10 Repeated Lines That Define Their Respective TV Series

Though this blog is called “Film” Babble Blog I’ve written about TV shows from time to time because the worlds obviously overlap (Simpsons, SNL, X-Files, etc.). Since this season many folks will be giving and receiving multi-disc box sets of popular programs (most likely of one or more of those listed below), I thought it would be fun to sum up 10 series by repeated lines, both comical and ominous, and sometimes said by more than one character. Oh yeah – these are all from the last 10 years because you know, shows like Seinfeld (“Not that there’s anything wrong with that!”), Friends (“We were on a break!”), back to ancient Happy Days (“Sit on it!”) reruns and other Nick At Night fare have been pretty covered already on the internets. So here goes:

1. “I’ve made a huge mistake”Arrested Development (2003-2006) This is said by nearly every character in nearly every episode. The stated self realization coming usually in a moment of panicked frenzy defines the rampant disfunction on heavy display. There are a few other choice lines like: There are a few other choice lines like Maebe’s “Marry me”, Michael Bluth’s (Jason Bateman) disapproval of George Michael’s (Michael Cera) plain girlfriend Ann – “Her?”, and my personal pick – Gob’s (Will Arnett) mouthy cover-up of a failed magic trick: “Where did the lighter fluid come from?!!?”

2. “This is the business we’ve chosen.”The Sopranos (1999-2007) Actually this is a quote from THE GODFATHER: PART II. It is repeated in a few variations (“the life we’ve chosen”) by Tony Soprano (James Gandofini) and numerous other mobster buddies and foes. They all worship Coppola’s gangster classics so the quote is both a reference and affirmation of the crew’s code. Honorable mention goes to “all due respect” which is an episode title *. I had originally thought of Tonys (and others) angry “this is how you fuckin’ repay me? line but couldnt find as many examples.


* Also a title of an episode of The Wire funnily enough.


3. “It’s a gift…and a curse.”Monk (2002-present) In the “memorable quotes” section of the IMDb’s entry on this obsessive compulsive disorder detective show every quote is a repeated line including: “Here’s what happened”, “You’ll thank me later”, and “Unless I’m wrong, which, you know, I’m not…” All of which are pretty representative, don’t you think?


4. “You of all people should know that.”Six Feet Under (2000-2005) This line usually spoken by Nate Fisher (Peter Krause) comes in handy when admonishing somebody’s misguided attitude even if it comes off as holier than thou itself. It can also be used as a grounding reminder as when guest star Mena Suvari tells Claire (Lauren Ambrose) “None of us may be here tomorrow. I mean, you of all people should know that.”

5. “And just like that…”Sex In The City (1998-2004) As newspaper sex columnist (bet in todays ecomony that’s not a job that’s very secure) Carrie Bradshaw, Sarah Jessica Parker in voice-over often uses this short-cut to describe an abrupt change as in: “And just like that she was a woman again”. It’s even used in the movie released last summer (yes, I saw the damn movie!).


6. “Everybody lies.”House M.D. (2004-present) Pretty much says it all for Dr. Gregory House’s (Hugh Laurie) world view and the show’s thematic thrust, huh? Like Monk there are a handful of repeated lines: “You need a lawyer”, “We’re missing something”, and the odd but handy prognosis: “It’s not Lupus.”


7. “Pretty good. Pret-ty pret-ty pret-ty good.”Curb Your Enthusiasm (2000-present) Larry David is rarely doing “pret-ty good” in the farcical follies that make up his hilarious HBO hand-held camera comedy and when he is it’s as extremely short-lived experience but the line persists nevertheless. “Hey, let me ask you something” is also often said but it doesn’t bring the voice of David to mind like the “pret-ty good” line. His long suffering wife Cheryl (Cheryl Hines) has her own repeated query: “Why would you do that?” That question seems to be asked every episode as well.

8. “So, this is how it ends.”Dexter (2006-present) Since this show was just renewed for 2 more seasons the ending isn’t coming anytime soon for blood splatter analyst/serial killer Dexter Morgan (Michael C. Hall), but with the myriad of close calls and sticky situations he gets trapped in, it’s sure to make more appearances in his voice-over inner monologues. Possible Spoiler! – It was spoken out loud by one of his victims in season 1, Sgt. Doakes (Erik King) incidentally.


9. “That’s what *she* said!”The Office (2005-present) Yeah, this joke has been around way before this American adaptation of the British work place sitcom made it Michael Scott’s (Steve Carrell) go-to tag-on comeback, but you’ve got to admit that now it is both owned by the show and it says everything you need to know about its delusional lead character.


10. “Ya happy now, bitch?”The Wire (2002-present) I’m only just a recent convert to this gripping gritty cop drama but I’ve come to the understanding this line which was in the first episode of season 1 is Detective Bunk Moreland’s (Wendell Pierce) crusty catch phrase always said to partner James McNulty (Dominic West). Seems to show up on every message board as many fans’ favorite lines so I’m sure as I make my way through the DVDs I’ll soon see why.


Well, that’s that. A lot of shows don’t have definitive repeated lines – unless I missed it my favorite show of the last year, Mad Men, hasn’t had any catch phrases yet and may not as the show moves forward through the 60’s. Anyway, it’s the holidays and I got a Freaks And Geeks DVD boxset as well as more The Wire discs from Netflix a-callin’ me.


So as Krusty the Clown would say: “So have a Merry Christmas, a Happy Chanukah, a Krazy Kwanzaa, a Tip Top Tet, and a solemn, eventful Ramadan.”

More later…

A Marvellous Minimalist Movie Before The Blockbuster Bombast Begins

As you well know we are on the verge of the Summer blockbuster season. We’ve got IRONMAN, INDIANA JONES, BATMAN, SPEED RACER, and many many more multi-million dollar platters to contend with so it seems apt to have a small scale appetizer of an independent human interest story to snack on beforehand:

THE VISITOR (Dir. Thomas McCarthy, 2008)

Richard Jenkins, best known as Nathan Fisher Sr. – the father on Six Feet Under, finally gets a leading role in this quietly compelling movie. After tons of movie and TV roles in which he perfected a weathered hangdog demeanor, Jenkins wears his character in THE VISITOR like an old comfortable suit. Being that his character is a familiar one – a widowed college professor toiling for years on an unfinished book, isolated from social life and going through the motions in severe need of a wake-up call. Yes, it’s a ‘wake up and realize you’re alive’ movie like ABOUT SCHMIDT (or even HOW STELLA GOT HER GROOVE BACK) and a good one at that with its lack of flash and abundance of grace. Jenkins returns to his little used in apartment in New York City to find 2 illegal immigrants (Haaz Sleiman and Danai Jekesai Gurira) living there. Realizing they had been rent-scammed they pack up to leave but Jenkins allows them to stay. He forms a friendship with Sleiman who teaches him to play the bongos. Scenes showing a business-suited Jenkins and the paisley attired Sleiman drumming away in the park are particularly smile inducing. The good times are short lived as Sleiman is arrested and detained with deportation imminent. Jenkins does what he can to help his new friend and in the process courts Sleiman’s mother (played wonderfully by Hiam Abbass).

Writer/Director Thomas McCarthy’s first film THE STATION AGENT was a pleasing personable picture and THE VISITOR is a fine follow-up. So subtle that it may leave some movie-goers with a “with just happened?” feeling but I believe most will savor its subtle charms. Jenkins’ measured performance lingers and the straight-forward framework is refreshing in these days of quick-cuts and contrived narrative gimmicks. “Please step away from the glass” Jenkins is frustratingly told repeatedly by a immigration station desk jockey in a sober 3rd act scene, and it’s a chilling moment; the sad reality of how people are tragically separated for purposeless political reasons inhales all the air of the room and leaves our protagonist on the verge of existential limbo. Finding one’s own rhythm – to maybe the beat of a different drummer as the expression goes, is the only way back into the human race. There among the beats, both inner and outer, can be found a sense of soul and way of life that Jenkins learns shouldn’t just be visited.

More later…

Starting Out In The Evening & Some Pre-Spring Cleaning

This, of course is the post prestige Oscars season – a downtime in which theaters are so cluttered with crap that the occasional worthwhile film can get easily overlooked. This is such a film:

STARTING OUT IN THE THE EVENING (Dir. Andrew Wagner, 2007)

Wagner’s directorial debut is impressive for its purposely minimal staging methods as well as its crafty casting. The masterful but shamefully underrated Frank Langella plays Leonard Schiller – a reclusive writer whose time is seemingly past. His acclaimed 4 novels are long out of print and he has struggled for over a decade to complete a new work and create one final lasting impression in the world of literature despite being told that the market is dominated by “celebrity confessions and self-help books”. His relationship with his daughter Ariel (Lili Taylor) doesn’t help matters as she is fiercely protective of him and intensely defensive about the loud ticking of her biological clock. Coming into the picture is the young glowing Heather Wolfe (Lauren Ambrose) who fashions herself as Schiller’s protégé and wants to help republish his work and re-establish his place in the pantheons of New York literary society. Trouble is she is a bit too interested in the touchy possibly painful autobiographical sources of his earlier work which cause the agitated author to cut short their first sit-down interview. Schiller does however offer: “I’ll concede this, I have occasionally drawn from my own life but I have I only done so in the spirit of objectivity.” As to whether anything develops between them I’ll plead my no Spoilers defense.

In the best sense of a ‘filmed play’ STARTING OUT… is a meticulous machine of a movie; every scene is exactly as long as it should be and every beat whether a solid point of action or a floating notion feels natural as can be in the construct. Langella, in what has to be called a “career best performance”, has an enhanced elegance to his every gesture even when on the verge of emotional collapse. Ambrose (pictured to the left) and Taylor, who appeared on Six Feet Under as remarkably different but just as strained characters, both deflect different shards of the dying light from their powerful patriarch, each hitting their stage marks with aplomb. As Taylor’s hesitant to be a Baby-Daddy boyfriend, Adrian Lester also has a well chosen charismatic demeanor and is refreshingly likable especially when considering that the stock disagreeing partner character usually is an asshole set up for audience disapproval. That’s one of many well nuanced thoughtful touches in this moving film. When Heather questions Leonard accusing him of abandoning his characters, the crux of the ginormous “does art imitate life or vice versa” question hits hard. As one noted New York poet once observed “between thought and expression, lies a lifetime.”

Now I thought I’d do some pre-Spring cleaning out of my notebook and Word files and post some reviews of recent flicks I’ve seen over the last few weeks – both new and old:

MARGOT AT THE WEDDING (Dir. Noah Baumbach, 2007)

Another film about exasperated literary minded folk uncertain of what their choices are, let alone if they are the right or wrong ones. Nicole Kidman, as the title character, is a recently separated successful writer who travels with her son Claude (Zane Pais) to her family’s old home in Long Island for her sister’s (Jennifer Jason Leigh) wedding. It is immediately obvious that she doesn’t approve of her sibling’s groom to be – Jack Black, shaggy as ever with a mustache that he claims he’s wearing ‘ironically’. As Black is an unemployed rock musician and aspiring artist we can see why. There are other concerns for Margot – the clichéd backwoods looking neighbors who menacingly demand that a tree on the property’s line be cut down, her nearby lover (Ciaran Hinds) who she may have really come to see with the wedding as a cover, and her ex-husband’s (John Turturro) constant phoning all drained her and me as I waded through.

It’s a movie in which every character exasperates every other character – Black even says: “I have the emotional version of whatever bad Feng Shui would be!” Every actor is capable and has engaging moments but the malaise that inhabits their lives fills the screen and I was left wondering why I should care for these people. When sister Pauline (Jennifer Jason Leigh) asks Margot: “What was it about Dad that had us fucking so many guys? ” I really wanted to leave the room rather than hear the answer. Like Leonard Schiller in STARTING OUT… (or more aptly Harry Block in DECONSTRUCTING HARRY) both Margot and her creator – director/writer Noah Baumbach have mined their lives for their art (Baumbach in real life much more successfully before in KICKING AND SCREAMING *, MR. JEALOUSY, and THE SQUID AND THE WHALE) but even with that illustrative insight this proceeding suffers from a severe lack of wit. And to truly ad insult to injury MARGOT AT THE WEDDING doesn’t even have a wedding in it! And I don’t care if that’s a Spoiler!

* Not to be confused with the Will Ferrell family sports comedy KICKING & SCREAMING – directed by Jesse Dylan (Bob Dylan’s son for Christ’s sake!).

MARTIAN CHILD (Dir. Menno Meyjes, 2007)

Remember K-PAX? That lame ass movie with Kevin Spacey claiming to be from another planet? Jeff Bridges spends the whole film trying to figure out if he’s crazy or actually telling the truth? No you don’t remember it? Lucky you. Well anyway this is the kids version. John Cusack plays a successful science fiction novelist and a widower who is going ahead with his and his deceased spouse’s plans to adopt. He is told by the adoption agency that they have a match, a reclusive six year old (Bobby Coleman) who thinks that he hails from the red planet. He wears what he calls a “hold me down” weight belt made out of batteries and duct tape because he feels the Earth’s gravity is weak and he could float away without it. Cusack, who was an oddball outsider himself as a child, takes to the kid but worries about the mental celestial angle. He is encouraged by his dead wife’s sister (Amanda Peet in an extremely undeveloped role) and his own sister (once again real life sibling Joan Cusack) who is justifiably cynical about the situation. Don’t worry I won’t tell if the kid really turns out to be a Martian or not.

I read on the internets that Cusack was not happy with how this picture turned out and I can see why. The editing creates an awkward mood with many stilted scenes. The DVD has 27 minutes of deleted scenes that expose dropped plot-points and reveal how much trouble the filmmakers had shaping this material. Still it’s hard to be completely hating on this movie it looks like there’s a good script with plenty of spunk in there somewhere with many good lines like Joan Cusack’s about her own kids – “I’ve got to take Omen I and Omen II to soccer practice!” The crisp chemistry of the supporting cast helps too – Oliver Platt as Cusack’s smarmy agent, the reliable stern Richard Schiff (Toby from The West Wing) as a case worker, the underused Howard Hesseman as a child psychologist, and Cusack’s THE GRIFTERS co-star Anjelica Huston as a literary publishing giant in a short but sweet part. As the kid in question, Coleman is cute and affective like in the scene where he reacts to a museum Mars landscape: “This is not how I remembered it.”

As I wrote before about Cusack, he gets a film geek free pass for his work in the seminal SAY ANYTHING and HIGH FIDELITY among others so he can do rom com crap for the rest of his life if he wants and I’ll look the other way but it’s just that a film like this could’ve been so much more. It is such a lightweight movie that it needs its own “hold me down” weight belt to keep it from floating away. With its lack of real emotional impact it’s just future Lifetime Channel afternoon fodder. You could do a lot worse than to rent MARTIAN CHILD but just like Cusack you could do a whole lot better.

SORCERER (Dir. William Friedkin, 1977)

When actor Roy Scheider died a month ago I posted a top 5 Essential Sharkless Roy Scheider Roles list. I got a few comments and a slew of email calling me on not having seen SORCERER. I put it in my NetFlix queue and just watched it so I’m happy to finally chime in on this underrated 70’s spectacle. Well, first I’ll say I hated that the only DVD version available is full screen and that it takes almost an hour to establish the premise that was as Peter Biskind’s “Easy Riders, Raging Bulls” book puts it “SORCERER revolves around the attempt of a small group of desperate men to drive a couple of trucks loaded with nitroglycerine across treacherous mountain terrain.” To get to that we have to see each of the group, along with Scheider – Bruno Cremer, Amidou, and Fransico Rabal’s violent and sometimes nonsensical background to gather somewhat why they are in exile in South America. Once we get going though it’s quite a ride – that is, if you can get past the cryptic trappings.

SORCERER is horribly titled; of course when you first hear it you think of wizards ‘n goblins ‘n such. Well, there’s nothing like that here – in fact it is so named because well, I’m not sure why it’s named SORCERER. I think I read it was because that name is on the side of a truck but I watched it with that in mind and didn’t see such. Tangerine Dream’s score as noted by Jim DeRogatis as his favorite progressive rock movie music on a recent Sound Opinions (the NPR rock radio talk show) episode about great soundtracks is definitely a synthesized symphonic wonder. Anyway as the tale goes this film opened a week after STAR WARS at the famous Chinese Theater in Los Angeles in 1977 then was again replaced by STAR WARS the week afterwards with Friedkin lamenting “I dunno, little sweet robots and stuff, maybe we’re on the wrong horse.” Maybe it was the wrong horse but Friedkin’s crazy literally off the rails (the truck on the wildly frailing wood bridge in the storm sequence is monumental in the annals of Hollywood ‘how the Hell did they do they do that?'”) movie is not one to be forgotten. I hope it gets a deluxe treatment on DVD or Blue Ray or whatever. At least let’s get a wide screen version out there. Just sayin’.

More later…

Just Some More New Release DVDs – No Big Whoop

Yep, some more recent DVD viewings are now blog-worthy:

RESCUE DAWN (Dir. Werner Herzog, 2006)

“Inspired by true events in the life of Dieter Dengler” so says the credits at the beginning. After some basic-training back story, this film wastes no time – on his first tour of duty in 1966 Vietam Dengler’s (the yet again reliable Christian Bale) shot down over Laos within the first 10 minutes; 15 minutes in he is captured by the enemy. He refuses to sign a war criminal document and is dragged, literally, to a Viet Cong camp to be held captive. That’s what the bulk of this story is about – his and a few other fellow inmates (including the dead on and almost dead looking Steven Zahn and Jeremy Davies) tortuous imprisonment where there thoughts of escape are discouraged as futile from every angle. Dengler doesn’t think so and plots to overcome all obstacles. Obviously this story wouldn’t be told if he didn’t do just that – so no accusations of spoilers please. With its gripping storyline and clarity of vision RESCUE DAWN has a lot going for it but is bogged down with unconvincing dialogue and Herzog’s choice of fast fades that make this choppy where it should be fluid. “The quick have their sleepwalkers, and so do the dead” Bale says early on in his captivity and it falls flat – really not provoking much of a reaction. Perhaps because this film seems to sleepwalk all too quickly into oblivion.

HAIRSPRAY (Dir. Adam Shankman, 2007)

It would be hard to dump on this one. Though I have friends who are big fans of the original John Waters 1988 movie and its soundtrack, then the 2002 Tony winning Broadway musical adaptation and its cast recording, I didn’t understand why a new film version (with its soundtrack) was necessary – I mean wasn’t this pretty much covered? But this movie is so damn cheery – earnest and smiling right at you without a cynical frame on any of its reels that questioning or dismissing it makes one feel like a Blue Meanie. The most enjoyable of the cast is Nikki Blonsky (who fits into Rikki Lake’s shoes perfectly) as Tracy Turnblad. Blonsky is a triple threat who she out-sings, out-dances, and yes, out-acts everybody here. As the perky beyond belief Tracy she causes a stir on a local Baltimore American Bandstand type show in 1962 when she exclaims that “everyday should be Negro day” (the show only had one day a month that black kids were allowed to dance on the air). With her angsty-acting friends (Zac Efron, Ellijah Kelley, and Amanda Bynes) behind her, they plot to take over the program to sing the praises of progress and integration.

The supposed trump card here is – taking over the part from the legendary Divine – John Travolta in drag (including a fairly realistic looking fat-suit) but he and husband Christopher Walken as Tracy’s parents never rise above the level of SNL sketch caricatures. Travolta, who looks ridiculous and has an awful weirdly accented voice, is never believable as a woman but his shenanigans somehow breeze by. Queen Latifah fares better with some of the most sincere soulful singing here on some of the best songs though like the movie itself most of the set-piece musical numbers go on too long. In a movie where just about every older face is familiar (Michelle Phieffer as the villainous TV producer, and in incidental roles – Paul Dooley, Jerry Stiller and Allison Janey) it’s really the youngsters show – especially Blonsky and Kelley. If you love musical romps you’ll love it. Me, I have a mild aversion to romps but I have to admit that HAIRSPRAY is adequately amusing.

CIVIC DUTY (Dir. Jeff Renfroe, 2006)

Peter Krause, best known for playing Nate on Six Feet Under (HBO 2000-2005), is a downsized accountant who thinks a new neighbor (Khaled Abol Naga), whom he refers to as “that Muslim guy”, is a terrorist plotting destruction from his tiny apartment. Effectively crisp and creepy first half but the second half desolves into a worn out scenario – i.e. a hostage situation. Krause is a lot like his former character Nate – only more of an asshole; likewise Richard Schiff as a unsympathetic FBI agent is playing only a slight variation on his cynical Toby Ziegler part from The West Wing. What could have been a sharp cinematic study of post 9/11 paranoia is just another regular guy goes crazy and alienates all of society plot. I’m sure somebody has said this before but I liked this movie better the first time – when it was called ARLINGTON ROAD.

Now, this is more of my kind of romp:

HELP! (Dir. Richard Lester, 1965)

Superintendent (Patrick Cargill): “So this is the famous Beatles?”
John (John Lennon): “So this is the famous Scotland Yard, ay?”
Superintendent: “How long do you think you’ll last?”
John: “Can’t say fairer than that. Great Train Robbery, ay? How’s that going?”

A seminal film I saw many times in my youth reissued yet again – this time in a 2 disc DVD edition in fancier packaging than before * and it’s nice to have. Though the extras are inessential – the 30 min. documentary is fine but who’s going to watch a featurette about the film’s restoration process more than once? The movie does look better than I’ve ever seen it – sharper with much more vivid color. Colour (British spelling) was pretty much its only original gimmick – The Beatles now in full colour! Their first feature, black and white of course, A HARD DAY’S NIGHT is widely regarded as a classic, one of the best rock ‘n roll movies ever, blah blah blah while HELP! has been almost lovingly dismissed. I’ll say this – A HARD DAY’S NIGHT may be the better film but HELP! is a lot more fun. It captures the group right before they discarded their cuddly mop-top image and became another entity all together and it makes a strong case for their oft overlooked mid-period music as well.

* It is available also in a collector’s edition with book of the screenplay, lobby card reproductions, and a poster that all retails at $134.99!

The plot? Oh yeah, some ancient mystic religion hunts down laconic but wacky drummer Ringo Starr and his mates because he happens to be wearing their sacrificial ring. They hunt him across the globe with locations in Austria and the Bahamas (simply because the Beatles wanted to go there so it was written in). Along the way they play (or more accurately lipsynch to) a bevy of great songs – the title track, the Dylan influenced “You’ve Got To Hide Your Love Away”, “Ticket To Ride”, and George Harrison’s unjustly underrated “I Need You” among them.

Watching it again I remembered why I loved it so much as a kid – it displayed a fantasy version of the Beatles’ lives in which they all lived together in a groovy connected townhouse flat that had grass as carpet in one section and a neat bed compartment sunken floor that John slept in, it has moments of comic surrealism like when Paul McCartney is shrunken to cigarette size (“The Adventures Of Paul On The Floor” the subtitle calls it), and has a silly James Bond spoofing plot that doesn’t matter at all. If you haven’t seen HELP! it’s one to put in your Netflix queue or on your Amazon wish list – if you have seen it before you should really re-discover it now because of how splendid this new remaster looks and how funny it still is. Or you could wait a few years ’til the next reissue or whatever the new format’s version of it will be.

Post Note: Another bonus that this new DVD set has is an essay in its booklet by Martin Scorsese. He writes “Everyone was experimenting around this time. Antonioni with BLOWUP, Truffaut with FAHRENHEIT 451, Fellini and Godard with every movie – and HELP! was just as exciting.” I would’ve never thought to put Richard Lester’s work on HELP! in that class but if Marty says it is – it is.

More later…

Burning Down The GRINDHOUSE

“I’m shrinking here, because I don’t know those films. Gone With the Wind, I know that one. Victor Fleming was one hell of a director!
– Bob Clark (Dir. the PORKY’S franchise, the BABY GENUISES movies, RHINESTONE and a bunch of other crap except A CHRISTMAS STORY which was actually good) taken from the
GRINDHOUSE filmmaker Summit (LA Weekly 4/4/07) *

Got some reviews of movies in current release plus DVD babble so hey ho let’s go –



GRINDHOUSE (Dir. Robert Rodriquez/Quentin Tarantino 2007) 2 movies in one – that is 2 full-length feature films by 2 notorious directors for the price of one. Sounds too good to be true? That’s because it’s fake – don’t get me wrong it really is 2 complete movies but it’s a fake expl
oitation experience with fake trailers, bucket after bucket of fake blood splatters on everything, fake hair, fake dismembered human organs, fake projector noise, fake scratches on the film, fake missing reel announcements, fake fake fake. The only thing that’s not fake is the fun – and there’s lots of it here. Both films take place in the modern day but as if the schlock methods of ‘70’s era sleaze cinema never went away. In the minds of Tarantino and Rodriquez they never did.

After a fake funny as Hell trailer for a Mexican vigilante flick called “Machete” we are presented with Rodriquez’s eco-zombie action-horror spectacle entitled “Planet Terror”. We’ve got Freddy Rodriquez (best known as Federico Diaz on HBO’s SIX FEET UNDER series 2001-2005) as a cocky outlaw gunslinger who outfits his go-go dancer girlfriend Rose McGowan having lost a leg in the first wave of the attack (“a missing leg that’s now missing”) with a machine gun and they join forces with other non-contaminated humans against the hordes of slime covered with giant zit popping zombies. Along the way Bruce Willis and Tarantino himself put in cameos, Josh Brolin appears as a murderous doctor targeting his cheating lesbian wife Marley Shelton, and grisly yet sentimental BBQ chef Jeff Fahey protects an old secret family recipe right to the grave. The action and humor never lag and the breathlessly and purposely crude construction make this one of Rodriquez’s most enjoyable movies. Then come more fake trailers.

The trailers for “Werewolf Women of the SS” (made by Rob Zombie), “Don’t” (by SHAUN OF THE DEAD director Edgar Wright), and “Thanksgiving” (By director/actor Eli Roth) are so authentic looking, so perfect in their exclamations of low-brow glee, and so funny that it occurs to me that maybe the whole movie should have been made of fake trailers. I guess that would have gotten tiresome after a bit. Speaking of tiresome Tarantino’s “Death Proof” has more of a polished sophistication than Rodriquez’s and unfortunately that means a drop-off in fun. Dominated by lengthy dialogue scenes that sound at times like Tarentino lecturing us on his sexual agenda, obscure pop-culture references, and hip-hopisms through the disguise of girl talk. This bit brings the whole GRINDHOUSE down but once it gets rolling it redeems itself roaringly.
As we wind through the non-stop chatting of 2 separate groups of women (including Sydney Tamiia Poitier, Vanessa Ferlito, Rosario Dawson, Zoe Bell, Tracie Thoms, and McGowan again this time as a non-ass kicking blond) we get a leisurely introduction to Stuntman Mike (Kurt Russell) who turns out to be a predatory psychopath – though one not without charms. The 3rd act is car -chase road-rage revenge city with Zoe Bell (Uma Thurman’s stunt double in the KILL BILL movies) spending a good deal of the action on the hood of a 1970 Dodge Charger hanging on for dear life by a belt latched to the door frame while Stuntman Mike’s death proof muscle car rams and bams up repeatedely up against the side.

Bell, playing herself and amazingly doing all her own stunts with no CGI help, wants to take the car out for a test drive because it’s the same model as the car in the 70’s cult classic VANISHING POINT – a movie that’s referenced to a number of times and that calls out the difference between Rodriquez and Tarantino; not one movie or song title obscure or otherwise is mentioned in “Planet Terror.” “Death Proof” features numerous pop-culture pontifications and it suffers for it. Tarantino appears to be in love with his own dialogue while I and the audience around me were getting antsy. Probably the most apt old-school Hollywood phrase would be “cut to the chase”. Once he does it’s a thrill ride and the audience woke up and even cheered at the end. Even as a low-concept double feature fake-out GRINDHOUSE is awfully awesome, blazingly badass, and most importantly hilarious.

THE HOST (Dir. Joon-ho Bong, 2006) The early reports that posited this Hong Kong monster movie as a mixture of LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE and JAWS weren’t completely off the mark. Sure that kind of oft-repeated critical shorthand irks me but the clumsy neurotic antics of a family whose youngest is abducted by a bizzare beast – one that was created by discarded lab chemicals in the Han River by an American military officer mind you – does recall at times the best moments and heart of those accessible reference points. River-side snack shop slacker Song Kang-ho aided by his ornery father Byeon Heui-bong and sister Bae Du-na who has a handy flair for archery struggle to save Kanh-ho’s school girl daughter Ko A-sun who spends most of the movie in a sewer with other captured Koreans. The Host which is so named because the tenacled CGI sea creature is the carrier of a deadly virus, drags quite a bit in it’s second half and the action is too often restricted to the dank disgusting gutters or the sterile flourescent lit labs but there is an undeniable heartbeat here. With hope more quirky horror or creature feature genre exercises will follow suit.

And once again by popular demand – some more new release DVD reviews :

MARIE ANTONIETTE (Dir. Sofia Coppola, 2006) Sofia Coppola’s 3rd movie as director reworks the same theme – a young woman coming of age in a unfamiliar almost alien world – this time around the legendary 18th century French queen of the title gets to do the fish out of water honors and to a hip contemporary soundtrack no less (New Order, Sioxsie & The Banshees, The Cure, etc). Kirsten Dunst is adequate (or as Lindsay Lohan would say “adequite”) in the role – she wears the extravagant wardrobe well and has the appropriate glibness down but is more than a little out of her depth. Jason Swartzman as Louis XVI is also questionably cast – he’s Coppola’s cousin and that seems to be the sole reason he’s here. Better with tone and prescence in supporting rolesare Rip Torn, Judy Davis, Steve Coogan, Molly Shannon and Marriane Faithful.

Turning the oft told historical tale into one big glossy rock video is not a deplorable idea – it actually works at times like when a costume banquet-ball is shot like a decadent all night rave – but a sense of narrative drive is severely lacking. Coppola’s technical skill is impressive with a definitive visual flair and confident color scheme – it’s just not as interesting as I’m sure future projects of hers will be.

COLOR ME KUBRICK (Dir. Brian W. Cook, 2006)

“Steven Spielberg has just died and he’s being greeted at the gates of heaven by Gabriel and Gabriel says: ‘God’s really dug a lot of your movies and he wants to make sure you’re comfortable. If there’s anything you need, you come to me, I’m your man.’ And Steven says ‘Well, you know I always wanted to meet Stanley Kubrick, do you think you could arrange that?’ And Gabriel looks at him and says: ‘You know, Steven, of all the things that you could ask for, why would you ask for that? You know that Stanley doesn’t take meetings.’ He says, “well, you said that if there was anything I wanted.’ Gabreil says ‘I’m really sorry. I can’t do that.’ So now he’s showing him around heaven and Steven says to Gabriel: ‘Oh, my God, look over there, that’s Stanley Kubrick. Couldn’t we just stop him and say hello?’ And Gabriel pulls Steven to the side and says, ‘That’s not Stanley Kubrick; that’s God – he just thinks he’s Stanley Kubrick.’”
– Matthew Modine (actor in Kubrick’s FULL METAL JACKET, 1987)

Alan Conway (aptly named) was an odd British man who for a period in the early 90’s impersonated legendary film director Stanley Kubrick (2001,DR. STRANGELOVE, THE SHINING, and so on). The fact is that he did it for such piddily low degree theviery reasons and was rarely able to get more than the money to but a few drinks is the crux of this particular cinematic biscuit. Portrayed flamboyantly by John Malkovich in COLOUR ME KUBRICK which has the tagline of “A TRUE…ISH STORY” Conway is finally gets his coveted spot-light but one that never shows a good side of him. Every time we start to feel for the increasingly irritating imposter he does or acts in an even worse unforgivable and/or embarrassing manner that swindles our sympathy immediately from us. It’s especially sad when he hoodwinks comedian/singer Lee Pratt (Jim Davidson – who was actually conned by the real Conway as the accompanying making of featurette tells us).

A few Kubrickian touches are thrown in by director Brian W. Cook (who was Kubrick’s assistant director on 3 movies) – an opening scene involving punks coming close to roughing up an elderly high class couple while hunting down Conway for an unpaid bar tab recalls A CLORKWORK ORANGE and Richard Strauss’s “Also Sprach Zarathustra” (better known as “2001 theme”) amusingly accompanies Conway as he carries a garbage bag filled with his dirty clothes to a local dive laundromat. Malkovich is for the most part hilarious as the vodka-swilling tackily dressed shyster who uses a different contrived accent for each of his victums. COLOUR ME KUBRICK is by no means a great must-see film but a good one. Well maybe good…ish.

* This post is dedicated to Bob Clark 1939-2007

More later…

Basic Instinct 2 Blues

“Its always easier to be nice to people when you don’t have to see them.” – Claire Fisher (Lauren Ambrose) Six Feet Under

A few weeks ago after seeing the poster for BASIC INSTINCT 2 in the lobby of the theater I work at part-time I tried to talk the owner out of showing it. He grumbled and mumbled something about never seeing the first one. I went into a comical tirade against the first movie and the absolute idiotic existence of a sequel – cutting and pasting from the late great comedian Bill Hicks’s rant over a decade ago :

“But you know I saw this movie this year called last year called er, ‘Basic Instinct’. Okay now. Bill’s quick capsule review: Piece-of-Shit. Okay now. Yeah, yeah, end of story by the way. Don’t get caught up in that fevered hype phony fucking debate about that Piece-of-Shit movie. “Is it too sexist, and what about the movies, are they becoming too…” You’re, you’re just confused, you don’t get, you’ve forgotten how to judge correctly. Take a deep breath huuh, look at it again. “Oh it’s a Piece-of-Shit!” Exactly, that’s all it is. Satan squatted, let out a loaf, they put a fucking title on it, put it on a marquee, Satan’s shit, piece of shit, walk away. “But is it too, what about the lesbian connotations…” You’re, you’re getting really baffled here. Piece-of-Shit! Now walk away. That’s all it is, it’s nothing more! Horrible film. And then I come to find out after that film. that all the lesbian sex scenes, let me repeat that, all the lesbian sex scenes were cut out of that film, because the test audience was turned off by them. Ha. Boy, is my thumb not on the pulse of America.

I don’t want to seem like Randy Pan, the Goat Boy, but er that was the only reason I went to that piece of shit. If I had been in that test audience, the only one out front protesting that film would have been Michael Douglas demanding his part be put back in, alright? “I swear I was in that movie. I swear I was.” “Gee Mike, the movie started. Sharon Stone was eating another woman for an hour and a half. Then the credits rolled. I err, I don’t remember seeing your scrawny ass, Mike.” “Was Bill Hicks in that test audience?” – Bill Hicks (1961-1994)

Well our theater owner ignored my pleas and a few days ago I had to put the dreaded letters up on the marquee. I joked with my co-workers about putting up “SHARON STONE’S MID-LIFE CRISIS”. Friday the film opened and barely anyone came. I walked into work on saturday and the owner said “you were right. Dead on arrival.” Thats one of the nicer things said about the movie – “Botoxic” says New York Post writer Kyle Smith. He goes on to say “BASIC INSTINCT 2″ is not an erotic thriller. It’s taxidermy.” The word desperate comes up in a number of reviews funnily enough. I didn’t gloat about being right – its a no-brainer I think to anyone reading this knew that the movie would suck and flop. Some day it’ll be nothing than an entry on one of those “Celebrity Oops” list shows on like VH1 or that damn E channel.

More later…

BROKEN FLOWERS And More Random Babble

Because of how hard and annoying it was to get others to contribute – I’ve decided to reconfigure this here film babble blog into a more personal and simpler blog. From now on it’ll just be me posting about movies I’ve seen. Because I watch so many movies it’ll be a good exercise to keep up with them on this blog. So here goes :

The last movie I saw in the theaters was BROKEN FLOWERS – the new Bill Murray flick directed by Jim Jarmusch. It seems to be another entry in the minimalist phase of Murray’s career. In earlier work like MEATBALLS, STRIPES, or GHOSTBUSTERS Murray’s wise cracking persona worked every angle – now he appears to be so jaded and too tired to even approach any angle. He has to be cajoled into this slight premise (revisiting past loves because of an unsigned letter about a 20 year old son who may be seeking daddy out) by a over-eager neighbor (Jeffery Wright). As much as I was amused by certain moments (Jessica Lange’s animal communicator bit particularly) I thought the movie was just okay. Not especially involving. Murray’s character and a lot of the movie seemed underwritten.

Anyway apart from plowing through the 4th season of Six Feet Under this last week I also watched SCENES FROM A MARRIAGE. Because of a recent episode of Ebert and Roeper that told me about Igmar Bergman’s newest movie SARABAND that updates the central characters from SCENES played by Liv Ullmann and Erland Josephson I decided that I had to put it in my Netflix queue. It was originally a 6 part TV series in the early 70’s – Bergman edited a theatrical version. The theatrical version is what I chose to watch. It was 2 hours and 40 something minutes long. I was struck about how close Woody Allen’s HUSBANDS AND WIVES was to it. I mean I knew Allen was a Bergman disciple but damn! The documentary like set-up, the long involved and tortured conversational break-downs, and the probing close-ups all used to great effect in Allen’s flick.

I started watching it on Wednesday. Film historian and supposed Bergman scholar Peter Cowie told me in the sole special featurette that it was best to watch in segments. I wanted to take it all in and return it so I could get more Six Feet Under discs but found that there was no way to rush a viewing of this pristine movie. I got really wrapped up in the emotional turmoil surrounding the relationship of Johann and Marriane and even scanned back several times to watch bits again to fully absorb all that transpired. So after many stops and starts I finished it Friday evening. Now I must order up the longer TV version. Damn my completist minded film addiction! Or actually thank God for it. Not sure what I’d do with these random hours otherwise. Now with hope SARABAND will come to my area.

Will post again after I see another movie. That’s the idea anyway…