Blu Ray Review: DRAG ME TO HELL

DRAG ME TO HELL
(Dir. Sam Raimi, 2009)

There’s a not-so-inside joke not too far into this movie that fans of Raimi’s past work will definitely appreciate. Bank loan officer Allison Lohman gets a curse put on her by a old one-eyed gypsy woman (Lorna Raver) when she denies a third loan extension on the mortgage on the hag’s home. Lohman’s life gets angrily assaulted from every angle by a demonic force that only she experiences resulting in one bloody trauma after another. Her perpetually nice boyfriend Justin Long tries to console her and suggests they take a trip away from it all. “The cabin?” She asks as her face lights up. “Yeah, if you’re up for it, the cabin!” he good naturedly suggests. “There’s trees and it will be private.” Yeah, right!

It’s no Spoiler to tell you that they never make it to that cabin in the woods. That was a shout out and not-so-subtle sign that Raimi is back to his old gruesome game; a head first trip into EVIL DEAD territory after years of SPIDERMAN spectacle (albeit retaining the CGI) but this time there’s a meaty moralistic story behind all the gore.

With her wide eyes, golden locks, and school girl clothes, Lohman is not one you’d expect would fare well against the forces of darkness and that’s precisely the point. We feel for her as she’s being usurped at work by a new conniving co-worker (Reggie Lee) and is down about the damning disapproval of her boyfriend’s parents. Then her boss (the always reliable deadpan David Paymer) tells her to get the assistant manager position she desires, she’s going to have to show that she can make tough decisions.


Unfortunately the before mentioned one-eyed gypsy lady happens to be next in line and Lohman makes that potentially fatal error in judgment. Later after a violent parking garage confrontation, the crazy crone grabs a button off Lohman’s coat and with it places that calamitous curse. Lohman desperately tries to shake the curse, turning to a storefront psychic (Dileep Rao) who identifies the invisible evil entity who is tormenting her as the Lamia – an ancient powerful demon beast who, unless she finds a way to reverse the curse, after 3 days will indeed drag her to Hell.

Among the tasty twists in this tale there’s a séance sequence conducted by Adrianna Barraza in which various participants are possessed by the Lamia. The séance involves a goat, a lot of screaming (Lohman’s a great screamer), and lines like: “You’re okay? Unbelievable!” in case you are wondering.

DRAG ME TO HELL is funny, scary, and extremely well-made with as much wit as it has disgusting bodily fluids flowing. It has a sweet balance between nightmarish bombast and down-time scenes with Lohman and Long that resemble rom com fodder (most folks know though that such scenes are there to trick not comfort us). It’s a welcome reminder that modern horror movies don’t always have to be wretched remakes or SAW sequels, there can be actual thought to the terror and the narratives too.

It’s great to see that despite swimming in the mainstream for so long Raimi still has enough blood and guts gusto to pull off a project like this – a PG-13 one at that. It also speaks to the times that all this torture comes from the actions of one’s ambition at the cost of another’s life. Even if it is too simplistic to truly make any serious ethical statement, the idea that a seemingly decent person has to painfully pay the ultimate price for a selfish in-the-moment mistake – the kind a lot of us make every day – now that’s horror.

More later…

Pop Culture 101: Today’s Class – KNOCKED UP

I finally got to see Judd Apatow’s hit comedy KNOCKED UP (newly released on DVD) which I really regretted missing last summer in the theaters. I thought it was very funny though it was more of a James L. Brooks style drama than I expected – the 2 hour 13 min. running time should have tipped me off. What really got to me about this anti rom-com about slacker stoner Ben (Seth Rogen) unintentionally impregnating way-out-of-his-league Allsion (Katherine Heigl), is the incredible amount of pop culture referencing going down. The abundance of name dropping, bad impersonations, and snarky wise-cracks would put Kevin Smith and Quentin Tarentino to shame! It’s almost like without these media touch points these people would have nothing to talk about at all. Since I would have nothing to talk about without them let’s take a look at the cinematic schooling KNOCKED UP provides us in pop culture profundity:

WARNING : Many Potential Spoilers

A large percentage of the riffing comes from Ben’s room-mates (Jason Segel, Martin Starr, Jay Barachel, and SUPERBAD‘s Jonah Hill – who all use their real names in the movie). They all have a what they call “the dirty man competition” – a bet that air-headed Martin can’t grow his hair and beard without cutting or shaving for a year. If he lasts that long they have to pay his rent for a year – If he caves and shaves he’ll have to pay all of their rents for a year. So they hurl insults relentlessly at him – calling him SERPICO, Charles Manson, Chewbacca by way of Jay’s horrible impression, and Jonah asking him if he had a hard time changing his name from Cat Stevens to Yusef Islam. Martin: “yeah, it was awkward.”

The gang has a website in the works – Ben’s pitch: “only at fleshofthestars.com * will customers be able to find exactly into what movie their favorite stars are exposed”. It seems to be a premise created soley to riff on Jamie Lee Curtis’ infamous full-frontal in TRADING PLACES, Julianne Moore’s pantless appearance in SHORT CUTS , we actually see them watch the Denise Richards/Neve Campbell lesbian love scene in WILD THINGS on TV, and Meg Ryan’s nude scenes in IN THE CUT. To their later dismay Pete (Paul Rudd) tells Ben there is already a celebrity nudity website called Mr. Skin. Ben rationales – “Good things come in pairs you know? VOLCANO, DANTE’S PEAK. DEEP IMPACT, ARMAGEDDON, right? WYATT EARP, TOMBSTONE.” To which Jay adds – “Panda Express, Yashinoya Beef Bowl.”

* Yep, it’s a real site now.

Random Reference Riffing :

Shortly before Ben and Heigl meet, the guys discuss Speilberg’s MUNICH – all agreeing on its awesomeousity. Ben : “Dude, every movie with Jews we’re the ones getting killed. MUNICH flips it on its ear. We’re capping motherfuckers!” They all drink to Ben’s proclamation – “if any of us get laid tonight it’s because of Eric Bana in MUNICH!”

Paul Rudd’s character Pete is a A & R guy for some never named record label. Photos of him with Elvis Costello and framed album covers (Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers “Damn The Torpedos” can be seen a few times) decorate the walls of his suburban home. Pete does a number of impressions throughout the film including Robert Deniro (not bad) and in the deleted scenes – Austin Powers (awful). He and Rogen disagree on music – Ben: “If I ever listen to Steely Dan, I want you to slice my head off with an Al Jarreau LP!” The most defining straight-forward statement that Pete makes of course is encased in pop culture – “marriage is like that show, Everybody Loves Raymond but it’s not funny.”

Pete and wife Debbie (Leslie Mann – Judd Apatow’s real-life wife) have kids (played by Apatow’s daughters Maude and Iris) who argue over whether to listen to the soundtrack to “Rent” or the band Green Day from the back seat of Allison’s car on the way to school. Not far from the tree obviously.

Of course you’ve got to have a “boy loses girl” 3rd act conflict development with both couples spliting temporarily. Ben and Pete take a trip to Las Vegas in which they plan to take mushrooms (acquired by Pete from a roadie for The Black Crowes no less) and go see Cirque de Soleil quoting SWINGERS all along the way – “you’re so money!”

On a hotel room TV a scared Ben, tripping out of his mind on those Crowes roadie ‘shrooms, watches CHEAPER BY THE DOZEN (we see shots of Steve Martin running around surrounded by his kids’ wacky shenanagins) and remarks “He’s got 12 kids…that’s a lot of responsibility to be joking about. That’s not funny.”

When Ben starts getting his life together and moves out of what was essentially a clubhouse into a respectable apartment he replaces his framed Bob Marley smoking a big ass spleef poster (obviously pictured on the right) for a ETERNAL SUNSHINE OF THE SPOTLESS MIND poster which he hangs in the soon to be nursery.

Dr. Kuni (Ken Jeong) who delivers the baby angrily tells Ben in the hallway – “if you want a special experience go to a Jimmy Buffett concert!” In the bonus features there is a line-o-rama feature that has dozens of alternate lines for many scenes. There’s an amusing run with trying out variations on the Jimmy Buffett line – some examples: “go to Disneyland”, “go to freaking Busch Gardens”, “go to Korea”, and “go to my apartment, it’s phenomenal.”

Another run on the line-o-rama has Jonah Hill saying “Mr. Skin is like the Beatles and we’re like the Monkees” and “Mr. Skin is like Alec Baldwin and we’re like Billy Baldwin.”

The opening credits sequence shower scene from CARRIE is viewed by Ben and Allison for further fleshofthestars.com research.

Loudon Wainwright III plays Dr. Howard and also contributes the songs “Daughter”, “Grey In L.A.”, and “Lullaby” to the soundtrack.

One of the deleted scenes has Jonah spouting out a hilarious rant about BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN which he says “was made by, like, fuckin’ homophobes in my mind!” He drags MASTER AND COMMANDER and Bruce Willis’s full frontal in COLOR OF NIGHT down into his profanity filled diatribe.

Harold Ramis makes a nice (albeit too brief) showing as Ben’s father. He attempts to console his son in an extended scene with an Indiana Jones analogy – “So, he could be like little Indy and you could be Sean Connery.”
Ben: “Or, I could be the guy that got melted when he looked in the Ark.”

Uncredited cameos by obvious Apatow and Co. friends Steve Carrell, James Franco (plugging SPIDERMAN 3 which was released at the same time as KNOCKED UP and is mentioned several times), and Andy Dick are brief blips on the reference radar – helped by Heigl’s character being a reporter for E! Entertainment Television. That definitely hooked up the attitude-infused Ryan Seacrest appearance. Also swift bit parts from SNL‘s Kirsten Wiig and Bill Hader should be noted too.

Whew! That’s a lot of TRAINSPOTTING for one movie. I didn’t even mention the mentions of Robin Williams, Taxicab Confessions, Martin Scorsese, Cartman from South Park, Doc Brown from BACK TO THE FUTURE, Ben’s Mr. Bill T-shirt, Pete’s Tom Waits “Rain Dogs” T-shirt, Vince Vaughn, Matthew Fox from Lost, Fellicity Huffman from TRANSAMERICA, as well as Ben and gang’s posters of Pink Floyd, Hunter S. Thompson, and Fraggle Rock. Okay, now I ‘ve mentioned them.

There will be a test on all this so I hope you took good notes.

More later…

The Summer Of The So-So Sequel

“Gentlemen, I wash my hands of this weirdness.”
– Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN : AT WORLD’S END

Last week all them there critic folk dumped on SHREK THE THIRD, the week before that they dumped on PIRATES 3, before that they dumped all over SPIDERMAN 3 so I can’t wait for them to dump on OCEAN’S 13! Then stand back for what RUSH HOUR 3 has got coming!

Okay so sure these are products of franchise blockbuster seasonal thing, sure – but does movie medriocrity have to be so slickly blatant? I guess so – here goes :

PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN : AT WORLD’S END (Gore Verbinski, 2007)

Man I was dreading this. I was so indifferent to PIRATES 2 (informal short title) I didn’t post a review so this time out upon hearing it was just under 3 hours and word that it was another convoluted exercise in excess I was looking forward to it about as much as I was to a dental appointment (which incidently I had earlier the same day). Not to say the flick is a total waste – there is a fine cast of good actors (Depp, Bill Nighy, Stellen Skarsguard, Mackenzie Cook, etc.) who wade their way through the muck and provide some solid moments but woo-wee! All the lame jokes, un-affecting fight scenes, and pointless attempts at romaticizing map-mythology with supposed sacred artifacts holding eternal power just left me bombastically bored. I did however like the Keith Richards cameo (as Jack Sparrow’s father no less). I heard there was a bonus scene like the other PIRATES had after the credits but at the 2 hour 45 mark I was dying to get the hell out of the theater – bet you will be too.

So that’s the #1 movie in the country – now for the #6 movie (yep, how’s that for a seque?) :


WAITRESS (Dir. Adrienne Shelly, 2007) Keri Russell is Jenna, a small town waitress with an abusive asshole husband (Jeremy Sisto) who may as well be always clad in a wife-beater sleveless t-shirt. She escapes her miserable existence by dreaming of new pie recipes but that may be harder to do since she finds out she’s pregnant. Her fellow waitresses at the pie diner (Cheryl Hines and the director herself Adrienne Shelly) provide some solace – Hines with her wise-cracks – “good luck on your 5 minute date, don’t forget to wear a 5 minute condom!” and Shelly with her affable hang-dog quirkiness. None of this matters as much as Jenna’s new infatuation with her doctor (Nathan Fillion) who may just be who she’s looking for. Meanwhile Andy Griffith puts in a rare film performance as the cranky old diner owner who of course spews weary wisdom before gobbling down a piece of the plentiful pie. Funny without being cloying WAITRESS may have an ending that’s too pat but it achieves its “feel-good movie” goal and while I almost expected an announcer for the Lifetime channel to tell me what’s coming up next over the end credits I still smiled at the earnest effort.

Now as usual some new release DVD reviews. Dig in kids! :

FAY GRIM
(Dir. Hal Hartley, 2006) Hartley’s HENRY FOOL (1997) was one of the best independent movies of the 90’s. To make a follow-up (don’t want to call it a sequel) now comes off as one of the oddest decisions in recent film history. What’s odder is the film itself – a twisted, contrived, and frustrating series of espionage capers. That’s right Hartley took the unique absorbing picture he painted in FOOL and made it into a rote spy thriller. Parker Posey returns as the title character and again proves she can carry a movie – it’s just unfortunate it’s this meandering mumbo-jumbo.

It is nice to see Posey get back to her indie roots after such mainstream turns as YOU’VE GOT MAIL and SUPERMAN RETURNS – I just wish Hartley’s heart were more into it. After being told of Fool’s (Thomas Jay Ryan – who only appears briefly) death Fay makes a deal with an Agent Fulbright (Jeff Goldblum – who looks very tired) to get her brother Simon Grim (James Urbaniak) out of jail while she goes to Paris to retrieve the missing possibly world-threating confession journals of Fool’s. That’s all I’m going to write about the damn numbing plot. Action scenes are ham-fisted and mostly made up of freeze frame still shots and purposely not showing us the actual moments of impact. The result is we are not convinced and don’t care about what’s going on. I know I didn’t. I believe I need to re-watch HENRY FOOL to get the sour taste out of my mouth from this dim grim (sorry – couldn’t help it) mess.

THIEVES LIKE US (Robert Altman, 1974) Having been an Altman fan for most of my life I was very curious about this movie. It was never available on VHS and I never came across it on TV so it was just a title in a filmography in some random film guide I would pick up from time to time. It’s still glossed over in Altman’s Wikipedia entry the last time I checked. Curious because it comes from Altman’s most acclaimed and glorious period (the 70’s, stupid) – I mean its right smack between CALIFORNIA SPLIT and THE LONG GOODBYE so what was the hold-up? Even more curious is that it’s really good and should be more than just noted – it’s a movie to savor.

Just released by Paramount on DVD mere months after Altman’s death we can finally see Keith Carradine, John Schuck, and Bert Remsen play bank-robbing ex-felons in Mississippi in the 30’s. Hitting over 30 banks they build up quite a reputation as evidenced in the radio reports and newspaper headlines they grab. Along the way Carradine falls for Altman regular Shelley Duvall, Remsen marries a frumpy beautician, and Schuck gets drunker and drunker. The real meat on the plate here is the mundune every day life between the stick-ups where Coke bottles are clutched, bad jokes are told, and the notion of settling down is as daunting as the fear of being caught by the law. The only special feature on the DVD is a commentary recorded by Altman reportedly in the late 90’s but it’s the only extra it needs to have.

In my adventures in Altman appraisal since the great man’s death I’ve put together this handy list –

THE ROBERT ALTMAN REPORATORY COMPANY (or stock company as Ebert calls it) ROLE CALL :

For the most part I’ve stuck to his movies – the TANNER series and it’s follow-up being the only exceptions. Also this is far from complete – the noting of everyone who puts in a brief cameo or just walks by in THE PLAYER (’92) who is in another Altman movie would take all day – sorry Andie MacDowell and Peter Gallagher! I don’t ignore THE PLAYER (how can I?) but I tried to get the most relevant down. Stand up when your name is called thespians!

Rene Auberjonois (pictured left) – MASH (’70), BREWSTER McCLOUD (’70), McCABE & MRS. MILLER (’71), IMAGES (’72), THE PLAYER (as himself) : Sure he may be better known from TV gigs like Benson and STAR TREK : DEEP SPACE NINE but it’s his work during Altman’s great early ’70’s run especially as Father Mulcahy in MASH that put him on the movie map.
Ned Beatty NASHVILLE (’75), COOKIE’S FORTUNE (’99)
Karen Black
NASHVILLE, COME BACK TO THE FIVE AND DIME JIMMY DEAN JIMMY DEAN (’82)
Keith Carradine
McCABE & MRS. MILLER, THIEVES LIKE US, NASHVILLE
Geraldine Chaplin NASHVILLE, BUFFALO BILL AND THE INDIANS, A WEDDING (’78)
Bud Cort
(pictured on the right) – BREWSTER McCLOUD, MASH– Only 2 movies but what a 2 movies to make a mark in! Forget about Harold for a bit and give Cort his due! BREWSTER McCLOUD is sadly still unavailable on DVD but there is a rumored release set for later this year that I pray is not just a rumor.
Sandy DennisTHAT COLD DAY IN THE PARK (’69),COME BACK TO THE FIVE AND DIME JIMMY DEAN JIMMY DEAN
Paul DooleyA WEDDING, A PERFECT COUPLE (’79), HealtH (’80), POPEYE (’80), O.C. AND STIGGS (’85)
Robert Duvall
COUNTDOWN (’68) MASH, THE GINGERBREAD MAN (’98)
Shelley DuvallBREWSTER McCLOUD, McCABE & MRS. MILLER, THIEVES LIKE US, NASHVILLE, BUFFALO BILL AND THE INDIANS, 3 WOMEN, POPEYE
Henry GibsonTHE LONG GOODBYE (’73), NASHVILLE, A PERFECT COUPLE, HealtH
Elliot Gould MASH, THE LONG GOODBYE, NASHVILLE (as himself), THE PLAYER (as himself)
Sally Kellerman (above) – BREWSTER McCLOUD, MASH, THE PLAYER, PRET-A-PORTER (’94)
Lyle Lovett
THE PLAYER, SHORT CUTS (’93), PRET-A-PORTER, COOKIE’S FORTUNE (also had songs in DR. T & THE WOMEN-2000) : Lovett was creepily effective as the plain-clothed cop on Robbin’s back in THE PLAYER but you’ve really got to give it up for his crazed cake chef in SHORT CUTS.
Julianne Moore – SHORT CUTS, COOKIE’S FORTUNE


Michael MurphyCOUNTDOWN, THAT COLD DAY IN THE PARK, BREWSTER McCLOUD, MASH, McCABE & MRS. MILLER, KANSAS CITY (’96), (also the TV projects TANNER ’88 and TANNER ON TANNER) : Definitely one of Altman’s most reliable and solid players. Murphy has a handle on a particular late 20th century American male persona – polished and poised on the outside but in the inside a troubled tortured soul. Well used in the undeservably underrated Tanner series.
Paul Newman
BUFFALO BILL AND THE INDIANS, QUINTET
Bert RemsenTHIEVES LIKE US, BUFFALO BILL AND THE INDIANS, A WEDDING, THE PLAYER
Tim Robbins THE PLAYER, SHORT CUTS, PRET A PORTER
John Schuck (pictured on the right) – BREWSTER McCLOUD, MASH, McCABE & MRS. MILLER, THIEVES LIKE US : Speaking of under-rated, Schuck is a wonderful unsung character actor who added much to Altman’s golden age. However you may recognize him more if he had Klingon makeup on.
Tom Skerrit MASH, THIEVES LIKE US
Lily Tomlin (pictured left) – NASHVILLE, THE PLAYER (as herself) , SHORT CUTS, A PRAIRIE HOME COMPANION (’06) : One of the biggest comedy stars of the 70’s, Tomlin displayed her best acting under Altman’s tuteledge. For her to be happily on-hand for his last hurrah was a beautiful thing indeed.
Nina Van Pallandt – THE LONG GOODBYE, A WEDDING, QUINTET, O.C. AND STIGGS

More later…

5 Things Spiderman 3 Got Pretty RIGHT/5 Things It Got Drastically WRONG

Tommy (Michael Bowen): “Is this movie in 3-D?”
Randy (Nicholas Cage): “No, but your face is!”
VALLEY GIRL (Dir. Martha Coolidge, 1983)

While I’m still tallying up the answers from the big 80th post pop-quiz last time out I thought I’d get right on back to what this blog is all about – movie review babble. So yeah, I saw SPIDERMAN 3 (Dir. Sam Raimi, 2007). It’s been getting tremendous backlash – disses right and left – the New York Times calls it “aesthetically and conceptually wrung out” (Manohla Dargis 5/4/07) and many lament that the fun has gone out of the series and while I wouldn’t say that I do agree that it is indeed a mixed bag so here are:

5 Things SPIDERMAN 3 Got Pretty RIGHT:

1. Much better special effects: In 1 & 2 Spiderman (Tobey Maquire) web-slinging his way from building to building through the city looked video gamey and at times borderline absurd but now has a fluid graceful believability. Nice to see that the reportedely most expensive movie ever has its money up there on the screen.

2. The Sandman: Thomas Haden Church is beautifully cast as escaped felon Flint Marco who because he accidentally fell into an experimental particle physics site that molecularly binds him with sand he gets fantastical shape-shifting powers (though it’s not widely reported that kind of thing happens everyday y’know). Like all the villains in the franchise he’s really not evil deep down in his heart – he’s just computer generated that way.

3. The Black Suit: Yep shiny goth Spidey looks pretty cool. That was evident in the trailers from a year ago though – sorry I’ll save the cons for now. And no – I’m not gonna copy ‘n paste that same ole brooding SPIDERMAN in “the thinker” pose picture and post it here.

4. Venom: Though only named in the credits – a satisfyingly scary villain (especially when he grits his teeth) albeit in a movie with one villain too many – damn I said I’d save the cons and there I went again. Anyway since the other half of this element is covered in the cons I’ll just say this – Venom has bite.

5. The obligatory yet hugely satisfying Stan Lee and Bruce Campbell cameos: Appropriately cheesy Spiderman creator Stan Lee’s quick pep-talk appearance to a battered soul-fried Parker hits the spot – “You know, I guess one person really can make a difference…”. You tell him Marvel Man! And wouldn’t we all feel cheated if we didn’t get Bruce Campbell for the third time to cameo? His pretentious French Maitre d’ may not have anything on John Cleese in MONTY PYTHON’S THE MEANING OF LIFE but in this film it’s one of the only bits of comedy that worked – “I love romance. I am French.” Now to let the disses truly fly:

5 Things SPIDERMAN 3 Got Drastically WRONG :

1. J.K. Simmons : As newspaper editor J. Jonah Jameson Simmons was dead on in the first 2 installments but here his fast talking manipulative schtick is tired, unfunny and most sadly he only annoys the audience every time he appears. Maybe it was that Simpsons appearance from last season – “stop the presses, send my wife some flowers, get me an Advil – what do you mean you don’t work for me? You’re hired! Now that you’re hired you’re fired. Now that you don’t work here we can be friends – now that we’re friends how come you don’t call? Some friend you are!” I guess once the Simpsons has got you down your gig is up.

2. The Harry Osbourn(James Franco) Amnesia Plot : As a writer I always dislike the “he lost his memory” plotline that has been a longtime cheat of sitcoms, – Hell it made me swear off the show 24 forever. It’s such lazy screenwriting to have Harry conveniently have his recent revenge fueled memory erased after such an unimpressive alleyway tussle with our hero.

3. Kirsten Dunst Sings 2 Songs – Yes, I know it’s from the original comic that Mary Jane Watson is an aspiring actress – a wannabe Broadway singing star but nobody and I mean nobody was buying a ticket to see her warble through 2 complete numbers. Show stoppers in the worst way.

4. The Extended Black Gunk From Outer Space Turns Peter Parker Into An Asshole Sequence. Yes the black suit looks cool as I noted above but the gunk which is an alien symbiote coming from a small meteorite that attaches itself to Spidey’s suit just brings out the jerk in Parker. Looking like strands of Twistler’s candy dipped in tar – the ooze infiltrates Peter’s nice guy mentality and promptly makes him strut around Manhattan with an entitled atitude like Jim Carrey from BRUCE ALMIGHTY. This whole bit should have been a deleted scene.

5. Topher Grace/ The Overall Bloat : I loop these together because as scary cool as Venom was and maybe that was because it’s the only less-is-more element here – the entire Topher Grace origins of the character are lame, it comes in way too late in the story to have proper impact and Grace’s overall smarm kill his time on screen. The 2 and a half hour flick is crammed with too many incidental characters and go nowhere plot threads as it is – I mean do we seriously need a scene of Franco and Dunst making an omelet and repeated appearances by Peter’s landlord and daughter Ursula? I mean do we really?! And did I mention Kirsten Dunst sings 2 songs?!!?

Okay good to get that out of my system. Now on with another movie I saw on the big screen since my last post:

BLACK BOOK (Dir. Paul Verhoven, 2007) Verhoven’s first movie in 6 years is a far cry from the glib futuristic satire of ROBOCOP (1987) and definitely more than just timezones away from the glib psycho sexual trash thriller BASIC INSTINCT (1992). Rachel Stein (Carice Van Houten) hides from Nazi’s in 1944 Netherlands hiding her Jewish-ness under a blond curly dye-job and behind her charm which is the sole saving grace of this tedious over-stated film.

Van Houten is a former singer (and she does sing beautifully in the only scenes that register emotion) who becomes embroiled in a plot by the resistance to infiltrate the SD (Sicherheitsdienst-Security Service) office run by officer Ludwig Mntze (Sebastian Koch) who is apparently a lovable Nazi (one that the movie stresses isn’t as bad as the other cold blooded less attractive Nazis)therefore she falls for him. The plot thickens when members of the resistance may be as untrustworthy as their enemy. After one wades through all the supposedely purposeful unpleasantness symbolized by the bucket of shit (yes I do mean an actual bucket of shit) that’s poured on top of Stein and all the close calls and near-scrapes with Nazis it’s hard to care who double crossed who and for what purpose. With an almost complete lack of directorial style and affecting acting edge in an almost CATCH 22 way – it’s impressive at how unimpressive BLACK BOOK is.

More later…

Keeping Our Fingers Crossed – Movies To Look Forward To In 2007

“I do not understand this compulsion of mine for seeing movies, it almost seems as if movies are ‘in my blood’”
– Ignatious Reilly (from the novel Confederacy Of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole)


Hey kids – here’s some things to look forward to (and get our hopes too WAY up for) in 2007:

THE SIMPSONS MOVIE (Dir. David Silverman) – Yep, I know there are a lot of cynics out there ragging on the alleged declining quality of the show and forecasting the worst for this long awaited project but I’m a hardcore fan of the Simpsons and I love the trailers and animatics clips that have leaked out and I’m psyched as Hell because of statements like these :

“Since 2001 we’d been working to get a script that would be worthy of people actually paying to see the Simpsons” – Matt Groening (Simpsons Creator and Guru)

“I can absolutely guarantee that this film will far exceed the wildest expectations of every Simpsons fan. Start lining up at the theater now, preferably in costume.” – Al Jean (Simpsons Executive producer)

So there’s that and the promised guest appearances of Albert Brooks, Joe Mantegna, and Kelsey Grammer (of course as Sideshow Bob) I’m pretty damn confident that this won’t be a big “D’oh!”

I’M NOT THERE (Dir. Todd Haynes) – Yep, I know that this movie looks weird – I mean that’s Cate Blanchett there as Bob Dylan during his ‘goes electric’ phase. So 6 different people (Blanchett, Christian Bale, Marcus Carl Franklin, Richard Gere, Heath Ledger, and Ben Whishaw) all act as Dylan throughout the various stages of his life – a trippy narrative professedly in the spirit of Bob’s most surreal songs. Many a cynic are already protestin’ but I’m a hardcore fan of Dylan’s …oh wait I already played that hand. I’ll just say that I’ll be there for this movie’s opening and at the very least it shall be interesting.

SPIDERMAN 3 (Sam Raimi) – The trailers are dark, very dark with Spidey (Tobey Maguire again) in a black tar like parasitic suit. With Topher Grace and Thomas Haden Church joining on – who so totally (okay I’m going to refrain from italics the rest of this post) look to fit seemlessly into the Spiderman world. Not sure what exactly is happening plotwise in this one but an operatic spooky trilogy-concluder looks pretty assured.

BE KIND REWIND (Michel Gondry) – The Plot outline as presented on IMDb :

“A man (Jack Black) whose brain becomes magnetized unintentionally destroys every tape in his friend’s video store. In order to satisfy the store’s most loyal renter, an aging woman with signs of dementia, the two men set out to remake the lost films, which include Back to the Future, The Lion King, and Robocop.”

On the IMDB message board someone by the handle of iloveduckie asks – “am i the only one who thinks this sounds awesome?” No you certainly aren’t.

INDIANA JONES AND THE RAVAGES OF TIME
AKA INDIANA JONES 4 (Dir. Steven Speilberg) – Can this really be happening? I mean Harrison Ford is 65 and the series seemed nicely tidied up with LAST CRUSADE (1989 – that’s right 18 years ago!). Well come to think of it Ford still has the rugged deal goin’ on and the promise of the return of Sean Connery, Karen Allen, and John Rhys-Davies (Sallah) does sweeten the deal. Still I know I’m not alone in praying those guys know what they’re doing.

FILM BABBLE BLOG DVD PICK OF THE MONTH:

WHEN THE LEVEES BROKE – A REQUIEM IN
FOUR ACTS
(Dir. Spike Lee – HBO with a limited theatrical release, 2006) – More than halfway through watching this I half-assedely remarked to a friend over the instant messenger that it was “essentially a 4 hour version of Kanye West’s famous quote”. * After watching the deal in it’s entireity I must say that was a cheap statement on my part. A glib crappy sound-bite like quote like that might be acceptable from Entertainment Weekly or MediaMaggot but not from FILMBABBLE – yes, that’s right I do have standards of some sort. Ill-defined as they are.

WTLB is a powerful heart breaking work that floors me over and over. It’s great that there’s no Michael Moore agenda setting narration from Lee – he just lets the citizens and officials speak (and do they speak) about the injustices done from the non-preparation and the non-reaction to Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans. In addition to material he filmed from September 2005 shortly after the flood onward – Lee Utilises coverage from all the major networks, CNN & other cable outlets, police camera footage, text from bloggers, home made videos, BBC (in the commentary Lee exclaims “why was this story on the BBC? We weren’t seeing this in the States!”) and every other source you could think of. If you think this is biased – man, I ‘d like to see what someone would put up as a 4 hour counter-point. Actually, no. I wouldn’t like that prospect at all.

* If you have to ask what Kanye’s 7 word remark after Katrina is maybe you shouldn’t be reading this blog.

More later…