Wednesday, July 30, 2003

Late Late Show with Craig Kilborn

This is on right now, and Kathy Griffin is the guest, and she looks like she had a terrible, horrible face lift. I wouldn't even recognize her if it wasn't for her trademark perky, annoying voice.
Seriously, she looks bizarre.

Monday, July 28, 2003

TV News Coverage

Does anyone else think it's weird how well-packaged all of the retrospective stuff about Bob Hope is? The man dies and all the television stations instantly have well-edited clips of his movies, interviews with other old actors, and so on. I know that newspapers always have obituaries ready for when famous people die, but this is creepier on a whole order of magnitude.
How long have they had this stuff ready?

Swimming Pool (2003)

Directed by Francois Ozon
Starring Charlotte Rampling, Ludivine Sagnier, Jean-Marie Lamour, Marc Fayolle, Charles Dance
Once again, Francois Ozon has let me down. As promised by the trailers, this movie is indeed a sort of sexy murder mystery. And it has two very good things: an excellent performance by Charlotte Rampling, and the mostly naked Ludivine Sagnier. But then by the end, after some watered-down psychological conflict, all we have is yet another “it was all in his/her mind” story in which little of the on-screen movie actually happened. And by now, for that to be a movie’s whole purpose, just isn’t enough.
The arc of this movie is: Successful writer is unhappy. She vacations in France. She daydreams about a sexy young woman and a murder. She regains her confidence and comes home again. The end. And while it was fun while it was happening, that’s about it.
Nonetheless, I overall like this movie, especially for the performances and the nakedness.

Sunday, July 27, 2003

Dirty Pretty Things (2002)

Directed by Stephen Frears
Starring Chiwetel Ejiofor, Audrey Tautou, Sergi Lopez, Zlatko Buric, Sophie Okonedo, Benedict Wong
In a London seemingly populated entirely by immigrants, a guy from Nigeria finds himself trapped in a moral quagmire when he finds out about illegal organ trading going on around him. It’s a really good movie, but it cops out a little with its resolution.
Still, it’s nice to see a very entertaining movie with great performances that’s also about contemporary issues. So it’s a little obvious at points “We are the people you do not see…” etc.) it’s still good.
Ejiofor as the Nigerian guy is excellent. Audrey Tautou is supposed to be Turkish, which is a little weird, but whatever. Good low-budget camerawork. And a human heart plugs a toilet for no reason except that it makes for a cool scene.

Saturday, July 26, 2003

Not of This Earth (1957)

Directed by Roger Corman
Starring Paul Birch, Beverly Garland, Morgan Jones, William Roerick, Jonathan Haze, Dick Miller, Anna Lee Carroll
Typically thrown-together Corman production from early in his career. Paul Birch sort of looks like J. Edgar Hoover and is a space vampire who wears a business suit and sunglasses, and can kill people by staring at them with his rheumy pupil-less eyes. He gets messages from his home planet via another paunchy actor who stands in his closet and gives orders. He brainwashes a doctor into helping him, providing him with plucky nurse Beverly Garland, who was in all these old Corman movies and wears a bathing suit later. Dick Miller shows up as an insouciant vacuum salesman who gets killed and incinerated. Then three hoboes are invited over and killed. I think a Chinese guy gets the same treatment. The brainwashed doctor adamantly refuses to speak ill of Mr. Space Vampire. Another sunglassed-woman from the alien planet shows up long enough for the alien guy to have human emotions, then she dies of rabies (!). An alien that looks like a cross between a flying squid and an umbrella makes a brief appearance. Finally the guy dies because he never learned how to drive a car. I think there was a point when they said that the Earth would be destroyed if Mr. Space Vampire died, but then that doesn't pan out. Finally the movie ends on a nice, creepy shot of another guy in a business suit and sunglasses way in the distance behind the plucky nurse and her boyfriend, walking towards them.
Cheap but not bad.

Friday, July 25, 2003

Sorority Boys (2002)

Directed by Wallace Wolodarsky
Starring Barry Watson, Michael Rosenbaum, Harland Williams, Melissa Sagemiller, Brad Beyer, Heather Matarazzo
Let there be no doubt, this is a bad movie. And yet there are bits and pieces scattered throughout that are pretty funny. Most of these center around Harland Williams. There’s also the odd performance of Brad Beyer as the fraternity president who seems to be doing Chris Farley’s Matt Foley “van down by the river” voice, and Heather Matarazzo’s screechy character, even though it’s very beneath her, and the one guy who’s a sort of poor man’s David Krumholtz isn’t bad. And a scene midway through, where two characters are giving each other rufies, is the essence of classic screwball comedy.
But for every good joke, there’s several horrible ones, like the swordfight between two guys holding extra-long dildos, which is just desperately unfunny. And the whole movie is generally badly made.
Barry Watson is enough of a pretty boy that he's not unconvincing as a woman. Michael Rosenbaum's performance as a woman has a weird intensity to it, and he doesn't look unlike some females I know, too.
The blonde girl has one scene where she’s supposed to be nude in the shower, and it’s painfully obvious that it’s a body double when we see her chest. And why couldn’t she have turned out to be a lesbian? So that it makes a different kind of sense when she falls for the boy-dressed-as-girl?
I’m sure that if one wanted to, they could analyze this film and write a scholarly dissertation on what it says about gender perception and relations. But why would anyone want to?

TV Commercial

I had forgotten that in Terminator 3, Arnold Schwarzenegger actually says, "Talk to the hand" at one point.


Thursday, July 24, 2003


Can somebody talk to the ants crawling around on my desk? And tell them there is no food on my desk?


Thank you.

Tuesday, July 22, 2003

Capturing the Friedmans (2003)

Directed by Andrew Jarecki
As a simple, straight-forward look at something horrible that happened in the eighties on Long Island, this movie is very entertaining and painful. But I’m not sure what the director’s larger point was; he seems to have gotten incredibly lucky in finding a gripping story accompanied by a crapload of home video footage to tell the story with, apparently with the full cooperation of the Friedman family. But the footage isn’t used with a lot of complexity. An early scene in which David Friedman talks to a video camera and with much anguish says that he’s speaking to himself, privately, made me feel queasy and uncomfortable, but the movie just plunges into the story anyway, without a second look.
As far as the issues of truth go, it was obvious that Arnold Friedman was guilty, no question. So was Jesse Friedman guilty? Hard to say. But the movie seemed pretty clear on his innocence, especially given the treacly music played at the end over his reunion with his mother after getting out of jail for thirteen years.
Where the movie is most effective is in its depiction of realistic horror. There are few things more chilling than having an interview subject casually say, “and then he raped me” and so on.
Why did the filmmakers hold off on the revelation that Howard, Arnold Friedman’s younger brother is gay? He seemed gayish for a while, and the sudden revelation that he has a long-term boyfriend is characterized as a surprise revelation, like the answer to something or a hidden effect. Why?
The movie says oldest brother David Friedman is “New York’s number one party clown”. I wonder if he still is since this came out.

Monday, July 21, 2003

The Town That Dreaded Sundown (1976)

Directed by Charles B. Pierce
Starring Ben Johnson, Andrew Prine, Dawn Wells, Charles B. Pierce
It’s a shame when a movie’s box art is scarier than the movie itself. The cover art in question: a hooded figure looming over a small town bathed in the orange light of dusk. He looks sort of like if the Elephant Man decided to pull a Leatherface, and one’s mind is filled with ideas of townspeople cowering behind locked doors while the masked madman wreaks havoc in the dark outside.
Unfortunately, the movie itself is more of a cop docudrama than a real horror movie, from the Arkansas-based director of The Legend of Boggy Creek, another horror-docudrama about a hick Bigfoot. TTTDS is set Texarkana in a 1946 that looks a lot like the seventies, although here the filmmakers were no doubt helped by the fact that in the South, decades fly by and not much changes. Anyway, a killer usually only represented by feet attacks a young couple on Lovers’ Lane. For some reason, whenever the film shows youngsters parked on Lovers’ Lane, their activities seem limited to the man gently resting his head on the woman’s lap, as if he’s all tuckered out from a long day of redneckery. Then the masked guy shows up and the man responds by pleading, “You’ve got the wrong car!” which seems like an odd response to having a guy with a burlap bag over his face trying to kill you. Is he expecting the killer to realize his error, apologize, and move on to the correct car?
After two such attacks, the authorities bring in Captain J.D. Morales, the Lone Wolf of the Texas Rangers, so you know that’s good. Morales is played with a complete lack of Hispanicity by aging cowboy Ben Johnson. At this point the movie becomes very well-mannered, with all the cops greeting each other cordially.
Not much happens for a long time, with the cops patiently waiting for more murders. The movie redeems itself a little with one really odd scene in which the killer ties a young woman up to a tree. Then he examines her trombone and mockingly plays it a little. Then, for some reason, he gets the idea to tie his knife to the end, allowing him to simultaneously play the trombone and stab the girl at the same time with every extension of the instrument (I’m sure there’s a technical term for this, but I’m not up on my trombone).
Meanwhile, there’s some comedy relief provided by the dopey deputy, played self-deprecatingly by the director himself. His goofy theme music haunts me.
The movie whips out some slow-motion camerawork towards the end with a comic relief car crash and, even better, a chase between the cops and the killer, who’s witnessed wearing his bag during the day, hanging out in the forest. The cops shoot him in the leg and he takes a slo-mo flip, but he manages to get away after all. The movie then ends with a moment intended to be horrifying, as the audience is left wondering if the killer is among them, by showing a terrifying pair of loafers in line for a movie.
I certainly wouldn’t have thought such a generally mediocre movie would get so much writing out of me.

Sunday, July 20, 2003

Bad Boys (1995)

Directed by Michael Bay
Produced by Don Simpson and Jerry Bruckheimer
Starring Martin Lawrence, Will Smith, Tea Leoni, Tcheky Karyo, Joe Pantoliano, Theresa Randle, Marg Helgenberger
First of all, I hate Michael Bay.
Second, it’s odd that the sequel is just coming out since this movie plays as if it’s already a sequel, jumping into the characters’ lives as if we already know who they are and what their relationship is like. I guess they can do this since it’s such a retread of every cop movie ever made.
Will Smith and Martin Lawrence were good casting because the movie that isn’t action sequences is pretty much a sitcom as they pretend to Tea Leoni that Martin is Will and Will is Martin, for no reason except that it’s funny. Oh, and I want to make very clear that the notion that some people have that Michael Bay movies are funny is very wrong. They think they’re very funny, but in fact they are not.
So Martin and Will wisecrack in such a way that it’s always clear that nothing very serious is ever going to happen and they can continue to bicker until the end of time. Lots of pretty cinematography, especially the opening shots of clouds rolling over Miami. Lots of choppy editing that keeps the story moving but is often very jarring and therefore, bad.
In conclusion, I hate Michael Bay.

Friday, July 18, 2003

The Sender (1982)

Directed by Roger Christian
Starring Kathryn Harrold, Zeljko Ivanek, Paul Freeman, Shirley Knight, Al Matthews, Sean Hewitt
It’s weird to see a movie you saw on video or cable a really, really long time ago and suddenly distant memories begin returning. My parents saw this movie ages ago and I remembered three things: the premise, about a young guy who can telepathically transmit his dreams and thoughts; a shot of the young guy deliberately walking into a lake at the beginning of the movie, trying to drown himself Virginia Woolf-style in front of a bunch of people (the scene happens, the shot I was imagining turns out to have been a product of my imagination); and a not-very-good chase between the protagonist doctor lady and a pickup trick with no driver. This was probably one of the first horror movies I ever saw, which makes these moments especially interesting.
As for the movie itself, it’s okay but doesn’t quite live up to its own premise. One problem is a matter of focus. The filmmakers seem to have decided that it wasn’t enough to concentrate on a guy who can broadcast his thoughts and dreams, he also needed to have been told he was a messiah ever since he was a child; and since that notion isn’t really ever explored, they also tossed in the ghostly apparition of his dead mother to haunt the young fellow. So the movie’s plot is a little overstuffed. But Shirley Knight as the mom is great, looking extremely creepy merely by being placid.
This is also the only other movie I can think of to feature Paul Freeman, aka Belloq from Raiders of the Lost Ark.
The single best scene in the movie is an interlude in which they give the young guy electroshock treatment, thinking it’ll solve all his problems. Everyone’s going about their business until the switch is flipped, at which point all hell beautifully breaks loose. Everyone moves into slow-motion, one nurse starts screaming, everyone starts floating around or being propelled backwards as from an explosion, one guy knocks into a tray seemingly filled with green liquid, and another guy flips backwards through a big plate-glass window. It’s a beautifully choreographed scene that rivals anything DePalma’s ever done in slo-mo. There’s also a good scene in which a bunch of bathroom mirrors start cracking and bleeding.
But a lot of the rest of the movie is only okay. And at the end, they just let the guy go about his business! As if the military wouldn’t be sweeping him up immediately and vivisecting him ten minutes later.

Movie Trailer

Best moment in the new trailer for Runaway Jury: there's the dead body of a woman in a bathroom stall. Luis Guzman says "Somebody got to that girl."

He said it, all right.

The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (2003)

Directed by Stephen Norrington
Starring Sean Connery, Shane West, Naseeruddin Shah, Peta Wilson, Stuart Townsend, Richard Roxburgh, Jason Flemyng, Tony Curran, David Hemmings
I was expecting this movie to be really horrible, like The Avengers or Pluto Nash. The trailers had that kind of horrible, overproduced, drastically re-written vibe to them. Instead, the movie is merely on the weak side of average. The actors walk through every scene as if they’d rather be somewhere else, and all the stuff that was cool about the original graphic novel is leached away into formula.
Sean Connery does a lot of punching and has more hair than usual, and gives the usual perfunctory resistance to going on One Last Mission. Fortunately for him he dies at the end of the movie so he doesn’t have to be in the sequel. I’m sure Oscar Wilde would be surprised to see Dorian Gray turned into an indestructible action figure: Superfop. Shane West as Tom Sawyer feels arbitrarily inserted into the movie in order to fulfill demographic needs, disconnected from any kind of plot necessity or thematic consistency.
Technically there were a lot of weird problems. There were huge differences between when the Invisible Man was just an actor wearing white makeup with stubble and when he was “invisible” and no longer had white stuff on his neck and so on. Really shoddy. They probably shot the Nautilus stuff at the Fox studios in Mexico where they shot Titanic, which makes sense for a movie about a boat staying in one place but not for one about a boat going incredibly fast. And otherwise the movie takes place on identical Prague locations standing in for London, Paris, and Venice at various times, but all looking gray and boring (although a welcome change from the hyperkinetic colors of Charlie’s Angels etc.)
The other obviously crappy thing about this movie is the bizarre shift as the bad guy goes from badly designed scarred supervillain to de-moustached Richard Roxburgh. Was this really a radical last-act reshoot, making this character the bad guy in disguise? Wow. Pretty ballsy.
The ending scene, where a shaman chants over Quatermain’s grave and an earthquake happens, or something, was fairly bewildering.