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So this post will mark the beginning of a new experiment in terror. I will choose a movie at random, then review it for your pleasure and edification. Maybe we will all find some new treasures that we otherwise might not have found out about. Of course we’re also likely to come across some real stinkers, so that will give me a chance to be good and snarky 😉

As with any experiment, there must be rules. So here are mine:

  1. The movie will be chosen using a website that provides random movie titles (more on that later).
  2. I am allowed to “skip” movies suggested by the above website(s). For example, movies that have no redeeming social value ie. slasher movies, some sequels, and movies that go too far in the horror genre that might keep me up at night (or day since I’m still working third shift). Also, since the DVDs will be obtained via Netflix, if the movie is unavailable it may be skipped. I’ll try not to skip too many though, because that would defeat the purpose of seeing random movies.
  3. If a movie I’ve seen but not reviewed on this blog comes up, I’ll watch it again.
  4. I try to avoid spoilers in all my reviews, but since this experiment is about discovering new movies I will try extra hard.
  5. For the purposes of this experiment, I am defining a “movie” as a stand alone feature of at least 90 minutes in length, not a part of a television series. They don’t necessarily have to have been released theatrically.
  6. All of the above rules are subject to change without notice at the whim of the reviewer.

So those are the rules, now for the methodology: I’ve looked at a couple of sites that offer random titles, but most of the ones I’ve found so far mostly generate movies from the 00s and 10s. IMDB even has a random title feature, but after clicking it several times it was almost all 21st Century titles except for one from the 80s. I was looking for something that would give me a wider variety of older and recent movies.

The one I settled on is called Movie Roulette, it seems nice and randomy. When I was testing it out the movies went back to at least 1954 and they also put up quite a few foreign movies, which is cool. So after giving it one final spin for real, this is what I ended up with:

California Dreamin’

aka California Dreamin’ (Nesfârșit)
or California Dreamin’ (Endless)

Director:
Cristian Nemescu

Writers:
Catherine Linstrum
Cristian Nemescu
Tudor Voican

Cast:
Armand Assante – Capt. Doug Jones
Jamie Elman – Sgt. David McLaren
Razvan Vasilescu – Doiaru
Maria Dinulescu – Monica
Alexandru Margineanu – Andrei
Ion Sapdaru – The Mayor
Gabriel Spahiu – The Union Chief
Radu Gabriel – Stelica
Constantin Dita – Paul

Release dates:                   
17 May 2007 (Cannes)
1 June 2007 (Romania)

Country:                                 
Romania

Language:                            
Romanian
English

Awards:
2007 Bratislava International Film Festival: Grand Prix (Nominated)
2007 Brussels European Film Festival: Golden Iris
2007 Cannes Film Festival: Un Certain Regard Award
2007 London Film Festival: Satyajit Ray Award – Cristian Nemescu
2007 Molodist International Film Festival – Ukraine: FIPRESCI Prize, Special Jury Prize – Best Film
2008 Gopos Awards – Romania: Best Editing – Catalin Cristutiu
2008 RiverRun International Film Festival – North Carolina, USA: Best Actor – Razvan Vasilescu, Best Cinematography – Liviu Marghidan, Best Director – Cristian Nemescu

Ratings:
USA: Not Rated
IMDB: 7.8/10
Netflix: 3/5 stars
Rotten Tomatoes: 89% (Fresh)

Now I know that’s entirely too much information up there. I went on a cutting and pasting frenzy, but there may also be a method to my madness.

OK, I really like foreign movies. By the way, you may notice that I use the term “movies” instead of “films,” that’s because a film is supposed to be a higher class experience than a movie. I’m not a snob, I like all movies/films. It’s like eating vs. dining. They’re both enjoyable experiences, get over it.

Besides, “movie” is an enjoyable word to say. It’s kind of like kissing. Try it with me. Movie. See? Wasn’t that nice?

But I like foreign movies. I have nothing against Hollywood movies, but foreign movies tend to have a different rhythm and they show you slices of life in other countries from their perspective. This one is from Romania and we learn before the titles that the director died in a car crash shortly after filming.

Although made in 2007, the story takes place in 1999 during the NATO bombing of Yugoslavia. A train containing American radar equipment required in Kosovo, guarded by a small troop of American and Romanian soldiers, goes through Romania and is stopped for four days in the village of Căpâlniţa. The corrupt train station chief, Doiaru, claims that some customs papers were missing, even though the train had been authorized to pass through Romania by its Prime Minister. Doiaru has his own ax to grind with the USA and he initially butts heads with the Marine Capt. Jones, although they seem to form a kind of friendship through the next few days.

The whole village is captivated with the arrival of the Americans, including the mayor and the head of the local trade union, everyone seems to see a chance to get publicity or money from them. The local young ladies are also intrigued by the arrival of young men (much to the dismay of the village’s young men). Doiaru’s daughter, Monica, falls for David the sergeant although neither can speak the other’s language. She enlists the help of Andrei, a schoolmate who speaks English. The problem is that Andrei is in love with Monica and may not see it in his best interest to translate correctly.

I mentioned that foreign movies have a different rhythm than Hollywood movies, and this is true here with one exception: When David and Monica finally hook up they have fantastic Hollywood movie sex. You know what I mean by movie sex; there’s no awkwardness, no fumbling with birth control, they change positions, they move with the grace of ballet dancers, and they both climax simultaneously. In fact their lovemaking is so intense that it knocks out the power to the entire village.

Well, there may be another reason why the power went out but sheesh!

Armand Assante does a good job with the tightly wound Capt. Jones. We never quite understand what he’s thinking, and when he finally takes action to get his train moving the result is quite surprising and a jarring change to the light tone of the film. Jamie Elman as David and Romanian actor Razvan Vasilescu as Doiaru do a great job. Maria Dinulescu who plays Monica is beyond adorable. The problem with the movie is, as was stated earlier, the director and producer was unable to do any editing and apparently the film was released pretty much as is. Plot points appear and then are never seen again, and character’s actions and ultimate fates aren’t fully realized. I still enjoyed the movie and would recommend it with those caveats. You can see above the number of awards the film won, I wonder how much of that was the result of the tragic death of a promising movie maker.

Now, for my rating: I’ve thought a long time about what rating system I will use for my movie reviews. Five stars has been done. Numbering from 1 to 10, done. Thumbs up or down, done and probably copyrighted. I’m trying to come up with something different, so here it is:

The Misplaced Boy MST3K Movie Scale:

Based on the beloved show Mystery Science Theater 3000, which was about the love of movies (specifically bad ones), I have developed a 13 point scale, ranking the characters of the show from bad to good:

Dr. Clayton Forrester – The baddest of the bad, the maddest of the mads, scientists that is. He concocted the whole experiment and sent poor Joel and Mike into space purely to find out how much damage bad movies can do to the human psyche. He will come to symbolize the worst of the worst movies.


Pearl Forrester – Dr. F’s even crazier Mom, she took over the experiment after Dr. Forrester became a star child. She chased Mike and the Bots throughout the galaxy and back and forth through time. It is also believed that she was the first person to bring sexy back.

TV’s Frank – Dr. F’s second second banana, he was last seen working as a Soultaker. Don’t worry though, he’s not very competent and you need to only walk briskly to get away from him.


Observer/Brain Guy – His home planet was accidentally destroyed by Mike so he’s got a bit of a grudge, but for a guy who’s all brain he’s really not that sharp.


Professor Bobo – We’re not sure what he was a professor of, but he’s not the brightest crayon in the box. He thinks the term “damn dirty ape” is a compliment.


Dr. Laurence Erhardt – Dr. F’s original second banana, he mysteriously disappeared after the first season. If you have any information regarding his whereabouts, just keep it to yourself. We’re OK without him. Situated right in the middle of our scale, Dr. Erhardt will stand for a “meh” review. The movie wasn’t really bad or good, just kinda meh.


The Nanites – These self-replicating, bio-engineered nanotechnology organisms have the capability to be really really helpful…but they rarely are.


Cambot – Always faithful, Cambot provides our view into the Satellite of Love and never blinks. Although there is a rumor that it cried once…haven’t seen that episode yet.


Tom Servo – One of Joel & Mike’s wise-cracking bot buddies. He takes his job very seriously and with the help of his fellow robot friends he kept the human guinea pigs from succumbing to the mads and their evil schemes.


Crow T. Robot – The other cheesy movie watching bot, Crow was always equipped with a quip or a running gag. Good thing Joel gave up those “special parts” to make these bots. The ride just wouldn’t be the same without them.


Mike Nelson – We’re getting into the creme de la creme here. These will be the designations for the really good movies. Mike was a talented cast member and writer before he became the second guinea pig. He will always be remembered for his dry style…and of course his perfect impersonation of Torgo.


Gypsy – Faithfully running the higher functions of the SOL takes a toll on Gypsy’s computer brain, so she doesn’t have time to watch the cheesy movies. She does participate in skits and host segments though, and of course she successfully planned Joel’s escape to Earth. Currently the CEO of ConGypsCo, if you don’t already work for her you probably will soon.


Joel Robinson – He’s the man. He created the show (well, under the name Joel Hodgson) and made the robots. No offense to Mike, but Joel’s sleepy Minnesotan delivery will always make him our favorite host, and in our scale he will stand for the best of the best.

So for my debut use of my MST3K scale, on a scale of Dr. Forrester to Joel I’m going to give California Dreamin’ a score of…

Tom Servo

And finally, no movie review would be complete without a good “quote whore” review for the studio to put on the VHS package…because VHS is totally coming back. Trust me on this. You’ve seen these quotes, they usually say something like “It’s an exhilarating, heart-pounding roller coaster of a movie!” Followed by “Arnold Schlickleheimer is amazing!!!” And then they have the name of a critic and a publication you’ve never heard of.

So taking the form “[Title of Movie] is a [adjective], [adjective], [noun] of a movie! [Star of Movie] is [adjective]!!!,” and using a random word generator, I will now provide a random quote whore quote for this movie:

“California Dreamin’ is a minimum, absolute convection of a movie! Armand Assante is featureless!!!”

So there you have it. Our first Random Movie Review. Hope you enjoyed it, and I hope (as always) that, whether you did or didn’t enjoy it, you’ll comment on it.

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