Sunday, April 29, 2007

Tribeca Reviews: the third batch

I'm running behind. Five Flicks a day, then I'm bushed. I managed to get a few written early this morning. I'm not doing as well as I should, but that's life...

The Animated World of John Canemaker (U.S.A.)

There's an old saying that goes: “Those who can't do, teach.” This is the glory and tragedy of John Canemaker. He's been teaching animation at NYU for decades and has written extensively on the subject. His books are excellent for the most part, and those people I know who've taken his classes say he's excellent, that's how he's maintained his reputation, but this retrospective isn't mostly about John Canemaker the historian or John Canemaker the teacher, it's about John Canemaker the animator.

Those who can't do, teach.

There are four films shown here, and for the most part, they're not very good. The first one was a thing called the Sorcerer's Son, and quite frankly, it's mediocre. Less than mediocre, bad. The animation isn't all that fluid, the plot, about a sorcerer teaching his son, who wants to be a musician, how to do magic is neither interesting nor funny. The movement of the characters is jerky, and while it might be okay for a beginner in a college or even high school, it's not up to professional snuff.

Bottom's Dream is a confused mess. In artistic circles, poor draftsmanship was all the rage, and while Canemaker clearly can draw far better than some people who were celebrated in artistic circles back in the early '80s when this was done, the film itself is muddled and makes little sense, it's too clever by half.

Then there's a documentary that Canemaker made about Otto Messmer, who created Felix the Cat. It's a very nice documentary, and a necessary one, if for no other reason that Messmer was very old at the time it was made and some record had to be made before everyone in that generation croaked. However, it's not a GREAT documentary. Nor did it have to be. This is Canemaker the historian, not Canmaker the animator speaking, which is why it sticks out like a sore thumb here.

Finally, there's 2005's The Moon and the Son. This is by far the best in the bunch, mainly because it's a personal film with no real artistic pretensions, just memoir in the only way he knows will get seen.

Those who can't do, teach. That's John Canemaker.

The Bubble, (Israel)

Written and Directed
by Eytan Fox

The title refers to Tel Aviv, which is the heart of an Israel that most in the world is unknown. It's the Israel that has little or nothing to do with the stereotype of a fascist nation founded with one purpose: to oppress the Palestinians and humiliate Islam. No. The Sheikin St. district is where hipsters of the gay persuasion like to hang out and do their thing. It's a bubble where all that is far in the distance.

The film centers on three, Lulu(Daniela Wircer) and her two gay roommates, Yali(Alon Friedmann) and Noam(Ohad Knoller) live in this “bubble” and are stereotypical lefties. Lulu is part of a group that is trying to promote peace by holding demonstrations and raves, and her roommates are primarily about having sex.

Noam is a reservist in the army, and while on checkpoint duty [Fox shows how evil the Jews are by having a poor Arab woman have a miscarriage at the very beginning], he meets Ashraf(Yousef "Joe" Sweid), a gay Palestinian, and takes him home to meet his mates.

We then go forth with a gay Israeli version of “Friends.” Ashraf and Noam have a relationship, Yali has one with a macho soldier named Golan(Zohar Liba), and Lulu has a tempestuous fling with the editor of Tel Aviv's “Time Out” franchise(Oded Leopold).

Everyone is cute and is oblivious to what is going on in “the real world” and when Ashraf goes home to the West Bank for his sister's(Ruba Blal) wedding, things suddenly get serious. Her fiancée(Shredy Jabarin) is an Islamic Terrorist of course, and his opinion of Gays is far less tolerant than the Israelis. Clearly Eytan Fox and his writing partner Gal Uchovsky are clearly conflicted by the political situation. Otherwise why would they ruin the film with it's atrocious ending, which for the most part negates everything that came before?

If you're not gay or a fan of gay cinema, don't bother.

Invisibles (Spain) - U.S. Premiere.

Written and directed by Mariano Barroso, Isabel Coixet, Javier Corcuera, Fernando Leon de Aranoa and Wim Wenders.

Academy Award nominated actor Javier Bardem teams with Doctors Without Borders to present a series of propaganda shorts, allegedly giving voice to those silenced by international indifference, In other words, it's a series of commercials indirectly asking for money to help various causes and non-governmental organizations.

Yes, there are conflicts in Africa and South America that have been going on for decades, and yes there are diseases which kill thousands in poor countries and are not being fought hard enough. But what are we supposed to do besides give money to Doctors Without Borders?

The shorts are done professionally, although as propaganda they don't really convince the viewers what action we should take. There is, in fact a short which tries. The NGO representatives berate the representative of a major drug firm because they're not doing enough on their own initiative. The debate winds up in a draw. Most of the rest of the films are about armed conflict. How do you end the civil wars in Columbia or Uganda without getting involved militarily? These are questions that are not answered, this is propaganda, after all, and such questions will not bring in the money for Doctors Without Borders, which BTW, is a worthy organization for the most part. Don't bother.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Tribeca Reviews: the second batch

Here's our second batch from Tribeca:

Golden Door (Nuovomondo),

Written and Directed
by Emanuel Crialese

From 1892 to 1924, tens of millions of immigrants were processed at the facility at Ellis Island, New York, all of whom were looking for a better life. The voyage from the Old Country to the New was fraught with dangers, and not everyone, once they got here, was let through “the golden door” that led to America and had to go back to Europe. This film is a look at how this procedure worked, a slightly comic version of “Law and Other” or “CSI,” showing how things work through a story than just doing a documentary.

The film begins in Sicily, where A barefoot Salvatore Mancuso (Vincenzo Amato) and his older son Angelo (Francesco Casisa) climbing a mountain barefoot with rocks in their mouths, as a sacrifice to Jesus in return for advice as to whether or not to actually buy passage across the wide Atlantic and build a new life in America. The answer is positive.

Following Salvatore and Angelo on this epic voyage are his mother
Donna Fortunata(Aurora Quattrocchi), who's a local faith healer, his other son Pietro(Filippo Pucillo), who's mute and apparently somewhat dim, and two neighbors, Rita(Federica de Cola) and Rosa(Isabella Ragonese), who had been promised husbands on the other side of the ocean.

When they get to the port, they unwittingly pick up a “hitchhiker” named Lucy(Charlotte Gainsbourg), who's British and uses the Mancusos to sneak on the ship. Why she's doing this is to some extent uncertain, but her desire to get to America is genuine and she even entertains advances from a wealthy stranger(Vincent Schiavelli, in his final role) who promises her a wealthy husband.

But in the end, this is more about procedure than personality, and nearly half the film takes place on Ellis Island, where it was filmed, and we learn about all the medical and bureaucratic crap that immigrants had to go through to get to the other side. This is an authentic recreation of what went on back then, and is very educational. What isn't are the fantasy and dream sequences, which while they sort of fit with the rest of the film, are rather annoying.

Be that as it may, the acting is rather good and the story is almost compelling, and the penultimate scene is a bit of a gratuitous shocker. Wait 'till it gets on cable.

Black Sheep

Written and directed
by Jonathan King

In New Zealand, sheep outnumber people by about ten to one. So it's only natural that the first major horror film about killer sheep should come from there, right? and with the with the WETA workshop, one of the best FX houses out there doing what's basically a charity job for purposes of patriotism, this thing can't miss, right?...right!?

Well actually, it can, but forutunately it doesn't. For those of us who like gross-out films with some intelligence behind it, this is exactly what we're looking for, which is why it's been such a hit at the film festival circuit.

The film centers around two brothers, Henry(Nathan Meister) and Angus Oldfield (Peter Feeney), who were brought up on a huge farm, and the film begins with a traumatic incident back when they were played by Neick Fenton and Eli Kent, which would traumatize Henry for the rest of his life. In fact it might traumatize you! But that's neither here nor there, for when Henry appears as an adult, he's taking a taxi from one of New Zealand's few large cities [at a cost of hundreds of dollars NZ] in order to sell out to his brother, who's about to show the world his latest creation, the perfect sheep, genetically engineered to be…uh oh. You know what that means.

So after Henry gets his check, He's given a last tour by Tucker (Tammy Davis), the farm's long time manager, but there's danger about, for moronic animal rights activists Grant (Oliver Driver) and Experience (Danielle Mason) have arrived to collect evidence of evil genetic experiments conducted by the evil Dr Rush(Tandi Wright), and unsurprisingly manage to get it. Then even more unsurprisingly, screw it up, releasing a mutant sheep fetus that infects the massive herd nearby and turn them into carnivorous killers!

What's best about this film is not the effects, which are actually rather cheesy, no the best thing is dialogue, which is unerringly witty and perceptive the acting is really good. While the film isn't the last bit scary, the gross-out factor more than makes up for it. This is one heck of a funny movie, and for fans of gore, one of the mandatory films of the year.

Go for it.

Lady Chatterley

Written and Directed
by Pascale Ferran

The classic work of high class smut in the 20th century is D. H. Lawrence's “Lady Chatterley's Lover.” For over seventy years the work has been translated into almost every language and into cinema, getting people in trouble again and again along the way.

The above is very well known, but what is not, is that Lawrence wrote the novel three different times before publishing it, leaving two complete versions sitting gathering dust on a shelf. That was before the second version was published decades after Lawrence's death. It is this version that Pascale Ferran, and her collaborator Roger Bohbot decided to turn into a miniseries for French television. I'm not sure if it was for pay cable or broadcast, but they're a lot less prudish over there and it could very well be the latter. It also explains why this thing is so damned long.

Sir Clifford Chatterley (Hippolyte Girardot) had his nether regions severely damaged during the First World War, and thus cannot have a normal sex life with his lovely wife Constance(Marina Hands), and when the film opens, they are living in an opulent estate out in the boonies, where with the help of myriad servants, she takes care of him while he runs a large coal mine nearby.

With the exception of momentary glimpse of Connie's beautiful naked breasts, the first hour of the film has nothing to do with sex or eroticism in general. In fact, the first third of the film could be rated G! Imagine: G-rated porn!

When she and her sister hire a nurse(Helene Alexandridis) for Clifford, Connie goes out more often and begins the immor(t)al relationship with Olivar Parkin (Jean-Louis Coulloc'h), the gamekeeper, and title character of the novel. Again, as they start getting hot and heavy, the film remains chaste. They don't actually take anything off. The sex is fully clothed and there's nothing here that would get the film past the PG-13 barrier until well into the final third of the film.

The problem with a film as long as it is, almost three hours, is the boredom factor. Yes indeed, there are times when one looks at one's watch and eyes become a bit heavy, but for the most part, the drama sustains it. Maybe if they cut out the brief closeup of Parkin's penis, they would be able to show the entire miniseries on cable, this is too long for one slog, even with the great acting.

You Kill Me

Directed by
John Dahl

We have a winner! The worst movie of the first half of the years is this one! Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely have written one of the most inane and unfunny comedies I've ever seen, and have managed to completely waste a brilliant cast of wonderful actors.

Frank Falenczyk(Ben Kingsley) is a hit man for Buffalo's Polish mob, which is run by his uncle Roman (Philip Baker Hall), who wants him to whack Irish Godfather Edward O'Leary (Dennis Farina), but is so dunk that he passes out waiting for him.

So his uncle sends him to San Francisco, where a friend, Dave (Bill Pullman), gets him a job and a place to stay, and the tenor of the film changes to a celebration of Alcoholics Anonymous and a romantic comedy, y'see, Our hero meets a woman named Lauren(Tia Leoni) and because she's a bit of a maniac herself, they fall in love…and oh yeah, there's Frank's sponsor Tom(Luke Wilson), who knows Frank's secret…in fact, everyone knows Frank's secret, as he's a chatterbox.

While the film has its moments, the whole mess is painfully unfunny, with unlikeable characters and mediocre writing. The cast is fantastic, but that's why this isn't one of the worst movies of all time. Avoid this like the plague.

Tribeca Reviews: the first batch

So here we are again, Tribeca has, at least for me, been going on since last week, and not that it's started, I can start posting stuff.

, (Brazil) – North American Premiere.

Written and Directed
by Joao Moreira Salles

In 1992, Joao Moreira Salles started making a film about Santiago, the butler who had been working for his parents since his childhood, then, because he realized he had nothing actually usable, he put it all away and for the most part forgot about it for over a decade.

Santiago was a bit of a character, spending his free time going to concerts or writing lists and histories of various royal dynasties from ancient to modern history. But the film isn’t as much about him as it is as Salles and the problems associated with writer’s block. There are the long, loving scenes of the family piazza, and various artistic abortions from the original edit of the film of 1992, which are really pretentious and appear to be embarrassing to the filmmaker, who presents them to us as a form of self-flagellations.

Not worth the money, it’s probably good that this film will never be seen in these parts again.

Making Of– International Premiere.

Written and Directed
by Nouri Bouzid

The film’s title is basically a fake-out. It becomes obvious later on, but not well into the third reel. Bahta(Lotfi Abdelli) is a Tunisian break dancer, who’s a bit of a crook. His father hates him, his mother is too protective, and aside from the Islamic aspect, it resembles any slum area in the Western world. But after our hero decides to “borrow” his cousin’s police uniform and cause havoc in a local bistro, and gets into real trouble.

So when he can’t stow away on a ship leaving for Europe, he’s stuck, but, then he’s introduced to a mysterious stone carver(Lotfi Dziri), who wants to make our hero a jihadist. It’s at this point the film suddenly becomes grainy and discolored, and the actor playing Bahta rebels. He was hired to play a dancer, he tells the director(Bouzid, himself), and the latter explains what his goals are, and not very well, although, the film resumes.

Much of the rest of the film is about the making of a suicide bomber, and while characters from the first part of the film make some further appearances, such as our hero’s girlfriend(Fatima Ben Saïdane) getting pummeled “for her own good” in the name of Islam by our now-fanatical protagonist, it’s almost entirely the two Loftis discussing religion and why blowing innocent people up is a wonderful and peaceful thing to do.

The ending doesn’t make much sense, but this is a Greek Tragedy, and everything has to end badly. Sure, Bouzid is on the side of peace and modernity, but the film isn’t well constructed, and the need to break away from the action in order to further discuss the issues involved gets really old really quickly. The acting is good, and the dancing at the start is excellent, it would have been nice if the filmmaker stayed with that, but politics got in the way, which is why we’ll probably never see this again.

Half Moon– U.S. Premiere
Strand Releasing 114min NR

Written and Directed
by Bahman Ghobadi

Kurdistan has great scenery. Perhaps that’s why The Turks and the Persians want it so much. Bahman Ghobadi is a Kurdish patriot who loves his culture and very much wishes to celebrate it, which is why he’s made variations on this film several times.

The movie begins with a middle aged rascal named Kako(Allah Morad Rashtiani), running a cockfight with his sons [PeTA take note, animals WERE harmed in the making of this movie], when he’s informed that the great singer Mamo (Ismail Ghaffari) and his multitudinous offspring(Ismail Ghaffari, Hassan Poorshirazi, Golshifteh Farahani, Sadiq Behzadpoor and some others) have been invited to sing in front of a throng of half a million in Iraqi Kurdistan and it would be nice if Kako would kindly drive them there.

Thus begins an epic journey through Western Iran, where going through the mountains they pick up and drop off various characters, most notably the beauteous Hesho (Hedieh Tehrani), who has been exiled to a remote village because in Iran, musicians of the female persuasion are banned.

Hesho is first hidden, and then when she’s found, sent back where she came from, then found again, lost again, and Mamo and at last family have to go on without her. Then there’s the thing about another famous singer dying of joy and the introduction of the title character.

This is protest presented as dark comedy. The whole thing is cute, and while the scenery is spectacular, Iran seems a place that we most definitely wouldn’t want to spend much time in. Worth a matinee for the scenery alone, however.

Gardener of Eden
(U.S.A.) – World Premiere.

Directed by
Kevin Connolly

Somewhere in the heart of New Jersey, there are two pubescent boys arguing about superheroes. One says to the other, “The only reason that Batman gets to be a superhero is that he’s very, very rich. If he was middle class he’d never get to first base.” The other isn’t so sure, but agrees he’s probably right. Well, Tex Davis, who’s done quite a few screenplays in the past [a few of which have even been produced] simply doesn’t agree, and has decided to show us what Batman would be like if he started out as a lower middle class slacker.

Adam Harris(Lukas Haas) and his friends(Jim Parsons, Jerry Ferrara and ) have had a deal with each other since they were kids. Each would steal from their employers and share the proceeds with each other. That works pretty well, that is until one day, our hero’s life falls apart, getting fired by his evil Israeli boss [anti-Semitic? Don’t really know], because of what his disgusting brother did and Adam tried to stop. Then his parents throw him out of the house. Finally, at the end of his rope, Adam loses it, and beats the crap out of the next person he meets. That of course, is the local serial rapist, and instead of getting arrested, he’s acclaimed a hero.

So he decides to become Batman without the cape. Since he’s just a schlub from New Jersey, his arch nemesis isn’t the Joker, but a local drug dealer named Vic(Giovanni Ribisi), who mainly deals in weed and coke, but can get just about anything. He’s very popular with just about everybody, even, at the beginning, Adam.

This sudden change in attitude, alienates him from his friends, gets him in trouble with the police, and maybe even causes him to commit involuntary manslaughter, but it does get him a girlfriend in the person of Mona(Ericka Christensen), who was the rapist’s last victim.

The problem with this thing is that by the end of the film, Vic is far more sympathetic a character than Adam. Vic is popular because he’s providing what he thinks is a necessary service for the town, while Adam is just full of righteous indignation. He abandoned his friends and is surprised when they don’t like him any more. Also, he wants to join the police, but asks in such a way as to insult just about everyone on the force. The ending is a bit of a shocker, but it actually fits the Batman mold. It’s sad in a way. It’ll probably just get a nominal release before going to that great video bin in the sky.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

The monday document dump.

Well, here we go again. The GVG didn't publish again and we have to put it here.


Directed by
Gregory Hoblit

Exactly what the title mean is rather obscure. But my best guess is that the protagonist, Ted Crawford(Anthony Hopkins) a who is structural engineer, looks for fractures in airplanes and such, that the tiniest of fracture can destroy an entire vehicle.

The film begins with Ted's wife Jennifer(Embeth Davidtz) having an affair with a hunk named Rob Nunally(Billy Burke), and we know from the trailers exactly what's going to happen to poor Jen. So on with the latest episode of “Law and Order: Los Angeles!”

So, since this is a glorified “Law and Order” episode, the usual stuff happens. The detectives arrive, arrest Ted, who immediately confesses and DA Joe Lobruto(David Strathairn) appoints DDA [“deputy, not assistant, same difference] Willy Beachum(Ryan Gosling), who is about to go to a much better job at a top law firm, the job of doing the arraignment, and since this an open and shut case, the entire trial. That's when things start falling apart and Willy loses the case. Hannibal Lector is oh so much smarter than the cocky pretty boy.

While our hero is having all sorts of troubles with his case, he's also having a tussle in the hay with his prospective new boss(Rosamund Pike), which is something he obviously should have reported to the people upstairs, but that's neither here nor there. The thing is just filler, and it would have been better if they had just concentrated on the case at hand. The redemption arc is actually rather interesting.

But the thing is pre-ordained and the viewer knows how it's going to end from the minute Ted is acquitted. However, if you're a L&O fan, it's worth a look.

In the Land of Women

Written and Directed
by Jonathan Kasdan

Sometime during George W. Bush's first term, Jonathan Kasdan was given a chance to direct a film he had written. He took that chance, and the film was completed in early 2005. Years passed, and the film's release was delayed and delayed and delayed. Not only that, it was transferred from Warners' proper to Warner Independent. Exactly why is a bit of a mystery. The film isn't that bad, but still, the film is a little off and that's never stopped anyone before.

Carter Webb (Adam Brody), a young Hollywood screenwriter specializing in soft core pornography, is going out with a supermodel named Sophia (Elena Anaya). As the film begins, their in a Hollywood diner, and he's in the process of dumping him.

Now, Carter is God's gift to women and he knows it. How could she do this to him? He's really depressed and is discussing it with his mother(JoBeth Williams), when his grandmother (Olympia Dukakis) calls and announces that she's about to kick off. Now mom's all set to go to suburban Ann Arbur and take care of her when Carter says that he's going to do it, he's got to get his butt out of the glamorous world of Hollywood and finally finish that novel about his horrible life in High School he's been working on since he was seventeen, he's 26.

Now when he gets there, and we are reassured that Granny is comic relief, Carter stumbles across Sarah Hardwicke (Meg Ryan), the across the street neighbor, and since she's still gorgeous and he's God's gift to women not only is a friendship immediately established, but she tells him her most intimate secrets, such as the fact that her husband(Clark Gregg) was having an affair and what she'd really like to do with her life. She also arranges a date between Carter and her teenaged daughter Lucy (Kristen Stewart), with younger sister Paige(Makenzie Vega) acting as a chaperone.

Since he's God's gift to women, they fall in love with him immediately, and thus he gets beaten up by the guys when Lucy takes him to a party. Then of course, there's the obligatory cancer subplot in order to spice things up. It's all very soapy and gets rather boring in parts, but the acting is good, but that's really no reason to spend good money on this throwaway picture.

Perhaps that's why it's only coming out now instead of a year ago.


Directed by
Nimród Antal

Don't get me wrong. I LIKE horror films. I've seen some extremely good ones over the years, and I even enjoy mediocre to bad ones. I'm really ticked off when stuff like "Hunted Mansion VI" comes out and they don't have any press screenings. I've missed some good chances to tell my readers about some excellent gorefests because someone at the publicity departments at the various studios thinks that horror fans don't read movie reviews and there's no real reason to screen these, which is a pity, really.

Usually, horror films are not THAT bad, and much of the time they are original and entertaining filmmaking. Not this. While this has some good dialogue, here and there, the film is the least original I've seen. This is a paint-by-numbers affair that is not only tired, but looks as if it was written by a computer program.

Kate Beckinsale and Luke Wilson play a generic married couple driving down a lonely road in the middle of nowhere. He thought that it would be shorter than the interstate, where there was a traffic jam. Ain't that always the case? Well, to make a long story short, they get stuck at a isolated motel where the proprietor(Frank Whaley) provides them with one of he worst hotel rooms in the history of the movies, complete with a VCR library of what happened there previously. Not being morons like the other six thousand previous tenants, our heroes fight back.

If you're going to start with episode VIII, it's always better to have at least someone running around who's seen episodes I-VII. That's what this is, we're in the middle of a series and nobody's told us. Beckinsale and Wilson are the special guest victims and somehow, they're going to figure out how to revive the staff of the motel for number IX. However, judging from this thing, Mark L. Smith isn't smart enough to figure it out. Best quit while you're ahead and go see “Hot Fuzz” like you're supposed to.

Everything's Gone Green

Directed by
Paul Fox

Money can't buy happiness. We all know that but, is trying to find out all that wrong? Writer Douglas Coupland apparently thinks it does, because that's the theme of this hypocritical little gem.

Ryan(Paulo Costanzo) is an all-Canadian slacker living in Vancouver, BC, who, as most sitcom heroes are, gets fired from that job he hates and is thrown out of his snotty girlfriend's pad almost simultaneously. While he's being lambasted for not being ambitious enough, he mother(Susan Hogan) calls: Dad(Tom Butler) has won almost six million bucks in the lottery, but can't find the ticket.

The number is wrong [of course], but somehow Ryan impresses the guy from the lottery(Aidan Devine) enough to offer him a job. Luck works in mysterious ways, apparently, because on the way to the official interview, he meets up with the beauteous Ming (Steph Song), who unfortunately is going out with the skuzzy Bryce(JR Bourne), who allegedly designs golf courses, but in fact is more into other things, and he gets Ryan into a money-laundering scheme.

The film is snarky and mean-spirited, which if you think about it is perfectly fine. Coupland and director Paul Fox have nothing but contempt for anyone who wants to play the lotto, or even getting ahead, and it shows. No one is pure, everyone except maybe Ming is greedy and vacuous, and therefore, easy to laugh at. The jokes, for the most part, work. You'll have a good time, but with a need for a shower afterward. Perhaps it's the Luddite nostalgia for the nobility of poverty, or an innate neo-Marxism with its hate for the “bourgeoisie.” Still, hate makes better humor possible, and that's the case here. Worth a cheap matinee.

Hot Fuzz

Written and Directed
by Edgar Wright

Two centuries ago, the great actor Edmond Kean lay dying of some disease. A friend of his who was at the scene asked him if dying was hard. The immortal reply was “Dying is easy, COMEDY is hard.”

Indeed comedy IS hard to do. Some of the top people in the business have made some extremely expensive turkeys over the years, and when a true comic masterpiece comes around that's truly a cause for celebration. Start celebrating: its here.

Sgt. Nicholas Angel(Simon Pegg) is the best that Scotland Yard has. He's so good, in fact, that he's being sent to Sandford, the most boring place in all of England, in order to stop him from making everyone else look bad. Little do they know….right?

Welcoming Sargent Angle to the force is Inspector Frank Butterman(Jim Broadbent), his son PC Danny(Nick Frost), who's a bit of a drunk and loves action movies, and a bunch of slacker cops(Rafe Spall, Olivia Colman Paddy Considine, and a couple of others) who wouldn't know a murder from a ham sandwich, and soon prove that the previous statement is true.

At first, it seems such cluelessness is completely benign, as the local notables, all of whom are played by former action stars (Timothy Dalton, who was James Bond, Edward Woodward who was” the Equalizer”, Paul Freeman, who played Belloc in “Raiders of the Lost Ark”, Billie Whitelaw, who played the nanny in the original version of “The Omen' and a bunch of others), seem to be the usual sitcom stereotypes, but of course there's something rotten going on here, expecially when various people start getting whacked with astonishing regularity.

Angel is astonished that nobody in the local force wants to investigate, but this script is far more intelligent than it appears to be, and auteur Edgar Wright, co-writer Pegg and their partner in crime Nick Frost have more than one trick up their sleeve. When the action starts for real…WOW!

This is what an action comedy should be. It's a real trip and makes the stuff Broken Lizard puts out look lame by comparison.

Alice Neel

A documentary
Andrew Neel

Alice Neel was a minor 20th century American artist who did portraits and illustrations and only achieved great acclaim late in her life. Her grandson Andrew decided to do a memorial tribute to her by using found footage and video as well as interviewing his parents and his uncle, who didn't seem to be very happy when recalling their childhoods. There was also an aunt, who killed herself some years before the film was constructed.

She didn't seem like all that nice a person, and reading the notes, I was shocked to learn that her second son's father was a bigwig in the US communist party and of her work as an illustrator was in quite a few lefty illustrations during the 1930s and '40s. This part of her life, and a decent selection of her art, was not even shown, which could very well create a false impression of the lady

AS a documentary, it wasn't all that bad, but it didn't really go below the surface. We're left with lots of questions, especially why she abandoned her daughter...after all, there's that portrait of her at eight or ten, so there must have been contact. As to the personal stuff, Neel is open and honest about his grandmother, but as to the rest, it's all coverup. This is a film for her fans and art historians, and the general public will probably find this film rather boring.

The Valet

Written and Directed
by Francis Veber

The French can do sitcom! That isn't really news but not that many get over here and most those that do are to cerebral or too stupid to be really funny. This one hits it right on the mark.

Pierre Levasseur (Daniel Auteuil), a billionaire, has been dating Elena (Alice Taglioni), a supermodel, for several years now and she's getting fed up with it. She either wants him to marry her or dump her. He, being French, doesn't understand that kind of thinking [After all, President Mitterand made his mistress Prime Minister a couple of decades back] and to make matters even worse, his wife Christine(Kristin Scott Thomas) is getting suspicious…well probably not, but she's definitely getting annoyed.

The problem with the divorce is the usual tax problem. Wifey owns a majority of the empire's stock, and…this movie was done a thriller just last week, a thing called “Perfect Stranger,” at least the setup was…so, Pierre's lawyer Maitre Foix (Richard Berry) comes up with a sneaky plan. Since the tabs printed a photograph of Pierre and Elena with a third person, why not get that third person to pose as Elena's boyfriend for a while while the finances are finagled in Pierre's favor.

The Schnook in question is a François Pignon(Gad Elmaleh), who parks cars for a fancy restaurant [Valet parking, get it?] and is madly in love with his childhood sweetheart, Emilie (Virginie Ledoyen), but she doesn't want to because she's in debt and he's a schnook, who lives with his even schookier coworker Richard (Dany Boon).

So with a financial incentive, both François and Elena agree to the scam, and with the paparazzi doing their thing, we get the standard farce with witty dialogue and cute situations. The acting is rather good, and Daniel Auteuil does a great slow burn. There's also a rather cute turn by Patrick Mille as a smarmy cel phone salesman who has the hots for Emilie. This is the one of the few French films that is a definite must-see.

The Holy Mountain (1972)

Written and Directed
by Alejandro Jodorowsky

Long ago and far away, a Hispanic Jewish lunatic named Alejandro Jodorowsky invented the midnight movie. It was called “El Topo” and it was bloody and misogynistic and made little or no sense. Which, coming at the end of the 1960s, was perfect for the consumers of illegal intoxicants. Thus, Jodorowsky became rich and famous, and was able to create a second film, more expensive and inexplicable than the first. This was the too-mystical-for-it's-own good “Holy Mountain,” which has been mysteriously lying on a shelf for lo these many years.

The film follows a Jesus look-alike (Horacio Salinas) and a deformed dwarf, as they wander around the wilderness and Mexico City's Zocalo district. Here Jodorowsky thrills us with a reinactment of the conquest of Mexico with all the characters played by frogs and lizards. I'm serious. Jesus also gets attacked by bakers or something like that, and is saved by whores and a chimp, like I said, the whole thing doesn't make a lot of sense.

So the filmmaker takes JC to another place, a tower, where an A mystical Alchemist(Jodoworsky) and his bald and beautiful assistant explain…holy shit! No I'm serious, that's what they explain. When they're finished with the divine feces, the Alchemist introduces us to an entirely new cast of characters, a bunch of mostly evil industrialists who own entire planets, who are going with JC and the Alchemist to the mountain of the title. The rest is Joseph Campbell.

The film is worth seeing for the visuals. Jodoworsky was a master stylist, and imagination oozes out of every pore. Everything comes out of left field, and there's method to this madness, even though it's intentionally obscure. The HD DVD's picture is exquisite, and even makes up for the mostly useless script. It's going to be given a nominal release here and there, and might be worth a look, especially if you have illegal intoxicants about.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

The Pope isn't Catholic anymore.

According to the AP newswire, Pope Benedict XVI has done away with Limbo, and either little unbabtized babies are going to HELL or original sin is a crock of shit.

I've always known the latter, but doing away with a major tennent of faith like that means that being a Catholic, or even a Christian for that matter, is a waste of time as far as salvation goes.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Gen Art films, part two

High Maintenance

Directed by
Phil Van

One of the more effective ways of telling a joke is to make a short film. This is about an allegedly married couple(Nicolette Krebitz and Wanja Mues), who are having dinner and don’t seem to be very happy about it. So she turns him off and calls the robot company to get an upgrade. She gets it and then there’s the punch-line, which is obvious the minute it happens [writer Simon Biggs picked a very OLD joke] but in no way stifles the giggle. Van and Biggs will be heard from again.

When A Man Falls in the Forest

Written and Directed
by Ryan Eslinger

What do movie stars do when work begins to fall off? They work for scale in small independent films. That’s what Sharon Stone, who hasn’t been getting to many big paydays lately, has been doing for the last few years.
Nothing wrong with that, I guess.

This is one of those tiny films where the cast is hoping for a left field Oscar® nomination to get back in the big time. This is exactly the kind of film for that kind of hope. It’s well directed, well acted, and depressing as hell. I mean leave-the-theater-and-jump-in-front-of-a-moving-car type thing. Perfect for a date on a Saturday night.

The film is mostly about a janitor named Bill(Dylan Baker), who has no real people skills and works at night and sleeps during the day. One day he’s discovered by an old nemesis, Gary(Timothy Hutton) who’s been staying late at the office mostly to avoid his wife Karen(Sharon Stone), who is suffering from empty nest syndrome [their son(Nicholas Elia) is off at college], and clearly sick of Gary’s continued presence.

After discovering Bill’s existence, Gary contacts his old pal Travis(Pruitt Taylor Vince), who has been in a holding pattern since an auto accident some years before. Is any of this going to go anywhere? That’s the question. Aside from a subplot about Bill and a thing called “lucid dreaming” it most certainly does not. It keeps on keeping on it’s unfocused way until it arrives at a completely arbitrary ending, the kind that says: “I can’t think of an decent ending, so I’m going to do something violent for no earthly reason”

This is a professional cast doing the best they can with what they’ve got, which isn’t all that much. This is not going to do what was intended, and won’t come to a theater near anyone in the near future.

The Saddest Boy in the World

Written and Directed
by Jamie Travis

Timothy Higgins(Benjamin B. Smith), the title character is going to commit suicide on his ninth birthday. His mommy(Kirsten Robek) has invited all his enemies(Jerocko Harder, Colton Boreen, Paige & Danika Martin, Megan McKinnon and Garnet Barrett) to the party, and the fact that he hates his sister(Hailey Conner) and his shrink(Babs Chula) is a moron doesn’t help matters much.

Once Timmy’s tale of woe is finished, we wait for the happy ending, but auteur Jamie Travis refuses to end this live action cartoon that way, giving in to the obvious conclusion. Nicely done, but rather too artzy for it’s own good.

The National Film Board of Canada and the Government of Alberta paid for this thing, presumably as a public interest educational film intended to fight overpopulation. Either that, or because the subject matter is extremely Canadian.

He Was a Quiet Man

Written and Directed
by Frank Cappello

Frank Cappello has a day job. It’s what’s called a script doctor. Fixing up other peoples’ stuff while he writes stuff like “Suburban Commando” and “Constantine,” the latter of which made quite a bit of money, so he doesn’t have to go around selling shoes and other stuff like that.

Like most writers, he knows that the job of director is rather unnecessary and that he could probably do it himself if given the chance. So with this script, he’s managed to get a chance to prove it.

The film begins with a joke of sorts. Bob Maconel(Christian Slater) is one of
those cubicle drones on the edge of madness. We know this because when
he gets home he has a conversation with one of his goldfish, who calls him a
wimp for being still alive along with all his evil coworkers.

So the next day, while his immediate superior(Jamison Jones) is castigating
him for doing his job properly, Bob finally gets up the gumption to do the
deed. Nervous, he drops the last bullet, and while he tries to pick it up, he
hears shots. SOMEONE HAS BEATEN HIM TO IT!!!! So Bob shoots the shooter,
and thus saves the life of the lovely Vanessa(Elisha Cuthbert), who is
unfortunately paralyzed from the neck down. We now have gone from a black
comic short, to a genuine feature.

Bob is acclaimed a hero and is given a job as the CEO’s(William H. Macy)
assistant, or as the sign on the door says, “VP in charge of creative thinking.
He also starts a romance with Vanessa, who has movement in her left pinky
and thus has hope for recovery. This leads to a whole new set of problems.

The acting is, obviously professional and Slater gives one of his best performances ever. Cuthbert shows she’s not just another pretty face, and the film keeps us interested for the entire hour and a half. It should find a distributor rather quickly.

Frank Cappello has a day job. It’s what’s called a script doctor. Fixing up other peoples’ stuff while he writes stuff like “Suburban Commando” and “Constantine,” the latter of which made quite a bit of money, so he doesn’t have to go around selling shoes and other stuff like that.

Like most writers, he knows that the job of director is rather unnecessary and that he could probably do it himself if given the chance. So with this script, he’s ma

No Diving

Directed by
William Hoffman

A man. A dock. No ego. That’s the subtitle of this cute little short, where our hero(Michael Cuomo) jumps into the lake a dozen times with no form whatsoever. That’s it. It might have made it’s money back at some film festival.


Written and Directed
by Mike Akel

The school year is a long one in Texas, and former high school teacher
Mike Akel has decided to make his feature debut with the slogan “write what
you know” clearly in mind.

Mr. Stroope(Chris Mass) is a novice on his first job as a history teacher;
Mr. Lowrey(Troy Schremmer) has more experience but has too much of
an ego to get where he wants to be. Mrs. Reddell(Shannon Haragan) has
just been promoted to assistant principal and thus her relationship with
with her old pal Coach Webb(Janelle Schremmer), who is straight. [She
makes a point about that]. At the quartet go forth into the world of
education, in a Christopher Guest kind of way.

The “mockumentary” format isn’t always the best way to do things, but in
this case, there’s really not much of a choice. The film was done on the
cheap, and with very little in the way of plot aside from the foibles of the
staff of the high school, they HAD to do it that way in order to keep the
general tone of the film intact.

This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Akel got himself a winning cast, and the
writing is rather good for what it’s supposed to do. While this is rather
hamless as a comedy, the film is mostly meh, and is not something that one
would actually pay to go out and see on a Saturday night. However, it’ll get
all those involved more work in the future, and it’s a good thing to have on
one’s résumé. However, it won’t get past the festival circuit.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Gen Art films, part one

The Gen Art film festival, as I said below, has been going on for a few days, and here are the first batch of new reviews:

Gimme Green

Written and Directed by
Isaac Brown and Eric Flagg

This is propaganda, no doubt about it. Granted some propaganda docs have some genuine passion and are believable to some extent. Not this. What we have is a particularly nasty attack on suburbia in general and lawns in particular. Apparently, lawn grass is the biggest crop in America and those evil busybodies at neighborhood associations all over are forcing people, mostly against their will to keep their front lawns nice and neat in order to keep resale values up. The FIENDS!!!!

Not only that the filmmakers insinuate that lawncare products are the main cause of pollution and prove it by presenting two dead fish. Then comes the commercial by the artificial lawn manufacturers association, or it seems like it is. They lovingly interview a couple of people who are putting some in, and then go on ranting their hatred of grass and all it stands for. On the other hand, it’s almost entertaining.


A documentary
by Rob Stewart

Rob Stewart loves sharks. Not that way!…maybe it IS that way. One
of the first shots in this feature is of him in his scuba gear holding one and
petting it while it just sits there like a pussy cat on his lap. One wonders how
he managed to do that. This is a man obsessed, and he admits it. His mission
in life is to tell the world that all sharks, be they great whites or nurses are completely harmless and wouldn’t hurt anyone. While it’s true that more people are killed by elephants than sharks, it’s also true that elephants are considered giant rats in many parts of Africa.

Using old US government training films, he tries to prove that fear and hatred
of sharks is a form of bigotry akin to that against Jews and Blacks and then
goes on with footage he shot himself how beautiful the entire class
Chondrichthyes truly is. That part is really cool. Stewart is a gifted
cinematographer, and he manages to get some weird and interesting people
to interview, like a representative of the Shark fin soup industry and some
very loud Australians. They even make Greenpeace founder Patrick Moore
look positively sane. But pretty pictures and strident advocacy can only take one so far, so he joins up with eco-terrorist and Sea Shepherd Conservation Society founder Paul Watson, who, Stewart claims, has been invited by the President of Costa Rica himself to patrol the seas around Cocos Island in the Pacific and make sure those nasty long line fishermen [who, sadly, really are]
don’t poach the wildlife out of existence.

But while in Guatemalan waters, our merry band comes across a fishing boat pulling in the lines in question and with Stewart filming, Watson and company confront them, and the fishermen radio in a distress call, which gets Stewart, Watson and company in deep trouble when they get to Costa Rica, and Stewart, on the sly, manages to get footage of huge illegal sharkfin soup factories, which are the cause of the population of the entire biological class Chondrichthyes to be reduced to a mere ten percent of what it was a decade ago. This is exiting stuff, to be sure, but one wonders why Watson didn’t get official authorization to protect himself and his people legally before going on his mission south. It seems, if you’ll forgive the pun, rather fishy.

There is a happy denouement of sorts, but footage of de-finned sharks being thrown back still alive is pretty gross, but I guess that’s the point. The film does what it’s supposed to, inspire outrage. But still, Jaws will never have the appeal of those baby pandas.

The Angel

Directed by
Paul Hough

Shorts nowadays are for the most part samples. The director or writer wants to do major films in whatever genre they like the best. In this case Paul Hough wants to make zillion-dollar comic book movies, so he's made a seven minute long epic, which will show those producers looking for an eager beginner with talent to make “Aquaman III” or whatever, he or she has the right stuff.

Taking place in what's presumably the same universe as “The Matrix”, a little girl watches over her grandmother, as she lay sick in what must be one of the dingiest hospitals in the Western World. As the kid goes down the hall to get some candy, she comes across a mysterious one-legged hero, or so we think.

When she returns, she comes across a monster, and the one-legged hero does battle, in a way that reminds one of the famous trilogy, emerges victorious and then there's the nifty plot twist. Not bad at all. Ten years from now, this little gem's going to be an extra on a DVD for some popcorn flick.

The Signal

Written and Directed by
David Bruckner, Dan Bush,
and Jacob Gentry

David Bruckner, Dan Bush and Jacob Gentry quite clearly want to do television, otherwise they wouldn't have done this as a miniseries. True, this is one SICK miniseries, but we have three half hours neatly divided into three episodes, each written and directed by a different one of the trio, and with mostly the same cast and crew.

The film begins, or we think it begins in the middle of a crappy horror film in which some actresses are handcuffed to trees or something, but that doesn't really matter, because the picture begins to disintegrate and nothing is left but a pulsating image, which may or may not be from another planet. This is annoying, especially to Ben (Justin Welborn) and Mya (Anessa Ramsey), who have just finished making love and were busy resting after the deed. She realizes that she has to leave, because as a cheating wife, she has to get back home before her husband Lewis(AJ Bowen) gets suspicious. But they mysterious snow on the TV is doing something to the public at large, and soon, as Mya drives home, people are suddenly killing each other with wild abandon.

When Mya gets back home, she finds Lewis with pals Rod (Sahr Ngaujah) and Jerry(Matt Stanton), who are arguing about what happened to the TV, Lewis seems unusually jealous, and doesn't seem to notice that the people in the apartment bloc have suddenly turned into homicidal maniacs, then he becomes one himself and Mya flees, and the next morning she finds Lewis tied to a chair and Rod hiding in a closet, where he explains clearly and succinctly how he's not crazy and everyone else is and thus had to die. Clearly, this is getting into some really strange territory.

The second act finds Mya having crashed into a dumpster and left the proceedings, leaving us with a new set of characters. This is played primarily for comedy as Anna (Cheri Christian), who is getting ready for a party, kills her husband (Christopher Thomas), who has just turned into a signal-induced zombie. In walks her landlord Clark(Scott Poythress), who had killed Rod at the end of the previous act. In comes Lewis, who thinks that Mya is in the house and a guy named Jim Parsons(Chandrian McKnight), who seems to be the only clueless person in the entire city.

Just when the comedy begins to flag, the gore returns, and boy is there gore. This film hasn't been rated yet, but I'd be surprised if it doesn't get an R.

The third act brings Clark and Ben, who has around all along, on a quest to find Mya and they discuss the apocalyptic nature of what's happening and what to do next. This is actually rather poignant.

This film has everything needed to become a cult classic. It's well written, original, funny and chock full of sex and violence. I never once looked at my watch. Just the thing for a summer afternoon, and you don't even need illegal intoxicants!

The Sunday morning document dump

As the GVG isn't putting anything up, we might as well put it up here:

Aqua Teen Hunger Force
Colon Movie Film for Theaters

Written and Directed by
Matt Maiellaro and Dave Willis

Blame this on Pokémon. Back in the late 1990s, Warner Bros. released a theatrical version of the then wildly popular TV show/video game, and the thing almost broke a hundred million bucks, since then, there have been a number of other theatrical episodes of animated TV shows, and with the exception of “South Park: The Movie” which was brilliant, most were not and returns became lower and lower until the people at Warners’ decided to finally give up on the idea.

However, that didn’t stop the people at Cartoon Network from giving it another go. The people at the WB generously gave the film to First Look Pictures, who specialize in independent films with small runs, in other words they cater to the “art house crowd.” While this may play in a house, I can hardly call it “art.”

The makers of this film know who their audience is, and it probably isn’t you. It’s insomniacs who watch the TV version late at night on various types of intoxicating substances. Why this “movie film” is in theaters is a mystery. Who in their right minds would blow eleven bucks to see what they can watch for nothing on cable?

This is supposed to be an action epic that explores the origins of the Aqua Teen Hunger Force (better known as Master Shake, Frylock, and Meatwad), cartoon fast food products who save the world every episode, fighting the same evil aliens, and mad scientists (Dr. Weird and Steve) and whatnot in the theatrical version. God help us.

This time out, they discover an exercise machine from outer space [or is it millions of years ago? Who cares?] which threatens downtown Philadelphia. The plot, actually is something that only fans of the show would appreciate, although there are a few laughs here and there [I didn’t find any, but there were several chuckles resonating throughout the screening room] the whole thing is relatively incomprehensible. I guess ita bit too highbrow for the likes of me. If you don’t like the TV show, then don’t see the movie.


Directed by
D.J. Caruso

I was arguing with a friend about this film before either of us actually saw it. From the promos, it looked like warmed over Hitchcock. The basic plot is a rehash of “Rear Window,” and my friend was complaining how there’s nothing new in film anymore and why should one spend the bucks to see this thing if you can rent the original for a lot less? Well, he’s both right and wrong. D. J. Caruso and writers Christopher B. Landon and Carl Ellsworth have indeed ripped off Hitchcock to some extent, but it’s also quite original, and some of the visuals are breathtaking.

The film begins with such a visual. Kale(Shia LaBeouf), the protagonist, is out in the Pacific Northwest with his father(Matt Craven), it’s out in the middle of nowhere, and nothing much happens until just before the opening credits start, but we have ten minutes of great introspective acting in gloriously beautiful scenery. It’s a fake-out of course, which has both nothing and everything to do with the rest of the film and has a completely different tone than everything that comes later.

Dad, gets killed in a horrific car crash while talking to Mom(Carrie-Anne Moss) on the phone [car crashes are always fun], and BANG! We’re in a completely different movie, since our hero is now a prisoner in his own home after being sentenced to house arrest for punching his Spanish teacher(Rene Rivera) in the face in class, something we in the audience are manipulated into thinking is justified.

So Act One is bucolic lyricism and tragedy, Act Two is pure comedy. Bored out of his skull, Kale starts surveying the neighborhood with his sidekick Ronnie (Aaron Yoo), using the binoculars featured in the poster and that is kind of how he hooks up with next door neighbor Ashley (Sara Roemer) and the trio have some interesting misadventures within the confines of the house and front yard, speculating on, among other things, whether or not creepy and mysterious neighbor Mr.Turner (David Morse) is in fact the serial killer being talked about on the television. Of course he is, which leads us to Act Three, which is pure thriller.

Morse has never been better. He exudes an evil air that pretty much blots everything else out as he slowly begins to dominate the picture as the tone of the film changes from teen comedy to something else entirely. Le Beuf, Yoo and Roemer have great chemistry together and it’s easy to suspend disbelief.

Yeah, one can tell where much of the film was stolen from, but the repackaging is so good that it doesn’t really matter. It’s most definitely worth a bargain matinee.

Slow Burn

Written and Directed
by Wayne Beach

If you’re going to blatantly rip off something, you might as well do it from the best, and Bryan Singer’s “The Usual Suspects” is about as good as it gets. Unfortunately, blatant ripoffs are almost always inferior to the originals. However that doesn’t mean that it can’t be entertaining. This is a classic refrigerator film.

What is a refrigerator film? It’s a film you have a blast at, then you go home, and while you’re getting a snack out of the fridge when you get home, it suddenly hits you how awful it was. So I’m of two minds about this.

The film starts with Nora Timmer (Jolene Blalock) looking horrible in the pouring rain, and we find out exactly why extremely soon. It seems that the corpse(Mekhi Phifer) had a sexual relationship with her and so did her boss DA Ford Cole(Ray Liotta).

Nora claims that she killed him while he was raping her, but then, out of nowhere, comes Luther Pinks(James” LL Cool J” Smith), who claims that Isaac, the corpse, was completely innocent and that Nora is a ho. So Ford leaves journalist Ty Trippin(Chiwetel Ejiofor)
waiting in the lobby for the rest of the film while he goes fishing for red herrings, the chief of which is a drug lord named Danny. Either that or Keyser Sozé, I’m not sure.

So we get the conflicting stories and a number of nifty explosions, signifying very little and making for a film that’s lots of fun and rather confounding, but as I said before, it’s best not to think about it too much because it might give you a headache, which is why it’s been sitting on a shelf for almost five years [it was completed in ’03 and was shown at the 2005 Toronto film festival]. It’s a half way decent way to waste an afternoon on a bargain matinee, but no way is it worth full price.

Perfect Stranger

Directed by
James Foley

I’m surprised that the red herring isn’t extinct yet. It’s almost as if the makers of this film fished them all out of the sea and put them in this film. There are so many of them, Wow!

The film starts with investigative reporter Rowena Price (Halle Berry), posing as a lobbyist, where she’s showing Senator Sachs(Gordon MacDonald) some blackmail photos sent by a former gay intern to her newspaper. She has a scoop! But to the chagrin of both herself and her sidekick Miles Hailey (Giovanni Ribisi), the Senator is too powerful, and gets the story quashed. Both are furious, and Ro quits.

Just as she walks out of the door, she’s accosted by her old pal Grace(Nicki Aycox), who wants her to expose the sexual misconduct of powerful ad executive Harrison Hill (Bruce Willis), who had a brief affair with Grace, and had the audacity not to divorce his wife and give up his entire world for her! Thus he must be destroyed!

Of course Ro has no intentions of doing that, seeing as Grace had stolen her boyfriend Cameron(Gary Dourdan) some time before, that is until Grace turns up dead in the Hudson River. So Ro gets Miles to get her a job in Hill’s office, and the two of them begin looking for dirt, because obviously, Hill did it to save his marriage to the beauteous Mia (Paula Miranda), who owns 60% of his company. Or did he?

Like I said, this thing has so many red herrings in it that I’m afraid they might have fished them into extinction. There are lots of other suspects, and but that’s only misdirection. It’s clear that YOU did it, and at the end of the film the only people that don’t seem like total creeps are Hill’s two assistants(Patti DArbanville and Clea Lewis) and the editor of the newspaper(Richard Portnow). The twist at the end is a bit of a shocker, but it doesn’t help very much. The acting is great, but that doesn’t change the fact that the script is too dense and misanthropic. Don’t bother unless you like seeing Holly Berry almost naked.

Private Fears in Public Places

Written and Directed
by Alain Resnais

Exactly, what is it about depressing movies that people keep making them? I mean, who in their right mind would want to see a thing that makes you want to kill yourself at the end?

Thierry (André Dussollier) is a Parisian real estate broker and is trying to find an apartment for a shrew named Nicole (Laura Morante) and her drunk of a fiancée Dan (Lambert Wilson). He lives a lonely life with his sister Gaelle(Isabelle Carré), who doesn’t like him very much. She goes out every night to read at the local bistro and get away from him. The days aren’t much better, because his assistant Charlotte (Sabine Azéma) is a religious fanatic.

Dan spends most of his day at a hotel bar, where he whines to Lionel (Pierre Arditi) the bartender, who’s very patient with everybody, especially his aged father(Claude Rich), who’s a comic monster. Dad needs 24 hour care, and thus hires Charlotte as his part-time caretaker. This is supposed to be a comedy, so it’s obvious that Dan and Gaelle will hook up eventually. We watch people hurting for no reason and it’s all very painful, especially for the viewer.

This flick was based on an English play by Alan Ayckburn, and its clear that Resnais doesn’t understand how English drama works. First off, it’s too stage-y. While the camera travels around the various sets, it doesn’t do so very much, and thus it’s all rather boring visually. Second, the characters aren’t very interesting. All sorts of things are alluded to, but the filmmakers don’t get much beyond the surface, this is especially true of the Nicole character, who is just a bitch, nothing more, we want to know what it is that Dan did, and why Theirry doesn’t kick his sister out on her ear or confront Charlotte about the maguffin. But I guess that’s the point of the original play in the first place. T’ain’t worth the bucks.


Directed by
Andy Cheng

Stupid movies can indeed be fun. This is one of those scripts that appears to have been originally written by a twelve year old and is about crashing cars and baring breasts. There’s nothing actually wrong with that, but remember this is not “Citizen Kane.”

Apparently real estate investor Daniel Sadek financed the $26 million movie because he promised his car collection that he would make it a movie star, and so all those Lamborghinis, Ferraris, Rolls Royces and such are given as much love on the screen as are the human stars, which is something we can clearly see,

The plot: Nadia Bjorlin is Natasha, a rock star wannabe who’s day job is an auto mechanic on the NASCAR circuit, and can drive like nobody’s business. Dragooned into the illegal racing circuit, she’s forced to become the bimbo of an evil vegan counterfeiter(Angus Macfadyen), who wants her to drive in the next secret race, or he will kill her mommy, who for some reason is almost as hot as Nat is.

Of course Mom has to be rescued by someone, and our villain’s nephew Carlo (Nathan Phillips), a recently discharged Iraq vet, fits the bill. In the meantime, we get to watch lots of almost naked women cavort in a resort, and Eddie Griffin and Tim Matheson lose whatever credibility they ever had. While this isn’t the worst film of the year by any means, it still reeks. This must be seen only when intoxicated. Seeing this with a clear head will just make it ache.

Year of the Dog

Written and Directed
By Mike White

Before I begin I should make a confession. I’m prejudiced against vegans. I am not apologizing, being prejudiced isn’t always a bad thing. I’m also prejudiced against Nazis and pedophiles, and I don’t care if David Duke or Nambla are offended. Also, the comparison between vegans and Nazis is apt, for both are a bunch of intolerant fanatics. Mike White is a vegan and he’s made a propaganda film as hateful as it is badly made, which is strange because his resume is one of the best in Hollywood.

This is the spiritual journey of Peggy(Molly Shannon) is a nerd living in California. She works for a company filled with icky cartoonish people, her brother (Thomas McCarthy) and sister-in-law(Laura Dern) are disgusting bores who are far too concerned with their two kids and the only consolation she has from an awful world is her beloved dog Pencil.

One night, Pencil goes under the neighbor’s(John C. Reilly) fence and dies of “toxic poisoning [is there any other kind?]. Peggy is naturally devastated. Al the neighbor comes over and commiserates. It turns out that he’s a hunter who accidentally shot his own dog many years ago. So He’s evil.

Her family doesn’t seem much of a help, and her boss boss Robin (Josh Pais) merely gives her her bonus early and her best friend Layla (Regina King) tells her to get a boyfriend. Then she gets a call from the man of her dreams. Newt (Peter Sarsgaard) works for the ASPCA as community affairs liaison, and offers her a new dog as a replacement. He introduces her into the world of veganism and animal activism. The film then becomes an exercise in propaganda.

The film was ugly, boring and unfunny. the characters were badly drawn, poorly acted (and this with a killer cast, too), and the "it's hard to be a fanatic, but it's worth it" message was telegraphed in a particularly unappealing way. I think it's one of the worst films of the year. Pass this by, go to a restaurant and eat a dead animal instead. You’ll be glad you did.

Dreaming Lhasa

Written and Directed by
Ritu Sarin and Tenzing Sonam

What was unexpected was that is film is not a documentary. It begins as one, kind of. Karma (Tenzin Chokyi Gyatso) is a filmmaker working on a doc about refugees from Tibet living in Dharamsala, North India, where the Dalai Lama and his court live in exile. The film begins with an extra telling the story of her escape from Chinese oppression, then another, and then the filmstock changes and Karma and her assistant Jigme(Tenzin Jigme), preparing the next interview.

This particular interviewee is Dhondup(Jampa Kalsang), who after his testimony is recorded makes an unusual request. He wants Karma to go with him to New Delhi in order to find a certain
Loga(Phuntsok Namgyal Dhumkhang), who was at one time the owner of a certain object that his dying mother asked to return.

Jigme, being a worldy type, thinks that Dhondup is just trying to get laid, but Karma doesn’t think so, and thus begins a wild goose chase across northern and western India trying to track the guy down. Meanwhile Karma and Jigme have other problems. She with her main project and husband back in the ‘States, and he with the usual third-world unemployment related stuff. He mostly hangs out with his friends in the local bar and plays the guitar while waiting for Karma and Dhondup to come back from wherever they went.

The film is as much about normal life for the Tibetan exile community as it is about politics and oppression. The characters are real people, not just archetypes, and the question of whether or not the missing person is alive or dead is open until the very end, this despite the predictions of a local oracle(Lobsang Choedon).

The film is actually worth paying full price for, although it’s getting a limited release and may play very long before going to DVD.

Jack Smith and the Destruction of Atlantis

A Documentary
by Mary Jordan

Jack Smith was the enemy of art. He was a talented lunatic who according to auteur John Waters "bit every hand that could ever, ever feed him," and died of AIDS, something he deliberately contracted, broke and alone. Today he is mostly forgotten, a catalyst of an age gone by who influenced the likes of Waters, Andy Warhol, Federico Fellini and Matthew Barney, whether or not he deserves to be remembered is an open question, but this film is an argument in the affirmative.

This tragedy, for that’s what it is, reminds one of Jeff Feuerzeig's “The Devil and Daniel Johnston” another madman who had a brush with fame and influenced those who would do it much better and change the culture.

It was Smith who created Warhol’s “superstar system.” He had gotten into a hell of a lot of trouble for his 1963 pornographic feature “Flaming Creatures”, a phantasmagoric brew of Art Nuveau pornography that was banned in nearly half the country and was nationally notorious. Soon after he began to feud with his distributor and business manager Jonas Mekas, and although he did another feature, which he would re-edit every time it was shown, he never completed anything ever again, at least on his own.

So it was a bunch of bits and pieces that Mary Jordan had to work with and with interviews with a bunch of people who knew him back in the day, such as Waters, Mekas, Tony Conrad, Gary Indiana, Ken Jacobs, Judith Malina, Mario Montez, and Andrew Sarris, among others we get a portrait of sad and hateful individual who turned his back on that which he loved the most and wasted much of life.

Jordan uses the fragments to their best effect, giving the viewer a good idea of what Smith was all about. It might be interesting to find a copy of “Flaming Creatures” just to see if it had a plot, although this film kind of makes that unnecessary. The man needs a monument, and this is all the monument he needs.


Directed by
Marcus Nispel

It’s no wonder why Fox tried to bury this flick. It’s completely ahistorical and possibly racist. The seasons change back and forth and it’s really, really violent. Not only that the lighting is all wrong and you can’t see very much.

Now, I’ve never held any brief for the Vikings, they deserved their bad press, and were a bunch of bloodthirsty scoundrels in general. However, the Aboriginals they met were more than their match, which is why their attempted conquest of Newfoundland ended in disaster extremely quickly. A slight advantage in weapons technology couldn’t counter the 3000 to one Indian advantage.

But this is politically correct to the extreme, and the Peaceful People of the Dawn, led by the Pathfinder(Russell Means), who are perfect in every way except they live in an area that’s always covered in a smoky mist. Their peaceful utopian existence is disturbed by the Vikings, who try to kill everybody, but somehow are destroyed all except one boy, who is adopted into the tribe and named Ghost, in account of his pasty white skin.

Cut to fifteen years later, and Ghost(Karl Urban) is almost integrated into the tribe. Almost, as he’s still a recovering foreigner, although Pathfinder’s daughter StarFire(Moon Bloodgood) might have the hots for him and he’s not permitted to be a brave. That is until the Vikings(Ralph Moeller Clancy Brown, a bunch of others who speak a guttural Icelandic) come back and start massacring people left and right. Director Marcus Nispel’s first main gig was a remake of “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” and he’s rather adept at gore.

This is what we get. Blood and guts in the misty forest, more of the same in the snowy mountains, or is it the snowy forest and misty mountains? We don’t know because the climate keeps changing all the time and the lighting is so smoky we can’t really tell.

If you like slasher flicks, this will do just fine, but this is for genre fans only, which is probably why they didn’t let any but a select few critics screen this film prior to it’s release. I guess it’s better to have a snooty connoisseur of highbrow cinema pan this than a fan of the genre. Still, while it has it’s good points, it’s generally useless.

Tribeca and Gen Art festivals

Since the editor of the GVG is sick and hasn't put up anything in a while, the entertainment editor has put a link to this thing for the time being, or at least until the Tribeca film festival is over. Since there are a number of films at Gen Art and Tribeca that have been reviewed here before at other festivals, I'm going to add a link to them here.

So, later on today, I'm going to add this week's document dump, that is if the publisher is still to ill to put up anything. Meanwhile, there's that link above.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Sunday Document Dump....Easter edition

Since none of the reviews have been put up by the GVG this week, here they are. However several have been published elsewhere.

Are We Done Yet?

Directed by
Steve Carr

Here's a high concept idea: Do a remake of one film that is very old and nobody remembers anymore, and turn it into a sequel to a bad comedy which made some money and nobody really hated that much. “Are We There Yet?” was insipid, but it made quite a bit of money, and 1948's “Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House” is a classic which is only seen on Turner Classic Movies about two or three times a year. Hey, it could work.

When we last met Nick Persons (O'Shea “Ice Cube” Jackson), he had just reconciled with his fiancée Suzanne(Nia Long) and her two demonic kids (Aleisha Allen and Philip Bolden), and were about to live happily ever after. Well, two years have passed, the kids have become slightly less demonic, and there's no room left in Nick's bachelor pad. So, as parents usually do in such situations, he moves to the suburbs, where he does battle with the local wildlife and a demon who controls them. Not exactly what Cary Grant and Myrna Loy did, but it's close enough for our purposes.

So they get what's a beautiful old house that's a major steal, and except for the fact that the daughter misses her friends, everything seems fine, that is until the house starts to fall apart, and the only person who is authorized to fix it is the Chuck Mitchell(John C. McGinley), the devil who sold them the place in the first place. That is because he's also the building inspector, and the only contractor who's authorized by the person who's authorize such things [himself, natch]. So within moments, he's taken over the lives of Nick and his entire family, something only Nick seems to object to.

This being a family comedy, it's a bit over the top and Nick has to reconcile with evil rather than defeat it, because it's better to make love not war. That's the problem, while Nick and Chuck are interesting characters, Suzanne isn't and to make things worse, her attitude is one that makes one wish that Nick had left those little brats, who are much less interesting this time out, in the train station in the middle of the last film, or even better, they had actually did a relatively faithful update of the original.

But no, the cringe to laugh ratio is about 60/40 cringe. It's watchable, but just barely. Give this a pass.

Black Book

Written and Directed
by Paul Verhoeven

World War II is a perfect backdrop for a movie. The good guys are the good guys and the bad guys are the bad guys, and you can do just about anything except maybe launch a spaceship [and that might have been done, I'm not sure]. Here Paul Verhoeven, who's made many a Hollywood movie in his time, and co-writer Gerard Soeteman, rethink with genre, and come up with one heck of a thriller.

We start in Israel in 1956, where a Dutch tourist named Ronnie(Halina Reijn), vacationing with her husband, comes upon an old friend from back home teaching school in a Kibbutz. Rachel Rosenthal(Carice van Houten), is happy to meet her old pal, and when Ronnie leaves, Rachel sits down by a lake and goes into flashback mode, where she remains until just before the end of the movie.

It's the Netherlands: September 1944, and , Rachel Stein, as she was then is hiding out with some ultra religious fundamentalists, who are actively trying to convert her to Christianity. When an allied bomb blows her hiding place to smithereens, she's at a loss as to what to do, but a fighter with the resistance named Van Gein (Peter Blok), has a plan to get her out, but that turns out to have been a disaster, and everyone on board the barge that was supposed to take her and everyone else to safty is attacked by a Nazi gunboat led by Gunther Franken(Waldemar Kobus), who loots the corpses and pockets the proceeds.

Rachel then hooks up with the Resistance herself, taking the name Ellis de Vries, she takes a job at a food cannery run by Gerben Kuipers(Derek de Lint), and is soon working on various missions, culminating in the seduction of Col. Ludwig Muntze(Sebastian Koch), head of the local Gestapo and one person we'd think is a real baddie. Not exactly so, for deep down inside, he's really a nice guy. However, everybody else in Nazi headquarters isn't, except maybe Ronnie, who's only there for the sex. What's interesting is that many in the resistance are just as bigoted as the Nazis, and there's several traitors lurking about and while we generally root for Rachel and the resistance, we don't know exactly what to expect when the you-know-what finally hits the fan. The excitement isn't over when the war ends. When the Canadians occupy the town, everything unravels and we don't exactly who was the traitor. All we know is that it wasn't Rachel, and someone is going to try to sneak away with all that loot taken from those dead Jews.

The thrills and chills are nonstop, and one extremely long movie manages to flash by in no time at all. This is one of Verhoeven's best movies in years and years and years. See it.

The Hoax

Directed by
Lasse Hallström

In his quasi-documentary, “F For Fake,” Orson Welles focused on the famous art forger Almir Omar, and in some of the footage, a fellow who claimed to be writing his biography is seen to be following him around.

The guy's name was Clifford Irving, and between the time the footage was originally shot, and the time Welles got enough money to finish the picture, Irving had gone on to other things, and the great eccentric auteur was more than glad to add some newsreel footage of what exactly those other things were.

In the world of great hoaxes, the biographer had outdone his subject, for while Almir became famous for painting fake Picassos, and Welles scared the country silly by faking an invasion from Mars on the radio, Irving had nearly gotten away with faking an autobiography by reclusive billionaire Howard Hughes, and bamboozling the entire publishing industry.

The film begins with a semi-traditional flash-forward opening, where Irving(Richard Gere)and his editor, Andrea Tate(Hope Davis),
are on the roof of the McGraw Hill building, waiting for Hughes' helicopter to show up. It does, or does it? We flash back to the beginning before we find out, and Tate is telling Irving that they're going to publish his new novel.

He starts spending money like water, celebrating with his wife Edith(Marcia Gay Harden) and his assistant and old pal Dick Susskind (Alfred Molina), until the thing falls apart at the last minute [that happens more often than most of us writers would like], leaving Cliff in lots of debt. Then he has a brainstorm.

As W. C. Fields once said, “You can't cheat an honest man,” and Tate and the other suits at McGraw Hill [Stanley Tucci is understated but brilliant, as president Shelton Fisher], clearly are so enamored kof the money, they're willing to allow themselves to be snookered.

While you have all sorts of side characters taking up space, the film is dominated by Molina, Gere and Harden, who give the performances of their lives, and Halstrum brings a light touch to the film which makes the proceedings a lot more fun then it might otherwise be. The era of the Nixon administration is brilliantly recreated, and while the story and it's ending are well known, we still have to root for Cliff and Dick in their audacious endeavour.

The Oscar® race has begun!

The Reaping

Directed by
Stephen Hopkins

Just what we need, a born-again Christian Passover movie! Either the Devil or the Lord has no real imagination, they keep on doing variations on the same script over and over again. If not the exact wording of the book of revelations, then something from the old Testament, say, the twelve plagues. Yeah, the perfect thing for Passover, JeeeeeeeeeZ!

Katherine Winter (Hilary Swank) is a former minister who's lost her faith and has become a debunker of miracles. She and her assistant Ben (Idris Elba) go around the world checking things out, and always finding a scientific explanation. Oh these poor, deluded fools! That's why God HIMSELF has sent a message to Catholic priest(Steven Rhea), who was a friend of hers back in the day when she had faith, and a husband and a daughter, who were sacrificed to Baal or someone like that in the Sudan. [This is the first time I've ever seen such an excuse for the genocide in Darfur, but I'm sure it wasn't intentional].

He of course calls to warn her [The Omen], she hangs up on him, and right about that time, she gets a report on a little village out in the Bayou where the river has turned to blood. This was right after a little girl named Loren(AnnaSophia Robb) has allegedly killed her brother. They obviously think the little tyke is the Devil, and local bigwig Doug Blackwell (David Morrissey) wants Kat and Ben to debunk the “miracle” before poor Loren gets lynched by a bunch of yokles with torches.

Of course the writers of the film go down the list, frogs, flies, locusts etc, and the special effects are pretty good, and the attempt at misdirection is relatively successful, but still what's the point?

Why can't someone do a theological disaster film where they know the difference between atheism and Classical Satanism,[i.e. orthodox Catholics who've chosen the other side.] “You're not a Catholic or a born-again Christian? then you must be a Satanist!”

Parts of the film make sense, but why bring the Priest into it? Why would the infernal or divine powers care about this guy to send a message to HIM? It's totally stupid and doesn't fit in with the rest of the film. Some day, someone's going to do an ORIGINAL Armageddon film. Till then, let's just hope Hillary Swank remains too big to do a #2.

The TV Set

Written and Directed
by Jake Kasdan

Write what you know. Except for science fiction or cheesy romance , that's the first rule of fiction. Jake Kasdan has been in and around show business all his life [his father Lawrence is a big shot honcho] and he's done TV, including a pilot that never was picked up. So he knows what he's talking about.

Kasdan's doppelganger is Mike(David Duchovny) a writer with a vision. He's doing a thing called “The Winslow Chronicles” about the adventures of guy recovering from his brother's suicide. The script's gotten past gate, so to speak, and it's actually going to be produced. This is exiting news indeed, but there are other factors involved that are going destroy the pure vision Mike originally had.

Lenny(Sigourney Weaver) is the number two person in the network, and she wants as much input on the series that Mike has, but doesn't want him to actually think that. Her number two is Richard(Ioan Gruffudd), who's marriage is in trouble because his wife hates LA. Slightly different visions lead to conflicts, and since Lenny is paying the bills, Mike generally loses.

Not for want of trying. He and his assistant Alice(Judy Greer) try to force the hands of the powers that be by getting a bad actor named
Zach Harper(Fran Kranz) to go against the person he wants for the job, so Zach gets it instead, of course. This sort of thing happens for the entire film and by the time it gets picked up, it's completely different than what was originally pitched.

This is the writer's protest against the suits who destroy creativity in the TV business. If the writers had been left alone with their vision would the world be a better place? Dunno. But the film is funny, and everyone in the film is fighting on the same side for truth, justice and the American way. Writing for TV is compromise anyway, so nobody should really have all that much to complain about. This is inside baseball and is only going to be popular with the people in the biz.

G.I. Jesus

Written and Directed
by Carl Colpaert

As the war in Iraq goes on and on, the anti-American propaganda becomes more vicious and vicious. This is as brazen as it can get for a dramatic film and is a lousy movie to boot. Hate oozes out of every single frame of offensive piece of shit.

Corporal Jesus Feliciano (Joe Arquette) is coming back from the war, traveling first class, of course, and when his plane arrives at LAX, he's greeted by his wife Claudia(Patricia Mota) and daughter Marina (Telana Lynum), who are thrilled to see him. They're driving an expensive SUV and when they get to the trailer park, the crappy trailer they live in is full of hyper-expensive, state-of-the-art entertainment stuff. Apparently, there's this guy named Fred(Wes W. Thompson) who's very rich and Claudia isn't all that faithful.

As Jesus begins to reintegrate himself to life back home, he encounters all the standard off-the-wall conspiracy theories that the far, far left likes to spew in flyers distributed at commie-instigated antiwar rallies. Did you know that the 1973 CIA coup in Chile was instigated in order to sell Pepsi cola? No, then you're in good company; neither do PepsiCo or the CIA.

While Jesus is winding his way through long-winded expositions on how truly evil America and everything it stands for, he's haunted by a mysterious man named Mohammed(Maurizo Farhad), who cheerfully condemns poor Jesus for murdering him and his innocent family. After all, Saddam Hussein and his government never would hurt a fly, and oh yeah, I forgot to mention, Jesus and his family are illegal aliens, and if he does anything besides what he's told, he'd be deported back, along with his American-born daughter and Dominican wife back to Mexico.

Not only is the story preposterous, the acting is some of the worst seen in any movie this year. This film is definitely in “Plan 9 From Outer Space” territory. This is an embarrassment for all involved, and they should be ashamed of themselves.

Friday, April 06, 2007


Just in case the GVG hasn't put up my stuff yet....


To be perfectly frank, before Tarantino and Rodriguez announced that they were making this package, I don’t remember ever hearing the term “grindhouse” before. Oh, I’d been to quite a few back in the day, but they never were called that, at least by anyone I knew. Second Runs, dollar theaters, shitholes, sure, but never grindhouses.

Here in New York, they were mostly located on 42nd street between seventh and eighth avenues among the live sex shows. They stank of urine mixed with stale coke [the soda] and were a good place to get robbed. There were also a few on seventh avenue around 50th street, and one on 110th and Broadway, and yes they showed cheesy horror and blaxpolotiation flicks as well as first run stuff for half the price of the “high class” multiplexes around the corner on 43rd and Broadway. They also had some in White Plains and Elmsford, up in Westchester.

Going to the movies was a different experience back then, and Tarantino and Rodriguez have decided to recreate that experience of their youth, when, hiding out for an afternoon, they saw at least two or three bad flicks in a row.

Aside from the two features, and they ARE indeed features, there are three faux trailers, and an ad for a restaurant somewhere on the Texas/Mexico border.

The trailers are, of course, jokes. The first one, by Rodriguez, has Cheech Marin as a homicidal priest out for revenge, because his pal, the Mexican assassin(Danny Trejo), has been betrayed. It’s one of those things I would usually avoid as a kid. Then, after the first feature, there’s three more. One by Rob Zombie about Nazi werewolf supervixans, one by Eli Roth for a horror film called “Thanksgiving” and a thing called “Don’t” by Edger Wright, which is the only thing I might want to see as a real movie.

Now, as to the grindhouse experience, when the initial run of the package is over, and the people at Weinstein/Dimension put this in the second-run or third run theaters, they’re probably going to cut up the package and show the two features separately, [after all, for three bucks, why would any theater owner in his/her right mind let a person sit in their seats for over THREE hours?] so that’s how we’ll treat them:

Planet Terror

Written and Directed
by Robert Rodriguez

AS Michael Medved once said before he got religion, “If you set out to make a bad movie, how can you not succeed?” I know that this was to some extent a joke, but couldn’t Robert Rodriguez have pretended to TRY making a halfway decent movie?

This is your standard operational zombie movie. The film starts with Our heroine Cherry(Rose McGowan) quitting her job as a stripper, much to the chagrin of her sleezy boss(Michael Parks), since she doesn’t have a car she walks all the way to J.T.’s(Jeff Fahey) barbecue place, where she accidentally meets her old beau Wray(Freddy Rodriguez). Meanwhile evil Dr. William Block(Josh Brolin) is arguing with his wife, Dr. Dakota(Marley Shelton), about something that is serious and unexplained, and from out of nowhere, even more evil Dr. Abby(Naveen Andrews) has a confrontation with some military types in which he cuts off…this is before he has a fight with a colonel played by Bruce Willis.

As a parody of the genre, it’s not all that great. Granted McGowan, Shelton and Fergie, who has a smaller part, are really easy on the eyes, and some of the action is actually nicely choreographed, however, the whole thing is cliché after cliché, and if you’re stone cold sober, the whole thing gets really old after a while.

The special effects are old fashioned, which makes the use of blackberries kind of anachronistic, and if it wasn’t for the fact that the zombies were really disgusting, the whole thing would be a bore. [which is why, back in the day, we would get stoned first].

Death Proof

Written and Directed
by Quentin Tarantino

Unlike, Robert Rodreguez, Quentin Tarantino is a cinematic genius. True, not everything he’s done in the past is great, but he knows how to make a decent film. Even with the obvious flaws, the payoff is much better and the chase sequence is actually thrilling.

The film is about two sets of really hot chicks and their relationship with the despicable Stuntman Mike(Kurt Russell). The film can use some editing to make it really good, the first act is waaaaaaay to wordy. It’s about three twenty-something beauties: Arlene (Vanessa Ferlito), who’s visiting her old college chums Shana(Jordan Ladd) and local DJ Jungle Julia(Sydney Tamiia Poitier) in Austin, Texas.

This is an introductory sequence for the character of Stuntman Mike and as such is far too long. There aren’t enough close-ups [at least for the body parts we want to see], and when they get to the cantina where the gals meet up with their boyfriends(Michael Bacall, Eli Roth and Omar Doom) and their usual nemesis Pam(Rose McGowan) it’s just talk talk talk. True, Tanantino is a master of dialogue, but even when Stuntman Mike shows up and joins the proceedings, the film just seems to be treading water. This is a setup for the second act, and it takes far too long.

As to the second act, we’ve got four new victims(Zoe Bell,Rosario Dawson, Tracie Thoms and Mary Elizabeth Winstead), who are a completely different group altogether. Zoe(as herself) and Tracy Thoms’ character are stuntwomen, Dawson’s a makup artist, and Winstead is the star of a movie, and by now we’ve learned that Tarentino has the same problem as Kevin Smith, his women sound like men. These preliminaries go on for some time as well, but at last Stuntman Mike shows up while Zoe does a marvelous stunt and one of the best chase sequences of the decade starts up. This is why we spent eleven bucks in the first place! The faux-crappy quality of the film stock even improves considerably. This is by far the better of the two.

Before you go, GO. In the old days, you knew that you probably wouldn’t miss anything by going to the john in the middle of the film, and in the case of the first feature, this is the case, and also in the beginning of the second. But you want to see the trailers and the final half of the second feature in its entirety. Hopefully they won’t clear the theater after the show and you can come in in the middle and leave at the point you came in. That’s how must of us used to do it back in the day.