Friday, May 30, 2008

STUPID NETFLIX! (PULLING FROM THE VHS STACKS) : FINGERS (1978)

Off the top of my head, I can't think of a living filmmaker whose work runs more personal than that of James Toback's. Maybe Abel Ferrara. And maybe it's the NYC in both of these men that brought their ruthless self-examination to the fore. What's so special about these two unheralded auteurs is that they're not exhibitionists. They don't profit from their souls laid bare. In fact, commercially, they've suffered.

Yes, these are times where YouTube confessions can get you instant celebrity ... but Catholic guilt, oedipal complexes, and liberal Manhattanite chauvinism, aren't sentiments you can exactly get across in a 4 minute tease video.
Harvey Keitel plays Jimmy Fingers, a piano virtuoso and sharp-tongued lady killer. He's a learned loner, walking the streets to his own beat... literally. Carrying a tape player like a woman holds a purse, Jimmy blares The Shirelles, Merrilee Rush, The Jamies, and Inez & Charlie Fox whether in restaurant, park, or bathroom. His father runs numbers in Brooklyn that he must to collect on, and his mother's in a mental hospital. She's an artist. She taught him piano. Jimmy exists somewhere between these two dichotomies: A street tough that plays Bach; a hand gun concealer that gets auditions at Carnegie Hall.


It's that completely original - and always convincing - freewheeling spirit that Toback places in the hearts of all his male leads. Robert Downey Jr. in The Pick-Up Artist and Two Girls and a Guy. Adrian Grenier in Harvard Man. Fred Weller in When Will I Be Loved. Himself in Black & White. And of course Harvey Keitel in Fingers. They are him. He is them. High-minded sex fiends and drunken louts. Sensitive appeasers and generous brutes. Family is all and love is essential. In a perfect world James Toback would be granted time-capsule inclusion to represent the 20th century American melting-pot artistic male.

Fingers is a slow burner. The bookended piano scenes will raise you up and knock you down. This is quick cinema that matches its social mores line by line with easy economy like Ernst Lubitch did the European upper-classes in the 30's and 40's. For a full meal, Fingers would make a great chaser for Scorcese's Mean Streets and an even better prelude to his underrated King of Comedy. But be sure and look for it on DVD... if possible. I'm sure lots is lost on the VHS print. Either way, its a film you'll wanna place under your pillow, afterwards, for some sleepytime comfort.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

HOLLYWOOD TAPS A NEW VEIN

Video game movies are soooooooooo passe'. On to the next wave!

And that is.... board game movies????

Last year there were rumors that Ridley Scott wanted to make a Monopoly movie, and today, news is out that Michael Bay wants to make a Ouija Board movie.
---
David Berenbaum and Michael Bay's Platinum Dunes have been brought on deck to bring Hasbro's supernatural game "Ouija Board" to the big screen. The project is set up at Universal, where Hasbro has a six-year strategic partnership. Platinum Dunes' Bay, Andrew Form and Brad Fuller will produce "Ouija" along with Hasbro.

Although the specific log line for the film is being kept under wraps, the film will be a supernatural adventure with the Ouija board playing an integral part of the story. The movie is not taking a "Jumanji"-like approach, which involved a game coming to life.
---

So we're not just talking another Zathura here... no. This may open the door to a slew of films based on all of your favorite childhood games.

The mind is already pondering our future:

Milton Bradley's Operation directed by Eli Roth


Milton Bradley's Chutes and Ladders directed by Bryan Singer

(Chutes and Ladders 2 & 3 will be directed by Paul Greengrass, and the franchise will star Matt Damon. Vincent Cassell, Casey Affleck, and Ben Foster will be in the supporting role as "villian" in each respective installment).

Milton Bradley's Connect Four written & directed by Darren Aronofsky.

(Milton Bradley will become like that iconic Marvel logo that precedes all of the comic-book films. You know that one that flips through pages real quick???)

But what I really wanna know, is who is gonna direct the...

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

ON DVD : YOUTH WITHOUT YOUTH

Francis Ford Coppola's first film in ten years feels like one of those personal fireballs launched out of a self-made cannon, oblivious and unflinching to any scrutiny or criticism that confronts it. If anything, Coppola has earned that artistic privilege, and the post-traumatic guttural growl of "I'M NOT M-M-M-MUTE!!" that comes from the mouth of Youth Without Youth's protagonist, Dominic (Tim Roth), could just as easily be the scream of Coppola himself toward the Hollywood community that politely genuflects at The Godfather trilogy but otherwise keeps away. (I still think that Peggy Sue Got Married and Gardens of Stone are two very undervalued and underrated Coppola films from the 80's.)

Dominic is a seventy year old linguistics professor in 1938 Romania whose sole ambition is to produce a text on the origin of language. On a walk home, he is struck by lightning and burnt from head to toe. In hospital, under a full body cocoon of gauze, Dominic's aging starts to reverse: sprouting new teeth, a new head of hair, tighter skin, upright posture. (Kind of like that dude from Hellraiser... except he doesn't have to eat people.) Meanwhile, he encounters the doppelganger of the woman he once loved, but then lost, due to obsessive loyalty to his work. This woman, Veronica, speaks in possessions of ancient Hebrew and Arabic dialects and thus ends up aiding Dominic in his work. However, with each possession, her age progresses.

If all of that sounds convoluted, it is. It very, very, very much is. Youth Without Youth is impenetrable at times, like David Lynch at his most unguardingly instinctual. My guess is that Coppola was aware of this during production, and that he gave zero consideration towards the audience that would see it.

Youth Without Youth is more than a labor of love, it's a self-serving, cathartic line in the sand. Rumor has it that Coppola first screened it for friends after the 2007 Academy Awards. (You know... the one where he, Spielberg, and Lucas presented the Best Picture award together???). I would love to have been a fly in that screening room. It probably went something like that scene in Contempt where Jack Palance hurls film reels across the room like a discus... and George Lucas was Jack Palance.

No doubt, many times during Youth it feels as if Coppola has fallen so deep down his own personal worm hole that you can't do anything but wait for him to grub his way out. As a child, the director spent much of his time indoors because of an illness. He entertained himself with puppets and a movie camera. That disassociation indeed played a role in shaping his public persona and lends suspicion to why so many of his films have centered on adolescence and/or adults with an adolescent sense of self.

So, yeah, you might say that Youth Without Youth is nothing more than a clean slate comfort film, a selfish puppet show for the good of the goose. But, sometimes liking a director (or any artist for that matter...) isn't about a film-by-film report card, but about enjoying the entire ride.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

CHINA STONES SHARON

This past weekend Sharon Stone joined Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell, Robert Kennedy Jr., etc. in the club of people who make inappropriate/stupid claims in the wake of a natural disaster.

You've probably heard it by now, but she said the tragic Chinese earthquakes were as a result of the Chinese government's actions towards Tibet. Click HERE to see.

Which of course made the Chinese say, "擰緊您,您白膚金髮的妓女!!!"

... and now she is banned.

---
Her remarks triggered anger across the Chinese-language media and were called "inappropriate" by the founder of one of China's biggest urban cinema chains, who said his company would not show the Hollywood veteran's films.

Ng See-Yuen, founder of the UME Cineplex chain and the chairman of the Federation of Hong Kong Filmmakers said that actors should not bring personal politics to comments about a natural disaster that has left 5 million Chinese homeless.

UME has branches in Beijing, Shanghai, Chongqing, Hangzhou and Guangzhou, China's biggest urban movie markets. (
H-Wood Rptr.)
---

I mean, big whoop, right? Banning Sharon Stone films.... ewwwwww!!!! Americans have been banning her movies for years now.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

PRICELESS

Pierre Salvadori's social comedy takes place in the off the record, high-dollar world of sugar daddies & sugar mommas, trophy girls & boy toys. It's a strange market of unspoken agreements where trysts take the place of the nodding handshake and $30,000 watches are make-up gifts. Yet emotions still find their way in, and despite the understood lack of true love, a trophy's one-nighter with a younger lover can stamp the contract null and void. Away with the credit cards and caviar. It's a hazard of the trade.

I haven't seen most of Audrey Tautou's films, but Priceless is the first time I've seen her play a vamp. Tautou's setback brown eyes, olive skin, tousled hair, and healthily youthful lips are like the beginner's kit for the entrepreneurial seductive. In a scene where Irene teaches Jean (Gad Elmaleh) about the art of persuasive flirting, she pulls him to his virtual knees like Barbara Stanwyck does Henry Fonda in The Lady Eve. It's no coincidence, and most likely a nod from Salvadori to Preston Sturges. For in that sex-comedy classic Stanwyck also plays a strap-shoe clad killer on the prowl for riches.

Jean is the male equivalent of Irene. Once an honest and reliable hotel worker, he falls penniless after Irene calls his bluff about keeping up with her label loving lifestyle. To survive, he becomes the arm candy of a sixty-year old socialite. Gad Elmaleh was courageous to go up against the physical expressiveness of Tautou, and, arguably, he out charms her. His frowny eyes exist somewhere in-between the lovable dopey-ness of Buster Keaton and Peter Lorre. So much do his sad eyes dominate his face that when he smiles it's a light bulb every time.

Together, Elmaleh and Tautou own the film. In tandem, they rival the team of Daniel Auteuil and Dany Boon in last year's underrated My Best Friend. At one point Jean buys ten seconds of Irene's time with a franc. Twenty-four inches from her face he does nothing but stare. Easy money, true, but this a transaction that most men can understand. A bargain, in fact. I suppose some film goers forked over the $6.75 - $10.00 simply to get in some glances at Audrey Tautou themselves, but by credit roll the inflated pay feels like money well spent.

Friday, May 23, 2008

NATHAN LEE'S FATWA ON "A JIHAD FOR LOVE"

I haven't seen the new documentary A Jihad For Love yet, but Nathan Lee's brushed-off review of it in the NY Times irritated me.

FULL DISCLOSURE: I'm not a fan of Lee's. I wish the man well, but I feel that his opinions - and his written endorsements of them - border on the hyper-hysterical (see his defense of Southland Tales in this year's Slate Film Club)... kind of like a less intelligent, cinema-centered Andrew Sullivan.

Of A Jihad For Love, Lee writes:
Sad to say, A Jihad For Love is not a sequel to the pornographic satire The Raspberry Reich (2004), in which pseudo-revolutionaries exhort their comely comrades to “join the homosexual intifada!” It is, rather more arduously, a dispatch from the outer limits of marginalization: a documentary on devout Muslims struggling with their homosexuality.
I find that last sentence insensitive in that it's aimed at a documentary whose subjects live in constant fear of honor killings. Lee simply chides it as a "dispatch from the outer limits of marginalization". A "dispatch"?!?! And by "outer limits", is Lee implying that the marginalization of gay Muslims is way out there on the radar of social significance? I sure hope not.

Lee continues:
He [Parvez Sharma] does manage to locate a headstrong lesbian in Paris, albeit one whose face, like those of many of the subjects here, has been digitally blurred. “If we are truly Muslims,” runs her contradictory lament, “we have no right to alter his creation.”
I tend to give someone that writes for the NY Times the benefit of the doubt (I'm aware that's probably a serious gaffe of generosity on my part...), but this passage sounds like Lee is either unaware, and/or, unconcerned with the very true and brutal realities homosexual Muslims face in countries like Iran, Egypt, and Afghanistan, not to mention within radicalized communities in Canada, the United States, and England.

More:
Mr. Sharma’s film emphasizes testimony over context to such a degree that it feels at first of little use to anyone except gay Muslims who might take comfort in knowing they’re not alone.
"...testimony over context". Well, I do congratulate Lee, here, for pinpointing all that is wrong with the modern documentary, but when he criticizes A Jihad For Love for being "of little use to anyone except gay Muslims"?? Well shucks!... god forbid, in these cynical times, that there might be a documentary that can touch an audience in a way that will make them feel less alone. If a film, that may lack artistry in other areas, can at least cling to one positive, I would think that that would be one of them.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

ON DVD : THE FIRE WITHIN

Before anything, the credits to Louis Malle's fifth feature scroll up the screen like a eulogistic prologue for the tragic story that follows. It may be true that you can't judge a book by its cover (or a movie by its DVD case...) but by the end of this sequence - which divides actors and crew with the title of the film - you're pretty sure the film won't end pleasantly. For, just twenty minutes in, Alain (Maurice Ronet) makes a 24-hour suicide pact with himself and plaintively proclaims, "I'm going to kill myself tomorrow".

Staying in a Versailles clinic for alcoholism treatment, Alain is separated from his wife and their life in New York. At first, his mopey-ness seems maudlin and, well... "French", but Malle effectively, slowly rolls out the true reasons behind Alain's bleak decision. He is a thirty-something man stuck in adolescence. Some friends have married, some friends are militants, and some friends simply progressed to the level of the wine-sipping bourgeoisie, yet Alain can get through a morning shave without being bored. He wasn't made days for days past the age of twenty-one. His life is done.

Though active during the same period as Godard, Rohmer, Truffaut, Chabrol et. al., Malle is often excluded from conversations when considering the French New Wave clique. The Fire Within makes a good case as to why. While Godard was off throwing paint and busting conventions with Contempt, and Rohmer was setting up the first of his Six Moral Tales, Malle was focused on the traditions of his hero Robert Bresson.

And though his style shifted until his early death, Louis Malle primarily stuck to films about characters between the ages of late-adolescence and early-adulthood. It's sad, but kind of fitting that Malle died at the young age of sixty-three, the same numbered year that The Fire Within was released.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

THE THOSE THAT CAN'T AT CANNES

The Cannes marketing conference is often times referred to as a sort of bargain basement, a Texas league of prospect movies lacking a few "heres-and-theres".

But I don't buy into that...

Cuz last year it afforded me access to a special screening of EXTE : Hair Extensions, the J-Horror blowout to end all the J-Horror cliches you've grown weary of. Are you tired of the dangling tangles of black hair in your Asian horror cinema? Well, let's just say that EXTE reinvents the entire concept. (Plus, the film stars uber-Japanese cutie Chiaki Kuriyama!)

So I got a little giddy today when JoBlo.com posted some pictures of posters from this year's marketing conference. Here are some of the "highlights" (none of them look like EXTE material, but then again, these are 4 out of 4000!):

Poor Cuba. I actually like the guy, but he just can't find his footing. That poster is terrible!

Here's a teaser for the next Antoine Fuqua movie that is always the same and always as bad as the one that came before it. And Wesley Snipes is on the poster. Yikes. That's kinda weird... huh? Maybe the story revolves around renegade tax evaders.



Irwin Winler's son, Charles, directs this one. He's also helmed episodes of The Chris Issak Show, Baywatch, and The Outer Limits. I don't know. The weirdest thing about the poster is Val Kilmer looking to his left while pointing a gun straight on. Maybe his head was cropped on.

This is the most confusing poster of the bunch. Is it a Hoosiers/Coach Carter feel-good sports movie, or is it a Lost Angels/Blown Away teen-life-is-risky-and-risque type of movie... OR BOTH!?!?

Monday, May 19, 2008

SNAKE EYES' TINACTIN PRODUCT TIE-IN FOR THE UPCOMING G.I. JOE MOVIE

QUESTION: What is the coolest G.I. Joe of all time doing to himself in this photo?


I know some people are into the idea of their on-screen superheroes having more realistic/just like us character traits, but "adjusting" isn't one that should be employed.

Hey Snake Eyes... you probably shouldn't wear boxer shorts under your rubber suit next time, 'kay?

Sunday, May 18, 2008

ON DVD : Diane Lane in UNTRACEABLE

It may be hard to tell from the above picture, but throughout most of Untraceable Diane Lane isn't wearing make-up. I'm not sure if the casting required it or if Lane just thought it was necessary for the character. Either way - and despite the overall badness of the film - it makes her much more convincing in the role.

Big deal, right? Maybe... but when viewing this, I realized how quickly my own ingrained sexism came out.

There's an early scene where Lane is driving home from work in the rain. The blue-gray lighting accentuates the details in her face. "Wow... she's looking old", I thought. Diane Lane is extraordinarily beautiful, yet my gut reaction was "why isn't she wearing make-up?". So, yes, my first impressions of women may run on the shallow, but that's probably not a revelation to players in the game of male/female sexual politics.

However, what I couldn't stop thinking about was the alleged decree, made last October, from Jeff Robinov at Warner Bros.: "We are no longer doing movies with women in the lead". Robinov denied, denied, denied, but Nikki Finke - the reporter that broke the story - wasn't convinced.

Maybe Robinov is clean. We'll never know. But with the number of female leads hanging around the same low rank as always, it's reasonable to think that studio men simply suffer from the same knee-jerk sexism as me. It may not be intentional, but it doesn't change the fact that it's there.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

MY BROTHER IS AN ONLY CHILD

In the last century, Europeans have felt the cost of war more directly than Americans. Perhaps that explains why their filmmakers consistently make superior political films than ours. Generally - and specifically post-9/11 - America's political films have been little more than rants, propaganda, and preaching to choirs. Directors seem disconnected and incapable of tapping into a common social consciousness. This is why Iraq War films tank at the box office (why still so many articles about this?... is it not obvious after seeing the films?).

For example, there are scenes in both Flags of Our Fathers, and the recent Stop-Loss, where a soldier (coincidentally, it's Ryan Phillipe in both...) visits the home of a fellow soldier that has fallen in combat. In both cases, the families come off as caricatures and/or loaded representations of the the director's personal ideals sans the complication and authenticity of true family dynamics. Contrast that with the post-WWII Italian family in My Brother Is An Only Child, and the difference is immediately distinct.

Accio and Manrico are brothers in a working-class family of five. The younger, Accio, is a fascist, while Manrico is a communist. In modern America, this idea of a far-righty and a far-lefty coexisting seems possible only in the realm of an Odd Couple-type sitcom. (Woody Allen had fun with intrafamilial right/left divide in Everybody Says I Love You, but ultimately he chickened out with it...) At first, observing Accio and Manrico in the same household is shocking. We've been conditioned to think that a person's political opinions defines the whole. But as Manrico's girlfriend says, "I like your brother for who he is, not because he's a communist.... and I like you too."

By making the divide between brothers so extreme - a proud fascist and a proud communist - My Brother Is An Only Child shakes American audiences awake about the silly, soft bigotry that exists between members of our two mainstream political parties. Like this week's DVD release of Jean-Luc Godard's La Chinoise, the ultimate conclusion of My Brother... is that ideological extremism, with its unbudgeable and unbridgeable idealism, is as fruitless as a sibling quarrel over drumsticks.

The title, My Brother Is An Only Child, is misleading. It implies a story about fraternal shame and embarrassment. But read the fine print of the tag line and the secret is revealed: "Sometimes The Things We Fight About Are What Bring Us Closest Together". It's optimism fashioned out of hopeless idealism.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

FRONTIER(S)

Xavier Gens is the ugly duckling of new French horror. And that's pretty damn ugly, because when you consider the work of Alexander Aja, Alexandre Bustillo, Kim Chapiron, and Fabrice Du Welz, you're not just scraping the barrel, you're underneath it... down on bloodied knee, where the rusty nails, mouse droppings, and mildew have colonized and fermented into a digitally read disc that clueless horror heads can't help but heap praise upon. (The exception here is the work of David Moreau and Xavier Palud, who've shown some skill with the flawed - and not half-horrible - Them.)

One can't even get past the opening credits to Frontier(s) without Xavier Gens insulting your intelligence (...have you seen Hitman?). In an effort to establish a setting of Parisian unrest, Gens crudely splices together footage of the French suburban riots of 2005, the labor protests of 2006, and the elections of 2007. By doing this, he not only confuses Frontier(s) intended commentary, but shows significant ignorance regarding his own country's social and political situations. Gens has trouble connecting dots, and he's counting on that handicap from you too.

Even more crudely, monsieur unoriginal doesn't flinch from lifting scenes from his own buddy's movies: 1. The dinner table scene from Sheitan, 2. the haircut scene from Calvaire, 3. and, the buzzsaw color-me-blood-red scene from Haute Tension. Pathetically, Gens also shows an affinity for the - yeesh! - "cinema" of Rob Zombie. You know... incestuous sisters, nascent cannibalism, pigs wandering in-and-out of frame.

You've read the script before, but in a nutshell, Frontier(s) tells the tale of four French-Muslim teens who steal money during some rioting and plan to lay low in the countryside until tensions cool. They find a house in the middle of nowhere and then blah blah blah... squirt... pish... poop... fizzle fry floozy wank. By making the inhabitants of the house a clan of neo-Nazis, Gens aims for a "France is xenophobic" subtext, but his lack of political awareness automatically disqualifies it. Fronteir(s) is simply an excuse to play out his own fascist fantasies.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

THE GREAT SONGS : # 184 "TO THE END" by BLUR

From 1994's Parklife:

Great pop songwriters are even greater observers of culture. In recent incarnations, Damon Albarn still stands as proof to that theory, but in between the years of 1994-1995, the output of Albarn and his band Blur rivaled the jukebox eccentricity of The Beatles circa The White Album. (For example: Listen to "Entertain Me", from The Great Escape, and damn if it doesn't pre-date the current dance-guitar trend of LCD Soundsytem and all their friends.)

"To The End" re-imagines Serge Gainsbourg and Bridgette Bardot's "Bonnie & Clyde" as a successful, melodramatic pub-crawl back to a bird's house for a shag. Stereolab's Laetitia Sadier offers the response to Albarn's call. (In cute fashion, Sadier also recorded the original "Bonnie & Clyde" with Luna's Dean Wareham). The video set this scenario in a send-up of Alain Resnais' love-it-or-hate-it, and clinically cinematic, Last Year At Marienbad.

Sure, with all that tounge-in-cheekiness you'd expect to start popping out some canker sores, but Albarn plays down the irony with focused vocalizing from a voice already burdened with limited range.

And the chorus is loaded with all of the hilarity and sincerity you'd expect from a drunk person that's high on hyperbole, simultaneously making them feel like it's the end of the world while they are at the center of it.

"WELL YOU AND I
COLLAPSED IN LOVE
AND IT LOOKS LIKE
WE MIGHT'VE MADE IT
YES, IT LOOKS LIKE
WE'VE MADE IT TO THE END..."


SCHLECHTER LEUTNANT!

+


=

A remake of....


IT'S TRUE!

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

ON DVD : DON'T GO IN THE WOODS ... ALONE (1981)

I really enjoy the " ... " part in the title to Don't Go In The Woods... Alone. It implies that if you'd just make sure to go in the woods together, then everything would be a-ok. The psycho killer will respect your duo, trio, or quartet, and leave you be.

And, truth be told, the film stays true to that DISCLAIMER: . Every hiker that gets slaughtered in this 80's camp-cum-slasher flick, is by him or herself when it comes. (Most regrettably is a poor man in a wheelchair whose head comes off about as easily as a baseball on a tee - low-budget effects, y'all! - because the poor soul wasn't actually in the woods... he was simply resting on the road adjacent.)

As you can see from the box cover, DGITW...A contains "SCENES OF GRAPHIC VIOLENCE". Nah... not really. If you can stomach the knight dismemberment in Monty Python and The Hold Grail, then you can stomach this. DGITW...A is more comedy than horror. The killer resembles a Vietnam vet that wears what looks like either a rosary or a medieval jock strap on his head.

And what of the tag line? : Everyone has nightmares about the ugliest way to die. We do? Really? Who has nightmares about that? And if this movie is supposed to draw on those varieties of "ugliest ways to die", then why does the killer use only two methods (and primitive at that)?

But DGITW... A has its C-movie charms. Sometimes you need to take in a sweet musical to to cleanse your movie viewing pallet ... sometimes you need the complete opposite.

p.s. The score is awesome. It's psychedelia keyboard squiggle drivel ... like John Carpenter pre-Assault on Precinct 13. However, H. Kinglsey Thurber's (???) score for DGITW... A makes Carpenter look like Debussy in comparison.

Monday, May 12, 2008

STEVEN SODERBERGH'S CHE MOVIES

---
"To send men to the firing squad, judicial proof is unnecessary... These procedures are an archaic bourgeois detail. This is a revolution! And a revolutionary must become a cold killing machine motivated by pure hate. We must create the pedagogy of the The Wall! (El Paredón)" -Ernesto 'Che' Guevara
---

Steven Soderbergh's had a rough run of late. I skipped Oceans Thirteen, but the two films he made before that - Bubble & The Good German - were among the worst of 2006.

While not producing around 2 bazillion other projects, Soderbergh spent most of 2007 directing his two Che Guevara films: Guerilla & The Argentine. The film(s) will premier next Wednesday at Cannes in an uninterrupted 4-hour version simply called Che.

So, the question looms...

Will Soderbergh portray Che, accurately, as the pistol-to-the-skull executioner that liked to force gays into rehabilitaion camps, or, will he take the Walter Salles Disneyland approach of a Che-rub riding around on scooter, mending the feet of children with cotton and gauze pulled from his halo, while Simon and Garfunkel tunes play in the background?

Time will tell. One thing's for sure, though. With the "Cult of Che" at an all-time high, there will be primo opportunity for some cross-promotion/product tie-ins come this fall:
McDonald's will drop some Che figurines into their Happy Meals...

Subway
will run a limited-time meal deal where you can seize the food of any other patron in the restaurant...

and the Xbox is working on a first person shooter game where, as Che, you must take out as many dissidents and Catholics, as you can, on the road to revolution!

Saturday, May 10, 2008

P. DIDDY... IS THAT YOU???

First look at Derek Luke as P. Diddy (actually it was Puffy Combs is those days...) in the upcoming Notorious:


Luke looks more like Montell Jordon or Brian McKnight in that photo. You can already spy from this still that he's relying too much on affectations - the chin goatee, the puff daddy "hunch", the white suit - instead of actually acting.

Chances are good that the film won't be as touching and meaningful as Spike Jonze's "Sky's The Limit" video:

Friday, May 09, 2008

IRON MAN

Seconds before being bitten by his own bomb - and reaching 180 degree clarity in the way only a comic book character can - Tony Stark gets in one last quip of his livin' large wisdom: "this is the fun-vee... the hum drum-vee is back there...". It's Swingers speak in the mouth of a soon-to-be super hero. This proves that Jon Favreau's career hasn't budged one bit from its very mediocre beginnings to now. Iron Man just stays the course. It's a hum drum bummer of a flick that kicks off the movie year's second quarter the way Cloverfield did the first.... with a stubbed toe.

If Superman is the golden-boy, Spiderman the wonder-boy, and Batman the rebel, then Favreau and Robert Downey Jr.'s Iron Man is the guilt-ridden do-gooder. While holding a press conference to announce his company's immediate suspension of producing hi-tech weaponry, Tony Stark sits in front of the podium and addresses a seated media. American cheeseburger in hand (inadvertently bringing to mind Hillary Clinton's recent "drinking whisky with the locals" stab at credulity) , it's his way of breaking down the walls of corporate secrecy and greed that used to anger uppity Vanity Fair journalists (who also, apparently, are very sexually loose...). It's the kind of sunshine beam truth-letting that would give the modern day Sydney Pollock a self-righteous boner.

So far, the general critical consensus is that Robert Downey Jr. pulls off the unlikely casting of himself in a superhero role. I would agree, but merely for the fact that he's been asked to play a hero dripping in snark and ego. Even after his ideological transformation, Tony Stark still craves the limelight and glory. (In the film's final shot when he proudly announces ... "I AM Iron Man" it contradicts the "down with people" press conference mentioned above). Should a superhero be someone that acts in order to selfishly clear his conscience, or someone that selflessly wants to help the needy? Cuz Tony Stark is the former.

It's interesting that comic book movie fans continuously prefer the films that are the least colorful and fantastical of the sub-genre. When I see a movie about a dude with superhuman powers, I don't wanna see the personal emotional turmoil he goes through. I don't want him (or her) to be like me. I wanna see spectacle! Ghost Rider, Daredevil, and Ang Lee's Hulk all either took the opportunity to either relish in the kiddie giddiness of their subjects, and/or, use the comic book format to create interesting, ridiculous, and - (gasp!) - fun imagery for the screen. Jon Favreau's ideas are mediocre, his imagination is mediocre (how does a film called Zathura come out so boring?), and his craft is mediocre. He is Alloy Man.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

W.hoa...

Josh Brolin as George W. Bush:


HIT AND RUN : THE MOVIE

Remember this unpleasant story from a few years ago?...

A Fort Worth nurse drives home, parks her car in the garage, and goes inside to have sex with her boyfriend.

Meanwhile.....

A HALF-ALIVE HOMELESS MAN IS STICKING OUT OF HER SMASHED WINDSHIELD!!!

She left him there for hours until he finally passed. This psychotic woman was sentenced to 50 years in jail.

When I read that a movie was been culled from this incident of inhuman indifference, I was pretty disgusted. But then I read further, and learned that Stuart Gordon was behind the project... well, I took back my pre-judgement.

Stuart Gordan is no moron. Yes, lately, he's made some trash (King Of The Ants) and misfires (Edmond), but he's still the mega-man behind the back-to-back poobahs Re-Animator and From Beyond! The man is not predictable, and his conscience mulling characters could be the perfect fit for a morality-gone-off-the-rails tale. Or... it could suck. We shall see...

One curious aspect of the movie is that Gordon seems to have purposely removed any of the racial context from the story. (The nurse from the true life event was black... Mena Suvari is not.) I don't blame him. My guess is that Gordon wanted to keep focus on the psychology of the situation and not get race mixed up in it. Or... maybe Mena Suvari, with her corn rows, is just supposed to be light-skinned. We shall see...

Here are some stills from the movie... (Stephen Rea plays the homeless man):

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

ON "OLD" DVD : THE BIGAMIST (1953)

Five to ten minutes past the title sequence in Ida Lupino's The Bigamist, you feel the urge to dismiss it as a parochial one-reel morality lesson on the dangers of adultery. This urge comes from our learned cultural impulse to mock any pop art that places traditional, wholesome values at its center. Of course, if Michael Clayton cries in front of three equines over his corporate litigation guilt we're moved, but if Lupino frames a husband between two wives in a courtroom, we scoff. For sure, The Bigamist can come off as simple-minded in moments, but there is no doubt Lupino takes her tale of sexual and marital loyalty seriously.

Harry (Edmond O'Brien) is a freezer salesman torn between the comforts of wives Eve (Joan Fonatine) and Phyllis (Ida Lupino). Harry and Eve want to adopt a child, but before they can, the adoption agency must conduct a background check. The investigator (Edmund Gwenn) plays a hunch and ambushes Harry at his second home, with Phyllis, in Los Angeles. From here, The Bigamist rolls out in flashback fashion, explaining how Harry got himself into such a marital pickle.

In a different era, Ida Lupino - at the time, she was just the second female to ever direct a Hollywood feature - might have been given the space to hone her raw talents behind the camera. As an actress, she had already developed an insider's understanding of movie art. By the time of They Drive By Night (1940) and The Sea Wolf (1941), it was the big boys - George Raft & Edward G. Robinson - that were elbowing for the spotlight with her! (There are even rumors that she stepped in for Nicholas Ray when he went ill during the filming of On Dangerous Ground).

For The Bigamist, Lupino filtered Larry Marcus's story through a noir-ish haze of work-a-day L.A. The cinematic doom typically affiliated with street thugs and g-men gets handed over to the plight of an average man that just wanted to have a family... oops! he got two! The first meet-greet of Harry and Phyllis (his second wife-to-be) is on a Homes Of The Stars bus tour. Lupino cleverly frames the couple's encounter as if it's two awkward fools riding the school bus on the first day of class.

Lupino's underrated craftiness, as well as her willingness to take on taboo subjects - such as rape, in her film Outrage - at a time when the production code was rockin' the screens, demands a reevaluation of her career and a much MUCH better availablity of her films on DVD.

[NOTE: The current DVD version of The Bigamist, that Netflix stocks, is crappy ... it looks like a 1984 VHS copy transferred to DVD. I don't know if this is the only DVD version on the market or not, but be warned. ]

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

ASIA ARGENTO HAS A BUTT ON HER HEAD!

(CLICK TO ENLARGE)

Knowing that this is a Catherine Breillat film, I'm sure the hair heiny on her head was hardly happenstance... but still.

It's also nice to see Asia - an actress I have always crushed on - looking precious and sweet (albeit, also a little vacant, and at the sexual mercy of her feminine male friend...) in a poster for once.

Although, again, this is Breillat, so I'm sure there will be some anal dressing down of Ms. Argento within short distance of the title sequence. (I still struggle to get that pitchfork sodomy scene from Anatomy of Hell out of my head whenever I see Rocco Siffredi in one of those "other" movies he's in.)

Monday, May 05, 2008

LET'S DANCE! : DAVID BOWIE'S LABYRINTHINE HIP-SHAKE AND HOW IT GAVE ME TWO LEFT FEET

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Good Monday morning! This post belongs to Ferdy on Film's week long Dance Movie Blog-A-Thon. Please go on over to her site and read all of the entries on dance, dancing, and why Honey is much better than you think it is!
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

It's a Gen X thang!... Ask anyone between the ages of 28-34 what they think about Jim Henson's Labyrinth, and you will be treated to a whole host of memories. From:

1. First-crushes on Jennifer Connelly.

2. Hoggle

3. Ludo

4. Sir Didymus - an old British fox with spectacles (yay for foxes!).

5. A swamp that farts.

6. M.C. Esher architecture realized.

...Or, in my case, the dance sequence with David Bowie (as The Goblin King) and his Muppet goblins to the tune of "Magic Dance".

Donned with a cotton-white fright wig, Bowie dances about his lair like a Disney fawn wearing knee-length leather boots and a bustier. If the poor baby in the scene wasn't scarred for life by that, he also had to deal with thirty or so dungeon Muppets toying with him.

[NOTE: Don't worry CPS. The child was the son of Labyrinth's conceptual artist Brian Froud, and he says the boy got a kick out of the scary Muppets. Froud said they were very sensitive about this. Now, as far as being held by David Bowie???... you'd have to ask the kid.]

Some of the goblins are actually just dwarfs or children dressed in costume, but the rest are Muppets manipulated by string or hands. Thus, the viewer is treated to one of my favorite styles of dancing... MUPPET DANCING! You know, the flopping spaghetti arms and legs with the wide-open jaw and side-to-side head bounce. It's so cute. If a human could pull it off, it would immediately spread across dance floors like Patrick Dempsey's African tribal moves in Can't Buy Me Love.

In the title to this post, I noted that David Bowie's dance gave me "two left feet", and that's no lie. Most nights, if I don't make it to the mattress before falling asleep, it's either on the floor or in a brown leather recliner while watching a movie. The last time I watched Labyrinth, it was the latter. In addition to my brain, my feet also fell asleep. I woke-up to the "Magic Dance" sequence, stood, and fell with all my weight on the right foot. I broke some bone in there, and was out of commission for six weeks. I was never a dancer, but after the accident, my moves made the Muppet goblins look like Gene Kelly.

You know how they say that when it rains you can feel it in your bones? Well, if the "Dance Magic" sequence is on TV anywhere within a 5 mile radius, my fifth metatarsal aches and I picture David Bowie in a thought cloud above my head cackling at me like a happy Muppet.

Saturday, May 03, 2008

GOOSEBUMP SCENES : THE ONE WHERE... Jean-Do remembers the time he and Josephine drove to Lourdes in "THE DIVING BELL AND THE BUTTERFLY"

My favorite line from The Diving Bell And The Butterfly is when the fully paralyzed - except for a left eye - Jean-Dominique Bauby says, "I decided to stop pitying myself. Other than my eye, two things aren't paralyzed, my imagination and my memory." It's a turning point for the audience as well. Up to that moment, aided by the unrelenting P.O.V. shot from Jean-Do's eye, you feel stuffed, pitiful, terrible, closed ... imagining the terror of this man's still life.

But that one line lifts us out. We now view Jean-Do from above, from the left, from the right, straight-on. Most importantly, we see his rich memories colored by a free imagination.

This is best experienced in the scene where Jean-Do's nurse takes him to a Catholic church to meet the father. The nurse and father suggest that Jean-Do take a pilgrimage to Lourdes. Blinking out a message with the left eye, he says to them, "I've been to Lourdes...", and we get blindsided with a jump cut to hair blowing in the camera lens with the opening riffs to U2's "Ultraviolet (Light My Way)" playing heavy underneath.

It's one of the richest explosions of love & lust on the run that I've seen on film in quite awhile. In this scene, the flawless beauty of Marina Hands behind the wheel of a convertible is sexy personified. Her tan thighs dotted with freckles under a pink skirt that is straining to contain them... her hair shadowing her face, but the face is too remarkable to be hindered by mere locks. (Hands is also naturally stunning in last year's Lady Chatterly).

I wish I could bottle this moment and turn it into a sunshine pill for the sad and lonesome.

Friday, May 02, 2008

BABY MAMA

I'm unsure what calendar day marks the official start of summer, but the unofficial beginning was yesterday, following the opening of 2008's first blockbuster, Ironman. So, after work, I went to the theater. I was excited for the groups queued up behind pieces of paper reading "FORM LINE HERE", already two-thirds done with their popcorn, and short-handing text messages to buddies too unlucky to be at the end of the line.

But I was there to see Baby Mama.... I didn't feel like fighting that opening night drama.

Tina Fey plays Kate, an upscale, upstanding vice president of operations at a Whole Foods type company. She's got baby fever, but the doc doesn't like the shape of her uterus, so he places Kate's pregnancy odds at 1,000,000 to 1. Enter Amy Poehler as South Philly surrogate fetus vessel, and you're about ready to go. But where I wasn't ready to be taken, was through a story that is smart about class status and sensitive to stereotypes... while still poking fun at both.

Baby Mama's social humor excites because it isn't damning. This is Equal Opportunity Elbowing without the snark and snoot and hate behind something like Borat. The characters and caricatures portrayed by Fey, Poehler, Steve Martin, Greg Kinnear, and Romany Malco are all both solicitors and victims to prejudicial jabs, but central to each is a warm relatable face. (Not everyone succeeds, however... Sigourney Weaver, as usual, is a chore).

Amy Poehler, especially, pulls this off with ease. Watching her political humor on SNL's Weekend Update, it's clear that Poehler is conscious of her audience's wide sensibilities and experiences. Neither she, nor Fey, take part in their generation's tawdry comedy of low-down take downs from a high-up elitist peak.

In addition to being talented, intelligent, beautiful women, these ladies are unique with their comedy that is fresh without relying on the foul. (Recent half-there comedies like Harold and Kumar Escape From Guantanamo Bay and Forgetting Sarah Marshall may signal the beginning of the end for the current cycle of gross-out humor.)

I saw me a superhero movie tonight too! Tina Fey and Amy Poehler : IRONWOMEN.

Thursday, May 01, 2008