Little Shop of Horrors (10/16/12)

Little Shop of HorrorsMovie Two Hundred Thirty Five

In Little Shop of Horrors, a man finds a mysterious plant that becomes a huge sensation but has a unique appetite.

Seymour Krelborn (Rick Moranis) is a nerdy man working in a small, failing flower shop alongside the owner, Mr. Mushnik (Vincent Gardenia), and the woman he secretly fancies, Audrey (Ellen Greene). One day, after an unexpected solar eclipse, Seymour finds a strange little plant  and dubs it Audrey II. After they decide to put Audrey II in the window of the shop, the little plant draws a huge crowd. The plant soon gets sick and starts wilting and Seymour finds the plant has a taste for blood. When the plant grows too large for sucking on Seymour’s pricked fingers, Seymour learns that Audrey II can talk and it is demanding more than just a few drops of blood.

Although Little Shop of Horrors is kind of a remake of the 1960 Roger Corman film of the same title, this 1986 version is actually the film version of the off-Broadway musical. Director Frank Oz, who worked as a puppeteer with Jim Henson, captures both the comedy and horror – as well as the music – in a brilliant mix. Oz’s background in puppeteering makes Audrey II really shine, and even close to 20 years after its release, the effects still look pretty great.

However, the stars of Little Shop of Horrors for me not the effects but are actually the cameos; We have Christopher Guest, Steve Martin, John Candy, Bill Murray, and Jim Belushi all making guest appearances. Since Bill Murray is a god, he pretty much makes every film a masterwork. Considering my general distaste of musicals, Little Shop of Horrors has been a favorite of mine since I was a kid. The songs are fun, funny, unique, and catchy. My wife, who had never seen Little Shop of Horrors before, and I were both still singing Skid Row a week after watching it. The voice work for Audrey II was done by musician Levi Stubbs, who has such a unique voice that gives the man-eating plant a Motown swagger that is both hilarious, menacing, and fun to listen to.

Little Shop of Horrors has been a favorite of mine since I was young and though I hadn’t seen it in far too long, I still remembered much of the music and admittedly “got” more of the humor as an adult. The film has held up better than I expected, actually. The recently released blu-ray gives this film the love it deserves and even includes the cut, original ending. Little Shop of Horrors is still a unique film experience (where else can you find a musical about a man-eating plant?) and the music will likely get your toes tapping.

I give it 5 “Feed Me, Seymour”s out of 5.

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Thief (7/13/12)

Movie One Hundred Sixty Five

Thief is about an ex-con and expert jewel thief that decides to pull a few more heists in order to start a new life.

Frank (James Caan) is a professional safe-cracker that robs cash and/or diamonds and sells them. After his fence is killed, Frank and his partner in crime, Barry (Jim Belushi), are led to a Chicago outfit boss, Leo (Robert Prosky). Leo wants Frank to do a few jobs for him and Frank reluctantly agrees so he can start a new life with a waitress, Jessie (Tuesday Weld) he has been dating. After the big score, Frank wants out but Leo has other plans.

Many people know Michael Mann for his awesome work in Heat, but Thief does some elements of the heist movie just as well, if not better. Frank and Barry are characters easy to understand and relate to, even if we know that it will be hard for things to go right for them. Even if it’s a story we think we’ve seen before, as a whole it is an entertaining one.

I’m not sure if it’s my undying love for the film Drive, but I found many similarities between the films. The opening sequence of Drive has to be an homage to the beginning of Thief, there is no way it’s coincidental. Both Frank and Driver both are cool, calculating, and vengeful, though Frank is much more outspoken. Even the title font and soundtracks are similar. If anyone was disappointed by what Drive wasn’t, then Thief may be the film they are looking for.

There are portions of Thief were the plot seems to lose a bit of its footing and the pacing suffers but then things pick right back up. When Frank is trying to make a life with Jessie I found myself tuning out a bit and waiting for the next scene. I understand we need to know Frank’s motives for going against his instincts and teaming with the mafia, but their relationship still didn’t seem real to me even after all the time spent doting on them. Drive builds a better relationship in less time and with hardly any dialogue.

Thief has been a bit lost in time but it’s a great noir/heist film and outside the Godfather, some of James Caan’s better work. In spite of a few stumbling areas, Thief delivers on every expectation of the genre and perhaps even more.

I give it 4 Thief’s opening sequences out of 5.

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