Locke’s “What Tha…?!” Movies of the Week

by | Sep 5th, 2011 | 12:27PM | Filed under: DVD Reviews, Movie Lists, Movies, Weekly redbox Picks

On occasion I dive into some of the odder titles in the redbox release catalog–those movies that just looking at their cover art or brief descriptions leaves you wondering, “What tha… heck is this?!” Well, here’s what they are. At least as far as I can tell:


Camp Hell

Before we get to what tha heck this “summer camp horror movie starring Jesse Eisenberg and inspired by true events” is, here’s what it isn’t: 1) A pre-Social Network Eisenberg is in the film for four minutes tops; 2) the “true story” is writer-director George VanBuskirk had to attend a Christian camp as a kid, and the guilt trips and devil warnings freaked him out; and 3) this is not really a horror film as much as a psychological mind trip with demonic visions. Kids raised in a closed-off religious community, including star Will Denton, are sent to Camp Hope where the head priest Bruce Davison tries head off the temptations of puberty–but when Denton gets all sins-of-the-fleshy with a girl camper, he’s tormented by hellish hallucinations. Camp Hell isn’t a bad film–it shows a certain sure-handed inventiveness not so much as horror or religious satire, but simply as a tale of teenage angst. Plus, middle-aged Brat Packer Andrew McCarthy plays Denton’s hyper-strict father!

Elektra Luxx

The phrase “Carla Gugino as (retired) porn star Elektra Luxx” seems self-explanatory, but in fact writer-director Sebastian Gutierrez’s comedy sequel to his very Almodovar-ian 2009 ensemble Women in Trouble ends up a lot harder to pin down. For starters, this loopy, loping Boogie Nights-style roundelay of L.A. misfits also includes Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Elektra Luxx’ biggest fan, Timothy Olyphant, Malin Akerman, and an uncredited Julianne Moore as… um, the Virgin Mary. Some of it feels like the usual “throw lots of indie quirks at the wall and see what sticks” hit-and-miss routine, but Gugino, Olyphant, and Gordon-Levitt are always worth watching, and Friday Night Lights‘ Adrianne Palicki of all people wiggles up genuine laughs as a ditzy call-girl/porn star who’s worried her mental lapses and malaprops could be a sign she’s “acoustic.”

Bending All the Rules

As seen in Camp Hell, a regular What Tha..?! ploy is plastering a hot actor’s name and face on the cover art of a smaller, direct-to-video release. Usually its Zach Galifinakis (see previous What Tha lists here and here), but this time it’s his Hangover co-star Bradley Cooper. Bending All the Rules was released in 2002, and the production’s sound dubbing, lighting, sets, and non-Cooper acting all scream “student film.” Deadly wooden Colleen Porch plays a woman with a gratingly “quirky” childhood (carny life!) who’s torn between two lovers: scruffy radio DJ/bartender/philosopher Cooper (looking like something the Spin Doctors spit out) and ambitious business player David Gail. The overall film has a shoddy amateurism, but it only takes a moment to spot the future star power on the screen. Bending the Rules is worth a look for curious Cooper fans seeking evidence their boy had all that winking charm and charisma working for him right from the start.

American Breakdown

Lately video producers have been collecting under one cover a half dozen short festival films featuring known actors (sometimes before they made it big, sometimes as post-fame favors to up-and-coming filmmakers). (Previous collections include Love & Distrust and Guilty Hearts.) The big-name-stars pitch may feel like a bait and switch, but once you accept these films’ roots and usual varied quality, there are interesting finds among them–I’ve come to genuinely enjoy these mixed-bag mini film fests. This time the loose theme is the darker side of the American dream, and the shorts include James Gandolfini as a pub ghost, Steve Carell in a mean-streets dodgeball showdown with Cougar Town‘s Ian Gomez (and Modern Family‘s Eric Stonestreet), Josh Hartnett delivering from the driver’s seat a phantasmagoric, Bickle-y soliloquy of dissatisfaction, Paul Walker and Scott Caan as–surprise–shallow movie stars, and Paris Hilton as–bigger surprise–a shallow party girl.

The Last Godfather

You may vaguely recall South Korean comedian and writer-director Hyung Rae Shim’s 2007 Dragon Wars as a cheesy fantasy footnote. (In fact it was the most expensive South Korean film ever made. Shim also helmed the 2001 creature feature Reptilian [Yonggary].) Here Shim puts aside his love of giant monsters and returns to his hardy-har roots. Plopped into a ’40s-style American mob spoof, Harvey Keitel and Jon Polito (Miller’s Crossing) goof on their usual gangster stereotypes as warring mob bosses, while Kevin Smith lifemate Jason Mewes sneers as a ambitious young gun. At the center is Shim as Young-gu, Keitel’s long-lost, “mentally challenged” heir. The comedy is all bright colors, broad slapstick, and very silly. A study in what foreign cultures find funny, The Last Godfather’s no humor masterpiece, but depending on your tolerance for (literal) baseball-bat-to-the-head Three Stooges clowning, it has amusing moments and a likable dumb heart.


14 Responses to “Locke’s “What Tha…?!” Movies of the Week”

    • Currently 1/5 Stars
    Posted on September 6, 2011 at 3:11 am

    If you think that Bending the rules is a “sleeper” you don’t know what the definition, It had no soundtrack. The dialogue wasn’t finished. This was just picked up off the shelf since Bradley Cooper got big and tossed out to whoever would think it was ok with him in it. I saw it with my mom and my aunt who will watch everything. I was wrong 20 minutes into the movie I said anyone mind if I turn this off. WE were glad to not have to suffer Any further torture and turned it off

    This is an F- -

  1. Locke Peterseim
    Locke Peterseim
    Posted on September 6, 2011 at 8:53 am

    Diane, at no point did I say Bending the Rules was a “sleeper”–I said it was a flawed, amateurish production but that it was worth a look to see how much charm and screen presence a younger Bradley Cooper already had back in 2002.

  2. Kent
    Posted on September 6, 2011 at 11:04 am

    What we want to hear about is a good movie to rent, not to get stuck watching a stupid movie that Redbox got suckered into buying and now needs to make some money on so they do a review to make you think it is worth seeing.

  3. Locke Peterseim
    Locke Peterseim
    Posted on September 6, 2011 at 11:58 am

    Kent, we do plenty of those kinds of lists here a redblog–we do weekly Picks lists, “Overlooked Films” lists, and every few months Erika or I list our absolute favorite movies currently available at redbox.

    These “What Tha” lists are just an occasional round up of odd stuff I’ve seen that I feel benefit from a “the more you know” explanation.

    Check out some of my other recent lists for some redbox titles I recommend:


    Recent Weekly Picks


    Redbox Faves


  4. Lee
    Posted on September 6, 2011 at 1:40 pm

    I will be sure to check this out next time before I rent. I rented bending all the rules and had to cut it off it was so awful. Thank you for the warning though, so now I know to check this next time.

  5. Amy G.
    Posted on September 6, 2011 at 2:58 pm

    I just wanted to throw my 2 cents in and say that I appreciate these types of reviews around the site. It gives a much better explanation of potentially great (or disastrous) movies. Sometimes after reading these it will pique my interest *just* enough to get me interested enough to watch and see if whether or not I concur or disagree with the articles author.

    Thanks for the reviews, Mr. Peterseim. I’m sure there are many who appreciate yours and others efforts.


  6. Locke Peterseim
    Locke Peterseim
    Posted on September 6, 2011 at 4:07 pm

    Thanks, Amy! I admit, I have more of a fascination (and tolerence) for flawed films than maybe someone who doesn’t watch so many of them all day, lol. (Wait ’til I get around to my Defense of Passion Play with Mickey Rourke, Megan Fox, and Bill Murray!)

    And like I said, while these particular “What Tha” lists aren’t intended as full “recommendations”, to me something like Bending All the Rules is freakishly interesting–you tend to take things like sound design, sets, lighting and even acting for granted until you see a film where they were clearly struggling to make some (if not all) those things work. Plus, watching Cooper in this film is like going to a minor league ballgame and seeing one player just blow everyone else away–you know he’s destined for the Show.

  7. Dave
    Posted on September 7, 2011 at 6:01 am

    Really???!!! It cost a buck to rent, you didn’t spend $20 on a video!!

  8. Fiirvoen
    Posted on September 7, 2011 at 3:22 pm

    I wonder what Diane and Kent’s problem were. They don’t HAVE to read this stuff. Why get so upset? Most importantly, what gives them the right to try and dictate what should be on this site? There are many of us that enjoy stuff like this.

  9. Kent
    Posted on September 7, 2011 at 9:39 pm

    Not the money its the time

  10. Lori
    Posted on September 9, 2011 at 7:49 am

    Don’t you have any kind of editor… a proof reader… just someone around the office that can spell and make coherent sentences? It actually takes a lot of work to read your blogs.

  11. Amy G.
    Posted on September 9, 2011 at 10:12 am

    He, and any writer typically being published on a weekly basis, are fluent in English, spelling and grammar. Although mistakes ARE made- “someone who is hard to read” is more than likely the accusers comprehension skills, rather than the authors poor writing. Why else would they be employed as a writer if they were bad at their job?

    I do agree that different authors writing styles do come across either appealing or not, but that’s personal preference, in my humble opinion.

    I’m actually pretty happy reading anything these days that has a basic grasp of writing & grammar- it seems to be the thing anymore to use slang/ street talk, l33t speak, and txt abbrvns to get a point across.

  12. Amy G.
    Posted on September 9, 2011 at 10:16 am

    In case someone doesn’t ‘get it’, I typed purposely in the styles I mentioned in the last sentence above.

  13. Locke Peterseim
    Locke Peterseim
    Posted on September 9, 2011 at 11:53 am

    Lori, while my writer’s ego is naturally a little bent and bruised by your comment, I have to admit you have a point. One of the problems with these sorts of lists is I’m often trying to cram too much information into a very small space, and that leads to the sort of convoluted, harder-to-read prose you’re complaining about.

    I’ll be honest — I can be a wordy writer, and I do let my writing get a little too tangled up in its own verbiage at times. There’s always room for improvement, and I’ll take your criticism to heart and work at being clearer and more concise. (Though even this comment already broke that rule…)