film I hadn’t known about and it will wow me in a way I didn’t think still possible. I had never heard of THE BOHEMIAN LIFE when a friend finally made me watch it. She had been telling me about Kaurismäki for months. This friend got sick of waiting and put a copy of BOHEMIAN LIFE in my hands, apparently realizing I’d feel guilty enough to see it. Not a lot of readers for the BOHEMIAN LIFE post. Positive reviews probably do worse than negative ones, which is rather discouraging.

[Stopped Buttons] Day 8 | February 27

Eleanor Parker and Robert Mitchum star in HOME FROM THE HILL, directed by Vincente Minnelli for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.

Home from the Hill (1960, Vincente Minnelli)
2006

HOME FROM THE HILL was one of the first Eleanor Parker moves I saw, mostly because it was available on VHS. Though I might not have seen it on VHS, but bought it on laserdisc right off. I can’t remember. Pan and scan must ruin it, of course. The laserdisc was a decent MGM/UA transfer, really nice packaging. I think it opened up (instead of two discs in one jacket). As far as the post’s readership, HOME FROM THE HILL does okay. Hopefully someone read about it after Eleanor Parker passed, saw it.


A scene from THE SEVEN-UPS, starring Roy Scheider and directed by Philip D’Antoni for 20th Century Fox.

The Seven-Ups (1973, Philip D’Antoni)
2007

I vaguely remember (mis-remember) the Maltin guide connecting THE SEVEN-UPS to THE FRENCH CONNECTION. I don’t know why I never got around to seeing it. I know the video store had it (on VHS); one of those distinct CBS/FOX Home Videos. When I was a kid, the CBS/FOX thing always confused me. Wasn’t CBS a TV network? What did they have to do with 20th Century Fox? The post actually gets a lot of readers (compared to other seventies American films). That famous car chase must still be famous.


Robert Mitchum stars in CAPE FEAR, directed by J. Lee Thompson for Universal Pictures.

Cape Fear (1962, J. Lee Thompson)
2008

I can’t remember my viewing order on CAPE FEAR. If it was remake or the original. Used to marathon them. I think my mom had seen ’62 CAPE FEAR pre-children and was excited to watch it again around the remake. But was it before or after… I can’t remember why I didn’t go back to the original–maybe because it was from a weird period of high school movies–until so late. The CAPE FEAR post hasn’t really found a level year-to-year; there are wide changes up and down almost every year. But the low’s low.


Taylor Nichols and Chris Eigeman star in BARCELONA, directed by Whit Stillman for Fine Line Features.

Barcelona (1994, Whit Stillman)
2009

I didn’t see BARCELONA until college. I didn’t discover Whit Stillman until then (after LAST DAYS OF DISCO). On a second viewing, I was rather unimpressed with BARCELONA. I can’t remember the specific problems but I had quite a few of them. This viewing–post a couple METROPOLITAN viewings–was nice because I was more measured in my reaction to BARCELONA and less extreme. Over the years, the BARCELONA post has lost readers—by over half. But it still gets nearly decent readership. Very close to decent.


Abby Epstein and Ricki Lake appear in THE BUSINESS OF BEING BORN, directed by Abby Epstein for Red Envelope Entertainment.

The Business of Being Born (2008, Abby Epstein)
2012

At the time I made the post, I think THE BUSINESS OF BEING BORN was the only documentary on The Stop Button. THE BUSINESS OF BEING BORN post had an unexpected side effect–my best friend emailed immediately, curious if the wife was pregnant. I had hoped director Abby Epstein would go on to more but I do not remember what it was about her filmmaking I liked so much. Not many readers for the BUSINESS OF BEING BORN post. Shockingly few, given it was in the news again with a sequel release lately.


Luke Goss stars in INTERVIEW WITH A HITMAN, directed by Perry Bhandal for Kaleidoscope Film Distribution.

Interview with a Hitman (2012, Perry Bhandal)
2013

I watched INTERVIEW WITH A HITMAN because it was a screener, back when I tried to watch lots of screeners. INTERVIEW WITH A HITMAN isn’t terrible. Or at least it isn’t entirely terrible. It’s fairly well-made, especially for DTV action. I was also shocked to learn it was filmed entirely in the UK, because the crew did a great job of cheaply mimicking Eastern Europe. The INTERVIEW WITH A HITMAN post does well. It does really, really well with readers. It’s fallen off, but to still good numbers.

Blue Dream (2014, Gergö Elekes)

Blue Dream runs just under five minutes. Until the end, I didn’t realize the protagonist isn’t a protagonist in a fictional story; rather Blue Dream is a very stylish documentary short.

Elekes’s direction is fantastic; great Panavision-aspect composition. Great photography, great editing. And music. Elekes does almost all of it and the stuff he doesn’t do on his own, József Gallai helps with.

The short follows swimmer Kinga Galambos, who’s actually a real person. It makes a difference. It changes how Blue Dream plays; it goes from a short where the narration is way, way, way too much to a short where the narration is a little off, but can’t hurt the whole product.

It’s really impressive filmmaking from Elekes. It’s a little inaccessible if you’re not from Hungary, since familiarity with Galambos would help a lot. Or maybe you just have to watch it twice, which isn’t bad.

2/3Recommended

CREDITS

Photographed and directed by Gergö Elekes; screenplay by József Gallai, based on a story by Elekes, Kinga Galambos and Kitti Galambos; edited by Elekes and Gallai; music by Elekes; produced by Elekes and Kinga Galambos.

Bullets Over Broadway (1994, Woody Allen)

Bullets Over Broadway has a lot going for it. Between Chazz Palminteri, Jennifer Tilly and Dianne Wiest, there’s a lot of great acting and great moments. There are a decided lack of great scenes, however, thanks to director Allen’s choice of John Cusack as leading man. Cusack doesn’t so much give a performance as imitate Woody Allen, though not all of the time. Occasionally he gives an overly affected performance and comes off as mocking the material. As opposed to Wiest, who gives an overly affected performance and embraces the material.

There are also some big writing problems, like the narration. For whatever reason, Allen and co-writer Douglas McGrath go with some useless narration from Cusack to show time progressing. There are a half dozen better devices they could have used, but if Cusack’s performance of the narration weren’t terrible, it might work a little better. But a lot of it is on Allen, especially the moronic ending, which relies entirely on the nonexistent chemistry between Cusack and girlfriend Mary-Louise Parker.

There’s some really nice supporting work from Jim Broadbent. Some okay support from Joe Viterelli and Tracey Ullman. Not so good supporting work from Jack Warden. He and Cusack’s scenes together are particularly bad.

The best thing about Bullets is Allen’s matter-of-fact presentation of violence. It’s simultaneously shocking and mundane, as opposed to the film itself, which oscillates between mundane and annoying. It does move pretty well though. The good acting moves it right along.

1/4

CREDITS

Directed by Woody Allen; written by Allen and Douglas McGrath; director of photography, Carlo Di Palma; edited by Susan E. Morse; production designer, Santo Loquasto; produced by Robert Greenhut; released by Miramax Films.

Starring John Cusack (David Shayne), Chazz Palminteri (Cheech), Dianne Wiest (Helen Sinclair), Jennifer Tilly (Olive Neal), Tracey Ullman (Eden Brent), Jim Broadbent (Warner Purcell), Jack Warden (Julian Marx), Joe Viterelli (Nick Valenti), Mary-Louise Parker (Ellen), Harvey Fierstein (Sid Loomis) and Rob Reiner (Sheldon Flender).

[Stopped Buttons] Day 7 | February 26

Evelyn Ankers and Paul Kelly star in SPOILERS OF THE NORTH, directed by Richard Sale for Republic Pictures.

Spoilers of the North (1947, Richard Sale)
2007

I found SPOILERS OF THE NORTH on archive.org; I discovered their PD movies in the mid-aughts. I’ve never kept good bookmarks; I went through the movie section of archive many times. Back when they it was full-size DVD images. SPOILERS I wanted to see because it was Evelyn Ankers, after she was out of her Universal contract, doing 40s poverty row stuff. For an obscure, poverty row movie set in Alaska without any notable stars, the SPOILERS post actually doesn’t do too bad at all.


Annette Bening, Harvey Keitel and Warren Beatty star in BUGSY, directed by Barry Levinson for Columbia Pictures.

Bugsy (1991, Barry Levinson), the extended cut
2008

I first saw BUGSY in college. A friend and I would rent (on VHS) various things we hadn’t seen. So BUGSY. I liked it so much from that first viewing, I think I bought the theatrical release on DVD but never got around to watching it. Instead, I watched the extended cut back when Sony was releasing everything in an extended edition (usually without director input). The BUGSY post gets a steady, in unimpressive, amount of readers year-to-year. Very few people seem to remember the film these days.


Samy Naceri and Frédéric Diefenthal star in TAXI 3, directed by Gérard Krawczyk for ARP Sélection.

Taxi 3 (2003, Gérard Krawczyk)
2009

It’s not going to be easy to talk about TAXI 3, just because I barely remember it. It was amusing? I think? It did not have Marion Cotillard–I remember her not being in it, but have no idea how they explained her absence in the film. I think Nicheflix had all the TAXI movies so I was gradually working my way through them–I might have started because of TAXI 4. I don’t think the Taxi franchise has ever gotten R1 release. I suppose I could Google. Nah. The readership is steady, very steady.


Bela Lugosi and Lon Chaney Jr. star in FRANKENSTEIN MEETS THE WOLF MAN, directed by Roy William Neill for Universal Pictures.

Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man (1943, Roy William Neill)
2010

So FRANKENSTEIN MEETS THE WOLF MAN was one of my favorites as a kid. Until I was in middle school, I think. I never had it on purchased VHS–we had recorded it off some airing; it might have even been from a Svengoolie (off FOX 32). This viewing was from the DVD, years after I had last seen it. I fell off the Universal monster movies in my late teens with AMC. And, even though I always think of the Universal monsters falling off in popularity, the readership is sturdy. Never outstanding.


Charlie McCarthy stars with Edgar Bergen in FREE AND EASY, directed by Roy Mack for Warner Bros.

Free and Easy (1931, Roy Mack)
2012

FREE AND EASY is the short with the ventriloquist. I cheated and looked–had to. Title’s way too general. Warner Archive released a bunch of Vitaphone shorts–I think in multiple sets–and I assumed they’d be better than they turned out. FREE AND EASY is easily the least ambitious of the Vitaphone shorts I saw, which I wanted to fill out the site’s year deficiencies. The FREE AND EASY post barely gets any readership. I’m not sure how if people are even familiar with Charlie McCarthy’s name anymore.


Boris Karloff stars in FRANKENSTEIN, directed by James Whale for Castle Films.

Frankenstein (1931, James Whale), the digest version
2013

I got a bunch of the Castle Films digest versions of Universal monster movies but quickly lost interest. The concept of editing a feature to short intrigues me, sort of a “licensed fan edit.” But the FRANKENSTEIN was ineptly done. It’s too bad Universal didn’t license the Castle digests for the DVDs. It’s more unfortunate Castle didn’t credit their editors. The FRANKENSTEIN digest post—not surprisingly—barely gets any readers. I guess any Castle Films digest fans already know about it.

[Stopped Buttons] Day 6 | February 25

Meg Ryan and Dennis Quaid star in FLESH AND BONE, directed by Steve Kloves for Paramount Pictures.

Flesh and Bone (1993, Steve Kloves)
2008

I don’t think I saw FLESH AND BONE in the theater, but on VHS, at the height of being a Dennis Quaid fan. I liked FLESH AND BONE well enough on VHS, but never saw it again on tape. I don’t think. Got a sale laserdisc a few years later. Paramount did a nice job with catalog DVD releases back in the early aughts and I upgraded FLESH AND BONE fairly early from laser. As far as readership—FLESH AND BONE always seems unknown (only ever met one person who knew it)—it’s actually improving, which rocks.


Ginger Rogers and David Niven star in BACHELOR MOTHER, directed by Garson Kanin for RKO Radio Pictures.

Bachelor Mother (1939, Garson Kanin)
2011

I first saw BACHELOR MOTHER in the late 90s on AMC. I don’t think I’d seen a Ginger Rogers movie until then. I can’t remember all of them, but I’m fairly sure I saw 4 Ginger Rogers 1930s RKO releases on AMC, plus whatever else from later. I got it in a Warner Archive mass purchase; Raquel (of the Out of the Past film blog) loves the movie and had just written about it. Taking into account BACHELOR MOTHER is a fairly unknown classic, the post doesn’t do bad at all. It’s got a steady readership.


A scene from A CLOSE CALL, directed by Harry Bailey and John Foster for Pathé.

A Close Call (1929, Harry Bailey and John Foster)
2012

A CLOSE SHAVE is from a failed cartoon studio from the late 1920s and 1930s. I came across a bunch of them. I can’t remember if I was interested in the cartoons–from Van Beuren studios or something–for any reason other than release years. As I watched more and more cartoons for the Short Stop feature, I did start appreciating and thinking about how they worked more. I seem to be the only one who rediscovered Van Beuren cartoons. While the yearly numbers are rising, they’re terrible numbers.


Jena Malone and Zach Gilford star in IN OUR NATURE, directed by Brian Savelson for Cinedigm.

In Our Nature (2012, Brian Savelson)
2013

I started watching IN OUR NATURE with no expectations (or previous knowledge of the film) and it stunned me. I think IN OUR NATURE went straight to DVD/VOD, which has always seemed like a black mark against a film to me. But no more. IN OUR NATURE was one of the few films I’ve seen in the last five or, maybe londer, years where I immediately text someone to see it. There doesn’t seem to be much interest in IN OUR NATURE, which is too bad. It’s got terrible numbers for a post on a feature film.

Brute Wanted (1934, Charles Barrois)

Quite a bit of Brute Wanted is rather funny. The whole idea is funny–dimwitted, failing actor (Jacques Tati) goes for an audition and it turns out he’s agreeing to wrestle a musclebound Russian grotesque. Tati’s got a nagging wife (Hélène Pépée) who also manages him.

A lot of the short is spent on the fight promoters. Tati and co-writer Alfred Sauvy exercise brevity with their exposition when it comes to Pépée and Tati’s situation so the fight promotion scenes just go too long. And so does the wrestling match, with Tati hilariously trying to avoid his opponent.

Barrois’s direction is never on par with the script’s humor, but it’s usually adequate. In the wrestling match, not so much. Barrois loses track of Tati, who’s holding Brute together, and spends it on his scheming friend, played by Rhum.

These problems are tolerable. But the final joke? Cruel and unfunny.

1/3Not Recommended

CREDITS

Directed by Charles Barrois; written by Jacques Tati and Alfred Sauvy; music by Marcel Landowski.

Starring Jacques Tati (Mr. Roustabat), Hélène Pépée (Mrs. Roustabat), Rhum (Mr. Mérandol) and Kola Kwariani (Krotov the Tartar).

Power/Rangers (2015, Joseph Kahn)

Just from the concept, Power/Rangers should be a lot better. Or maybe not. The concept–a gritty action movie “Power Rangers” adaptation, done as a short with a professional cast, professional effects–sounds really amusing.

The result, however, is way too mired in continuity to be amusing for its fourteen minute run time. Or eleven and change, minus the end credits. It’s funny to rely so much on continuity from a kids show without a cult following, but it doesn’t make for a good narrative. Not even an eleven minute one.

The short has bad grown-up Power Ranger James Van Der Beek interrogating good grown-up Power Ranger Katee Sackhoff. Both actors are game, but Van Der Beek has too much material, Sackhoff not enough.

It’s a funny idea and an unsuccessful short. Director Kahn does okay with Power/Rangers, he just doesn’t know how to execute it.

1/3Not Recommended

CREDITS

Directed by Joseph Kahn; written by Kahn, James Van Der Beek and Dutch Southern; director of photography, Christopher Probst; music by Brian and Melissa; production designer, Brett Hess; produced by Adi Shankar and Jil Hardin.

Starring Katee Sackhoff (Kimberly/Pink), James Van Der Beek (Rocky), Russ Bain (Tommy/Green), Will Yun Lee (General Klank) and Gichi Gamba (Zack/Black).

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