Saturday, July 29, 2006

Elisha Cuthbert: Don't Look at My Boobies

My girlfriend is in lust with Elisha Cuthbert. Every so often, there's one of those starlets who comes along and gets Becca all hot and bothered. They almost always disappear eventually because, let's face it, they aren't very talented and they aren't willing to accept their place in the grand scheme of American filmmaking. Mena Suvari, for example, thought she was a much more capable actress than she actually was. Shannon Elizabeth, whom Becca really adored, made the cardinal mistake: she used nudity to get into the public consciousness, and then adamantly refused to take her clothes off any longer. Bait-and-switch, never good. And now, Elisha Cuthbert, the girl who managed to play a porn star in The Girl Next Door without ever once taking off her clothes, is making a big deal about how she's just too damn good to take her clothes off for anything.

Oh, here we go.

How many times can I say this: if you can't act with special effects, if you can't act with puppets, and if you're afraid to take off your clothes, you are not an actor. You're just not. You have no imagination, so what's the point? Acting is making the unreal seem real. It's not worrying about how you look on camera, or if your grandma might see your tits. You're supposed to be playing a role, not playing dress-up. I'm sorry, but if you're afraid of nudity, puppets, special effects, or being unlikable (another stupid one Harrison Ford, for example, falls back on), or what your fans will think (Hilary Duff!), then you are not an actor. You're just playing at being one. Unsuccessfully, I might add.

Here's a conversation Becca and I had last night about her new little dreamgirl:

ME: So, haven't you, like, just started to hate Elisha Cuthbert a little bit for the nudity thing?

BECCA: No. It's her choice. All that's happened is that there was a rumor she would be posing for Playboy, and she said she wasn't going to. That's it.

ME: No, that's not it. She was doing the whole "I won't do nudity unless it's important for the role" bullshit. Like nudity is ever integral; everything that happens in a movie is completely gratuitous, anyway.

BECCA: Well, that's her choice. I mean, yeah, it's dumb to say you won't do nudity in your career, but that's not what she said.

ME: She said, and this is the star of The Girl Next Door, which is a completely dishonest movie about pornography, that she didn't think nudity was necessary. She also said: "I feel I give a lot to the public and there's a few things in my life right now that I'd like to keep to myself--my breasts being one of them." Which is ungrammatical, but you get the point. I don't even know why this bitch is famous except for being hot.

BECCA: Well, it's not like she's taking roles that require nudity and then refusing to do it. That's hypocritical, and I hate it when women do that. That I have no respect for.

ME: But, dude, you can't tell me you aren't starting to find it impossible to respect for saying something so stupid.

BECCA: I don't have the problem with it you do. She shouldn't take roles that require nudity, but she shouldn't use body doubles, either.

ME: She uses body doubles now.

BECCA:... Okay, that's just stupid.

Either way, Elisha Cuthbert has yet to do anything with her attempts at acting that impresses anyone, so we'll see how she feels about whipping her top off when she's hit 30 and is stuck on sitcoms, like Shannon Elizabeth is. Elisha Cuthbert absolutely does not want you to see her nipples.

Another Suri Cruise Sighting

I'm not a hundred percent sure why I keep harping on this bullshit. Maybe it's because I hate the attempts of "religious" organizations to fool the public, and this Suri Cruise thing has the festering rot of scientology all over it. Anyway, now Jada Pinkett Smith is claiming that she and Will were invited over to Tom & Katie's to see the baby. Doesn't that sound weird? Can you even imagine Tom and Katie really living together? I don't even buy that.

Anyway, Jada gushes to People magazine: "She's one of the sweetest babies I've ever met in my life. She's an absolute beauty and she's Daddy's little girl." She goes on to burble: "She's beautiful and they're very happy and they need to be left alone. She's the cutest little baby. She's got a head full of black, beautiful hair."

Okay, despite her defensive tone (which is a little presumptuous, I think), it does sound more natural than Leah Remini's comment from a few weeks ago. But at the same time, People magazine isn't exactly Newsweek, and you know this is just some item that was planted in one of their tiny little fake news sections. And is that a warning? "They need to be left alone." Alright, well, let's pack up the cameras and give them their privacy, boys.

I don't really consider the source reliable, either, because after starring in those freaky Gnostic techno opera Matrix movies, Jada seems a little freaky to me. And there's been a rumor for a long time now that Tom Cruise convinced Will Smith to convert to scientology. So, just like Leah Remini, this is another scientology-tainted connection; anyone being cared for by the "church" has a reason to perpetuate this lie. Don't trust them.

I'll ask again: why has no one in the public seen this baby? Fuck, we've seen Michael Jackson's kids, and that guy is actually freakier and more reclusive than Tom Cruise. Why the lie? Why this stupid, stupid, stupid, stupid hoax? What is the fucking point of all this?

BBC America and Hex

I liked Hex. Several weeks ago, I watched the first episode of Hex on BBC America and said that I hoped the rest of the show would be good. And, so far, it has been. I have some problems with the undeteriminable mythology of the show (example: if Thelma is a ghost, why can't she touch Cassie when she can touch absolutely everything else and even eat?), but I've really enjoyed it. I like the show, and I like some of the characters; let me tell you, I'm glad they brought Ella Dee in to round it out a bit, because I'm in love with Thelma Bates:
Played by the lovely Jemima Rooper, Thelma has been my favorite character in the whole thing. The poor girl's in love with the main character, Cassie Hughes, but she spent a lot of the first episodes being treated like utter crap for it, which I really didn't like. In the second series, Thelma finally changed her clothes and got a much nicer haircut, and she just looks gorgeous. She's a great character.

But anyway, my major gripe is with the way the show is being aired in America. Since the British are much more intelligent about the way a show is produced and aired (not, for example, sticking to a lockstep 22-episode season for upwards of 10 years just to sell shit, despite how much room a story really needs), programs air differently in England. The first series of Hex, which originally aired in late 2004, was only five episodes. They told a decent, self-contained story, which ended with a twist that provided a window for a second series. The second series, which aired last year, is 13 episodes, making for eighteen total episodes of Hex. Now, when that twist came out on episode 5, and then the show was on again the next week, my first thought was: "Cool, they're actually going to show all 18 episodes in a row!" But now it's come to my attention that they're airing next week's episode as a "Season Finale," and that's what rubs me the wrong way.

You'd have to be a bit unobservant not to notice that we're into the second series now. There are changes between episode 5 and series 2, episode 1: Thelma is thinner, Cassie is heavier, her child is older, the character Gemma has disappeared completely, and the first episode actually makes reference to this being a new school year. This week's episode was series 2, episode 3. Which means they've decided to just stop airing the show after series 2, episode 4, less than halfway through the second series, creating a fake "finale" after airing 9 episodes (half the total). What the shit is that? Am I the only one annoyed by this? Airing only the first series would've been one thing. It's supposed to break there. But literally cutting out in the middle of a series and pretending it's supposed to end there? Fuck you, BBC America. I want to see the end of the series; it's been pretty damn good for what it is.

This is a real BBC America thing. For example, after years of pining, I finally got to see Simon Pegg's brilliant series Spaced. But they decided to air only six of the seven episodes of the first series; for some reason, they completely skipped over episode 2. And are they even going to air the second series? Things like this make it so hard for me to trust BBC America.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Throwdown Extras

Well, I do my Throwdown, and then more news gets added to the celebrity pile-up we call pop culture. So, here's a couple of add-ons that hadn't happened when I did my post earlier today.

First off, Mel Gibson got arrested for drunk driving. I guess, since God helps him do everything, the almighty one gave Mel a hand getting drunk and driving off onto the road. Well done, Mel. Well done.

Second, I have some Harry Potter-related news. The first is just annoying; Warner Brothers is going to be taking a page out of Disney's book and are going to take the first three films--Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, and Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban--out of circulation come December. I guess this will pave the way for "Even Specialer Editions" in the future, but it seems like a shitty thing to do to make product unavailable to fans. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire will go on hiatus in February. Once again (just like with YouTube), WB makes the wrong decision in regards to its fans.

The second Harry Potter story: Becca's dreams are coming closer to fruition. Daniel Radcliffe is going to be dropping his kit onstage. Yes, the boy who lived will be waving his other wand on the West End in a production of Peter Shaffer's Equus. I can hear her saving money for a ticket to London now... Becca.

And finally, it's back to Lindsay Lohan, the girl I'm not supposed to be talking about anymore. But it's hard not to when she keeps doing such incredibly stupid things, and I admit I'm just vengeful enough and full of enough hatred to really, really want her to go down in flames (instead of going down the way she usually does). First, there were the revelations of her rude behavior during her 20th birthday party celebration at Disneyland. Then there was the latest collapse and hospitalization from "heat exhaustion." And then... well, this is my favorite.

It's a letter from James G. Robinson, the head of Morgan Creek, the production company producing Lohan's latest movie, Georgia Rule. Read it. Seriously, read it. Finally, someone calls Lindsay on her shit and tells her to act like a grown-up.

Wait, what's that sound? It sounds like a plane crashing and burning... or something crashing and burning. What could it be?

I Hate/Love Jessica Simpson's Video

I love Jessica's new single "A Public Affair" (fun, bouncy pastiche of Madonna) but the video is disturbingly lame (seriously, Andy Dick?), but in my humble opinion, Jessica has only had two videos that were really any good. The real fun for me is watching Jess hot around in shorts and roller skate. I remember going to the roller rink when I was a kid, and once again Jessica takes another of the things I associate with a happier time and makes it fucking sexy, with the wind pushing her hair back in wings. She continues to be the Queen of My Heart, because she just seems to unconsciously, coincidentally know what is going to totally do it for me. Now if she would just dress up like Sheena or Supergirl in the next video... Posted by Picasa

Is It Just Me, or Is This Asinine?

Dude, they make fun of you as a kid for wearing braces, and now the cool thing to do is to make yourself look like you're wearing braces made of diamonds? Wow, despite its unequal distribution of wealth, or country really, really does have too much money. Why do other nations hate us, again? Posted by Picasa

Throwdown 7/28

15 random thoughts, questions, and observations for the week.

1. I’ve been noticing in a lot of rap videos that no one is ever doing anything more strenuous than sitting down (slumped) or standing stock still and moving, like, half of their arms. Man, why are rappers so out of shape? Jay-Z appears in the new Beyonce video, and even when he stands he’s leaning up against a wall. How am I supposed to believe that these idiots are “soldiers” if they look like they can’t hold anything heavier than a burrito, and get winded sitting up straight?

2. So, doesn’t the records-breaking success of Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest kind of undercut last year’s mewling that video piracy was undercutting the film business? How come nobody’s reporting on that story? I mean, this proves what we were all saying last summer: if you give people something that looks like it’s worth paying for, they’ll pay for it. Nope, not a single mention of video pirates this summer.

3. Actually, here’s a mention of piracy that has me all xazzed. Shawn Hogan, the CEO of Digital Point Solutions, is being charged with the MPAA for allegedly downloading a copy of Meet the Fockers. Hogan denies the charges. This is a smart guy; when the MPAA offered to settle the case for $2500, he did some research and discovered not a single of the hundreds of MPAA piracy lawsuits has gone to trial. Hogan’s feeling is that the MPAA is abusing the system to basically extort money from people, and has vowed to spend millions fighting this lawsuit. I never thought I’d say this about a CEO, but I really respect his attitude. I hope he breaks the whole fucking MPAA.

4. How can VH1’s badly-scheduled The World Series of Pop Culture really be the world series when it’s only Americans talking about American pop culture? Fucking elitist VH1.

5. The ratings for the Miss Universe contest were their lowest ever last week. To be honest, I didn’t know they were still doing that. If this is Miss Universe, where are the contestants from other planets? Fucking elitist Miss Universe.

6. Well, Gillian Anderson is pregnant. Remember Gillian Anderson, from years ago? Man, some chick gets pregnant and we’re all supposed to suddenly start caring about Gillian Anderson again? And Christie Brinkley, for that matter? Hey, how’s the guy who made the funny noises in the Police Academy movies doing these days?

7. It’s kind of funny to me that yesterday I said Lindsay Lohan was dead to me, and then I find out she was in the hospital for heatstroke and her usual “exhaustion.” Boy, she sure gets exhausted a lot, he said sarcastically. Dude, if she works hard enough to end up in the hospital this many times a year, why isn’t she more successful? Hey, I’ve heard from a number of sources that several media outlets have her obituary ready to go because they expect her to die at any minute. Just like they did with Bob Hope. When he was in his eighties.

8. People who work on Ghost Whisperer are claiming that ghosts hang around on the set now. Note to loved ones: if you can find a way to communicate with me after death, please don’t choose some kind of shitty actor to do so. Have a little dignity.

9. Lance Bass came forward and admitted he was gay. I’m sorry, was that supposed to have been a secret? Yeah, way to keep that under wraps. Anyway, I hear the sun is rising in the east now.

10. Ron Clements and John Musker, the pair who directed The Great Mouse Detective, The Little Mermaid, Aladdin, Hercules, and Treasure Planet before being unceremoniously dismissed by Disney, are triumphantly returning. Now that John Lasseter is running things in Feature Animation, he’s making good on his promise to revive traditional cel animation by hiring Ron ‘n’ John to make The Frog Princess in glorious 2D animation. At last, news out of Disney that makes me happy.

11. I see that Jancee Dunn has a new book out where, according to VH1, she “dishes celeb dirt” and talks about “her crazy celebrity encounters.” Great. Sounds quite droll. Who the fuck is Jancee Dunn? Why is it assumed I’m supposed to know and care who everyone is?

12. I guess it’s cool that Heath Ledger may be cast as the Joker in the sequel to Batman Begins. He’s a good actor, although I’m surprised they went that young. It cracks me up, though, when the filmmakers say they wanted someone roughly as young as the 32 year-old Christian Bale as their excuse for not hiring Paul Bettany; Bettany is three years older than Bale, while Ledger is five years younger. Not that Bettany would have been a good idea, he mostly sucks. I still think Crispin Glover would’ve been perfect.

13. The IMDb is reporting that Vin Diesel and Maria Menounos are dating. Who the hell is Maria Menounos? For that matter, who the hell is Vin Diesel? And who the hell cares?

14. Pamela Anderson is going to marry Kid Rock in four different ceremonies. I don’t know what’s funnier: the fact that this is all an immense waste of time for a marriage that will probably last less than a year, or the fact that anyone still gives a shit about Pamela Anderson’s lust for the attention of the world. Hasn’t she outlived her usefulness, or is she going to pose for Playboy one more time?

15. It looks like Warner Brothers is seriously reconsidering even doing a sequel to Superman Returns, since the movie is doing so badly at the box office and cost a hell of a lot of money. Bryan Singer says: “Now that the character is established, I’d like to take the opportunity to bring in a more threatening element.” What a fucking spineless douche bag. Seriously, now that character is established? Here are my two problems with that statement. First off, the character has been established for the last 78 years, not only in comic books but in many TV series, movies, and cartoons. Has there been a point in the last 20 years when there hasn’t been some form of Superman TV show? Superman: The Animated Series was on about the same time as Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman, and the animated series spun right into Justice League and there’s Smallville at the same time. Yeah, I’d say the character has been firmly established. The second problem I have with Singer’s statement is the same problem I’ve been seeing in a lot of franchise movies: they waste the first movie trying to set up a series of other movies, instead of making something entertaining. I have not heard a single person say “Superman Returns kicks ass!” Instead, I always hear “Superman Returns was pretty good” followed by a laundry list of problems with the story, the actors, etc. If Singer had had the backbone to actually craft a decent movie instead of callously, smugly assuming that he could cut loose in the sequel, there wouldn’t be a question about it now. Does he really think it takes someone as mediocre as himself to "establish" Superman for the world?

Thursday, July 27, 2006


This is one of a series of horrible pictures Lindsay Lohan posed for because, apparently, she felt the one thing missing from her career goal was the kind of pictures girls take to tease people onto their amateur porn sites. Seriously, I'm looking at this picture and thinking there should be a caption that reads: Free 3-day Trial, Click Here! And I realized that, deep down inside, I've been holding onto a thin shred of hope for the last couple of years that Lindsay would get it together, remember how talented she was, gain some self-respect, and move on with a real career again. But you and I both know it just isn't going to happen. So I'm done with her now, for good. I'm sick of seeing her slut around, I'm sick of seeing her get in fights with other worthless chicks, and I'm fucking tired of seeing her in pictures with smug guys who look at her with the self-assurance with which one looks at an unresisting sex toy. As far as I'm concerned, the bitch died. I have the one good album. I have the three good movies. It was nice while it lasted, but after all of the hype and the years of not remotely living up to it, I'm moving on. Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Choose Your Own Adventure

When I was a kid, one of my favorite pastimes was reading Choose Your Own Adventure books. As a voracious reader, I drifted towards adventure and fantasy, but the great thing about the Choose Your Own Adventure series was the interactive nature of it. YOU were the hero (the books were written in the second person), and YOU had to make decisions when it came to the crossroads. Most of the time, I ended up dying a horrible death, but that was part of the fun; just go back to the beginning and make a different choice, and you're off on a completely different adventure. In the days of 8-bit video game graphics and the accusations of Satanism in Dungeons & Dragons, these imagination-capturing books were the perfect role-playing game.

Goldhil Entertainment has hit upon the idea of transfering the experience into the digital age with a new series of Choose Your Own Adventure DVDs. The first of these, The Abominable Snowman (based on the first book in the original series, which incidentally was my favorite one of them as a child), hit stores yesterday, and I have to say I'm impressed with it. They've taken the format and turned it into an animated adventure; you lose the second person experience, but the interactivity is still there. It begins with Benjamin, Crista, and Marco, three kids who go on an adventure in the Himalayas to find their missing Uncle Rudy, an explorer looking for the Yeti. The viewer must make one choice after the other to help them on their quest, picking from over 11 possible storylines that lead either to peril (mostly offscreen, of course) or to success. Of course, the whole point of Choose Your Own Adventure was not just to tell a fun story, but to teach children the consequences of good (or bad) decision-making. I made a couple of bad decisions along the way of this adventure, but the DVD is set up so that you can go back and make a different one and further your own story.

Goldhil Entertainment has really gone all-out with this, too. The animation is surprisingly good for something direct-to-video, and shows in a 1.85:1 widescreen format with 5.1 sound. William H. Macy voices Uncle Rudy, while Frankie Muniz, Lacey Chabert, and Daryl Sabara (from Spy Kids) play the children. Felicity Huffman, Mark Hamill, and Phil La Marr also appear. There's an interesting documentary included as a bonus feature: In the Shadows of the Himalayas: How People Live in Nepal. Goldhil means for these to be educational without skimping on entertainment, and without being so obvious about it.

I think it's fun stuff for kids. There's a website here with a preview and some more information about it.

Film Week

A review of the films I've seen this past week.

Interesting BBC movie featuring Rupert Everett as Holmes and Ian Hart as Watson. This is set in a kind of combination Victorian/Edwardian pre-World War I England, with Watson set to marry an American psychologist and Holmes in th grip of his drug addiction. Much has been made fictionally of Holmes's narcotic use, but here (as in many other productions) it doesn't come to anything to do with the plot; Holmes can only be so subject to human frailties, I suppose. Everett makes a very good and focused Holmes, trying to solve the case of a child murderer with a bizarre foot fetish. The symbolism goes a little overboard in this one, and the plot pulls out twist upon twist, but as with many films about Sherlock Holmes, it all comes down to how good the lead actor is, and Everett is quite good. An enjoyable movie. To be honest, I'm surprised that somebody hasn't really put money into a new series of Sherlock Holmes movies; that forensic shit is so popular these days. *** stars.

Lasse Halstrom directs an incredibly shitty movie--what a surprise. Casanova fan fiction written by women who obviously don't understand men and how they relate to sex, nor feminism and how it related to Venice during the Spanish Inquisition. A true annoyance; a cutesy, mannered romance film that is supposed to be funny but is almost willfully umimaginitive and aggressively mediocre. 1/2*, but only because Heath Ledger is good in the lead; I'd like to see him play Giacomo Casanova in a movie that was worth seeing. Will there never be a good movie about Casanova?

One of the shittiest movies ever made. This is an Oscar Wilde play, why treat it like a shitty Noel Coward play? Too precious and irritating, it totally wastes Colin Firth, Rupert Everett, and Judi Dench. Even the idea of casting Reese Witherspoon as a British society girl is laughable. No stars.

George Stevens's adaptation of Dreiser's An American Tragedy is gripping and dramatic. Montgomery Clift had one of his better roles as a man who screws around with one woman (Shelly Winters, whiny) and falls in love with a better one (Elizabeth Taylor, perfection). Will he murder his pregnant girlfriend in order to marry the woman who represents everything he wants? The stark and unflinching quality is especially gripping; Stevens doesn't turn away from the unpleasantness inherent in most of the characters, including the ones we're supposed to feel sympathy for. Excellent filmmaking. **** stars.

As a statement of passion, sacrifice, and fervent belief, Carl Theodor Dreyer's stunning film renders every other film about Joan of Arc redundant and irrelevant. Telling the story about how the Church which later affirmed her sainthood destroyed Joan, lest she become a symbol of the power of people to interact on their own with the divine, Dreyer shoots mostly in close-ups. His decision to not let the actors wear makeup is an interesting one; it provides a harrowing realism. Maria Falconetti, as Joan, appears in her only film role; she plays the Maid of Orleans with such intensity and such unflagging fervor that it becomes heartbreaking to watch as she is railroaded as quickly as possible to the fire. It doesn't matter if she really spoke to God; what matters is the strength of her belief that she did. **** stars.

VAMPYR (1932)
Dreyer's thriller is powerful on atmosphere and creepiness, but weak on story. It understands horror and the supernatural in only the way a Dutch filmmaker can, though, doing a much better job than the Universal films of the time in creating a lingering terror and paranoia. An interesting film, *** stars.

MICHAEL (1924)
Dreyer again, this time telling the story of an artist who falls in love with his male model, Michael. The model, however, is in love with a princess. That's pretty much the whole plot, but the way the story unfolds and the emotions it brings up are the real point of the movie. A surprisingly sensitive and serious treatment of homosexual feelings. ***1/2 stars.

A Disney Channel movie with the Panabakers. I love Kay Panabaker; I thought she was hilarious on Phil of the Future, and I liked her here, too. Her sister, Danielle, is also good. But the implied message of this movie is something I can't get behind. It's about a girl who writes stories in her journal about her high school and how much she hates it; she's created an alter ego with magical powers called Is (rendered her by Danielle), and when part of her journal is accidentally printed, it becomes popular and wins an award. So she publishes the entire thing as a novel, and it does incredibly well. And all the time, she becomes more successful and starts to change, and we get the predictable unfolding of the plot, where her friends don't know her anymore, blah blah blah. Much like the disappointing ending of The Devil Wears Prada, we have another movie where the message is Women shouldn't try to become successful, because not only is it futile, but it will ruin the lives of everyone around you. Is this really a message the Disney Channel, whose major audience is tween girls, wants to send out? Just three years ago Hilary Duff was changing her world and gaining self-confidence and self-respect in The Lizzie McGuire Movie; now Disney wants them to not even bother to try, but instead to maintain the status quo, not reach too far for things they want, and let other people tell them what to be. Nice, Disney. ** stars. A real disappointment.

I said I was going to skip this one, but the reviews kept using magical names from my childhood for comparison: Explorers. Gremlins. The Goonies. Poltergeist. And it made me want to see the damn thing. And really, I'm glad I went; this film is surprisingly great. The comparisons to earlier good films (back when Spielberg and Zemeckis used to make good films) is totally apt. In short, it's a movie about a house that is haunted to the point where the house comes to life; and, of course, it's up to three plucky suburban kids to save the neighborhood from peril. It doesn't get any more complicated than that, really, but it tells the story with such conviction that it really sucks you in. As for the computer animation, it's actually very, very good. So good that it looks like stop motion; there's a physical reality to it that has weight and depth to it. Maybe computer animation is finally catching up to the ambition; this is the first non-Pixar movie that didn't look like bad video game graphics to me. Though the trailers try to force a comparison with Tim Burton, Tim Burton has never made a film this good; he's too arch, he holds back too much. This is a film for those of us who grew up on Halloween and Amazing Stories, who knew why you didn't feed Mogwai after midnight, really believed you could build a space ship out a Tilt-O-Whirl, wanted to find a map to buried pirate gold, and wondered if you could get pulled into the television when stations still went off the air for the night. And who really cared about all of that before the cynicism of the teenage years set in. I loved it. **** stars. My only complaint is that it's late July, and this is a perfect Halloween movie.

CLERKS II (2006)
I have a real love-hate relationship with Kevin Smith. On the one hand, he's a self-important dick who can't ever meet a deadline and is so quick to sell out that he's become his own collectibles industry. On the other hand, I always love his films and comic books. I still identify with his work, and I'm just at the tail end of the generation that really gets Smith, that sees him (many of us) as the perfect spokesman for our feelings of unfulfilled aimlessness. The slacker genre came to perfect fruition 12 years ago with Clerks, and I can still remember the experience of seeing it for the first time, of bringing it home from the video store and feeling like, finally, there was a filmmaker who really, really knew me, who really got it, who really felt it. And through all of his films, I've felt the same way. Sure, they're arch and over the top, but in the same way that the movies we saw as kids were arch and over the top. He uses the vocabulary of those films to examine his motivations, his feelings, and, in some small way, speaks for us, too. His films haven't been perfect, but we can see enough of ourselves in them to really embrace them. The problem in recent years has been a crisis of confidence, as I see it. Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back played too much to his audience, trying to tie together the films, comic books, and animated series of Clerks in all of their outlandishness. He tried too hard and made his weakest film. With Jersey Girl, he tried too hard to move on, creating a heavy-handed and unconvincing film that, while enjoyable, felt like he was protesting too much that he had anything left to say about being young. Clerks II provides the perfect coda to the slacker genre. Smith revisits Dante and Randal and finds them exactly the same; that night a decade ago that should have been the revelatory wake-up call was, of course, not, and they ended up working at the Quick Stop until the place burned down. Now they're underemployed at a corporate fast food hellhole, stuck in a slightly different rut but still going nowhere. It's immediately recognizable to a lot of us, and I found myself chuckling with sad familiarity when Randal talks about the importance of a round of go-carting: "It reminds me of a time when the whole world was in front of us. Before it got behind us." All the things Jersey Girl should have been about--the pull of family life, the desire to make sense of our purpose when we hit thirty, the inevitability of responsibility, the way we all fall for the idea of "getting out" and "making it"--form together here without any trace of self-importance or preachiness. And even better, Smith still has time for scenes like the sudden dance break to "ABC" that allow him to revel in the joy of filmmaking. I just liked this movie so goddamn much. In the end, Randal and Dante find themselves in the same place they've always been--but this time, on their own terms. And maybe that's what we should all really want from life; happiness, on our own terms. **** stars. Smith's best.

There's a history behind the editing of Sam Peckinpah's masterpiece. He felt this was his best work, his definitive statement on the West; so, of course, the studio took it from him and re-edited it to the point where he was so dissatisfied he tried to have his name taken off of it. Supposedly, his cut was released on video in 1988, but that version (which is the version I saw) had problems, too, especially with continuity. This new version finds a middle ground and, supposedly, comes closest to Peckinpah's actual vision for the film. Whether that's true or not, this is the most watchable version available, and a true masterpiece (even with Bob Dylan's shitty acting in it). The film slowly, inexorably follows Pat Garrett (a magnificent James Coburn) as he tracks down his old friend Billy the Kid (Kris Kristofferson, surprisingly great) at the behest of the cattle barons who, for all intents and purposes, owned the American West. Rather than make this film a duel between Pat and Billy, Peckinpah looks at what happens around them on their respective journeys, commenting on the death of the cowboy way, and the way corruption set into what was supposed to have been genuine freedom when the businessmen started buying everything up. There are some wonderful cameos by Western stars (Jack Elam and Slim Pickens are especially good, and Luke Askew, L.Q. Jones, Chil Wills, and Jason Robards also appear), and a very good, interesting score by Bob Dylan (which also includes the song "Knockin' on Heaven's Door," written for the film). All this and Harry Dean Stanton, too--I'm going to go as far as calling it the greatest Western of the 1970s. **** stars.

Peckinpah made this film right after Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid, and I think both films taken together capture the real essence of Sam Peckinpah as a person and what drove him. What really surprises me is how this great film has been so dismissed and maligned by critics over the years, especially when critical darlings like Quentin Tarantino rip it off constantly and are listed among today's great filmmakers for doing so. Warren Oates stars as a poor piano player who sets out with his Mexican girlfriend to recover the head of Alfredo Garcia for $10,000. Oates, a great and underrated actor, is giving the best performance of his career here, but he's actually playing Peckinpah himself, wrapped up in his insecurities, his distrust of the woman he loves, his self-loathing, his worry at being caught in the machinations of others, and his drive to see things through to the very end when he has nothing left. Peckinpah is often derided for making violence seem glamorous and cathartic, but here it's nothing but ugly brutality, a necessity for those who cannot live inside the niceties of 20th century society. The bluntness is the entire point. An excellent, thoughtful masterpiece. **** stars.

Adventures in Babysitting

It makes me feel old that so many of the movies that came out when I was a kid are being remade. It's not that I care so much about the movies themselves (Revenge of the Nerds? please), it just makes me feel even more prematurely ancient to know that the movies I saw 20 years ago are so inadequate for today's young audiences that they need to be remade. It also speaks volumes about the creative bankruptcy of the newest generation of filmmakers and producers.

Last week, it was announced that there would be a remake of Adventures in Babysitting starring Raven-Symone. I don't really care one way or the other (though I do like Raven, so I'll probably see it on DVD), but the amaount of negative response has really surprised me. Blogs, entertainment news sites, Entertainment Weekly--everyone is producing some variation of "How dare they remake such a beloved classic?" that surprises me and, frankly, makes me chuckle. Beloved? Classic? How many people have watched this mediocrity since the eighties, anyway? Sure, it crops up occasionally on ABC Family, but honestly, who cares? To hear people tell it, the original Adventures in Babysitting is a dark, edgy drama about how white people relate to the realities of city life, rather than one of the many films John Hughes made to cash in on the fantasies of bored suburban rich kids who really wanted to be cool and do something dangerous.

So, I don't know, I really don't care that they're remaking Adventures in Babysitting. It was a bad movie before, I'm sure it'll be a bad movie now. So was Revenge of the Nerds. If a remake pisses you off so much, may I make the probably futile suggestion that you don't go and see the goddamn thing? Hey, guess what, they'll probably end up remaking The Breakfast Club, too. Get over it and don't go to see it. Because Hollywood doesn't care if you like it or not; they just care about taking the money off of you.

That said, I can at least reveal enough hypocrisy to say that it would be a mistake to remake Ferris Bueller's Day Off.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Another Round of Trailers

I went to the movies again this weekend, and I saw a bunch of crap on TV, so here's the admission-deciding impression that I gleaned from the two-minute pitches we still call trailers, even though they precede the picture.

Scoop (7/28)
Well, I like Woody Allen, and I guess that's what every trailer of his comes down to. This one looks good, I loved his last movie (Match Point) like none of his other movies in the last 15 years, and I love Scarlett Johansson. I think this one's going to do less well critically; they seem to like his movies less when he actually appears in them.

The Night Listener (8/4)
This could either be a creepy, atmospheric, interesting movie, or a total failure. I've been burned on movies where Robin Williams plays serious/creepy before, so I think I'm going to see it on DVD, if I see it at all.

The Descent (8/4)
Why does everything have to be called "the scariest thriller since Alien"? Haven't there been any other scary thrillers in the last 27 years? That's a bold claim to make, and I don't know that this picture is necessarily up to it, especially since the opening makes it look like this year's Wolf Creek, which I despised. Underwhelmed, but I'm sure--since it's about six women getting trapped underground--more women will go than usually do to these things, and then media outlets will have to write some lame story about how women are suddenly going to thrillers.

Accepted (8/11)
As long as there are kids dumb enough to go and see this crap, they'll keep making it, I guess. Incidentally, their massive "joke"--that fake school South Harmon Institute of Technology carries the acronym SHIT--is stolen from The Simpsons and the Springfield Heights Institute of Technology. Justin Long's acting career sure has been a waste so far...

Trust the Man (8/18)
Oh, good. I was just craving another one of those movies about rich New Yorkers with too much time on their hands to ever be happy with anything and have crises of love. Work out your therapy on your own time, alright? If money makes you that unhappy, I'll be thrilled to take it from you. Is Julianne Moore only going to do crap now? Because she's been doing it for a couple of years now, and I'm pretty sick of it.

Beerfest (8/25)
If the new Broken Lizard movie is as unfunny as Super Troopers and Club Dread, I'm going to need at least a six pack to get through the fuckin' thing. Pass.

How to Eat Fried Worms (8/25)
I remember that I read this book when I was a kid, but I couldn't tell you anything that happens in it (despite the title). The preview was gross; this looks like one for kids only. I was just surprised to actually see Hallie Kate Eisenberg in something again. I noticed it was from the director of subpar The Banger Sisters, and it made me laugh to sarcastically speculate on why they weren't playing up that fact.

Idlewild (8/25)
I think it's kinda funny when rappers (in this case Andre 3000 and Big Boi of OutKast) do a movie and decide they have to be classy and use their real names. This movie looks like one big cliche, and the Prohibition era movie has never really been done to my satisfaction, but I like OutKast and the preview is pretty high-energy. It's directed by a music video director, but god help me, I'm actually looking forward to it.

The Protector (8/25)
The new martial arts movie with Tony Jaa looks like it should be the new martial arts movie with Jean-Claude Van Damme. I haven't seen Jaa in anything yet, and until I do, I'm not going to blindly stumble into a movie that looks this bad.

Gridiron Gang (9/15)
The Rock teaches the kids that with football comes discipline, self-respect, and crap like that. He also teaches me that his acting career has really been a waste of time. From the terminally boring Phil Joanou comes this heavy-handed message film. If you can't discern the entirety of the plot from the trailer and still think you need to see the film, enjoy seeing a movie for the first time, because that's the only scenario I can come up with for why you plan on going.

The Guardian (9/15)
Kevin Costner, Ashton Kutcher, and the director of Chain Reaction rip off Top Gun. And they think they're not! Huh, didn't nobody already see Annapolis?

All the King's Men (9/22)
It looks bloated and self-important, much like its star, Sean Penn. Is it already time to start baiting the Oscar? Because this almost looks tailored to the same idiots who thought Crash was a major artistic achievement.

Jackass: Number Two (9/22)
From the childish poopy reference in the title to the childish laughter of imbeciles in the theater when I saw this, I'm expecting more of the same homoerotic content and idiotic drunken stunts from the original. Like the first one only... exactly the same.

Open Season (9/29)
I've been seeing this trailer (or one like it) for a year now, and after a thousand mediocre CGI movies about the vast anthropomorphized society animals secretly conduct when we're not looking, I'm beginning to question how many of these I'll sit through before I die. This one looks slightly better than some of the others, but really... can I fit it in? Can't I just say I have the scars from Chicken Little and leave it at that?

Flushed Away (11/3)
I've seen a different trailer for it now, and... well, I like Aardman, so I may go. I'd like for it to be good, and none of my warnings are going off yet. Except that damnable thing about secret anthropomorphic animal societies. It's really, really getting old.

The Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause (11/3)
Funny how the trailer revels in showing scenes from the first two movies with David Krumholtz, and Krumholtz isn't in this sequel. I thought The Santa Clause was pretty fucking whiny, but I thought the second one was cute; it fleshed out the mythology, told a sweet story, and had Spencer Breslin in it (I love that kid). But watching Martin Short caper around as Jack Frost, I felt like maybe I'd kind of seen enough now. Let's stop milking this thing now before it gets really, really old. If it's not already too late.

Happy Feet (11/17)
Alright, the first trailer I saw for it (again, something like a year ago--what is it with computer-animated movies?) really, really blew. I am extremely tired of penguins and dancing animals. But this... one of the funniest fucking things I've ever seen. It soars. And I'm aware that's even Robin Williams in the damn thing, and I'm sick of him in animation, too. But this trailer is so damn good...

Perfume: The Story of a Murderer (12/8)
Weird, certainly, but weird is good where director Tom Tykwer (Run Lola Run) is concerned. It looks intriguing, which is a nice change, and except for the fact that it's being released by DreamWorks and they make the shittiest movies in the history of time, everything here looks very, very interesting. Becca tells me she's enjoying the original novel, too, and that it's very strange. It's about a guy whose sense of smell is highly developed, and sets out to create a perfume that captures the essence of a woman. Fucked up; I'm there.

Night at the Museum (12/22)
It looks like it could be Jumanji (good) or like it could be... well, any of the myriad terrible children's fantasy movies released right before Christmas. Ben Stiller stars (bad sign) as the night watchman at a museum where the exhibits come to life at night. I have to admit, this plays into my worst irrational fears--that the taxidermed animals at the museum will come to life and kill me. This kept me out of the Field Museum of Natural History through most of my childhood; I still can't go down the aisles of dead animal exhibits, or I feel like the walls are closing in. Thanks a lot, Ray fucking Bradbury, for writing "The Veldt," a story which still gives me nightmares. Anyway... The director is Shawn Levy, of Cheaper by the Dozen and The Pink Panther, which is another bad sign... dude, when Big Fat Liar is the best movie in your ouevre... But it does do my heart good to see Dick Van Dyke in a movie.

Ghost Rider (2/16/2007)
I think it's absolutely fucking ridiculous for Nicolas Cage to star in this movie. His wig looks awful, his acting looks over the top, and it's from the director of fucking Daredevil. As a fanboy, I do find it interesting that they've cribbed the look and plot of the second Ghost Rider, but kept him as Johnny Blaze, the stunt rider. Man, if they had gotten Joe R. Lansdale and John Shirley to write the script, that would have been seven steps in the right direction. Marvel: quit making shitty movies out of your comic books. After Spider-Man we really thought they were going to be quite good...

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (3/30/2007)
I was with you right up until the jokey ending of the teaser. The animation looks good, and I'd love to really see somebody make an actual good movie out of this shit, but from what I hear, they're treating it like it's Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles IV. Doesn't anyone have the guts to just start over from scratch? Bryan Singer? Hmm? I'd still love to see them drop all of the joking around shit from the cartoon, do the Shredder well, do a BIG story (the Triceratons! TCRI! Fugitoid!), and treat it like the comic books did. Those were fun, interesting, offbeat things until that fucking cartoon ripped the shit out of it.

Missing: what happened to the release date for Waist Deep? Is it that bad? I mean, it does star Tyrese Gibson, so I assume it's bad, but it just dropped off the face of the Earth. I've seen the trailer, too. It blows. I wanted to make fun of Hollywood for never making a movie about black people that doesn't involve poverty, carjacking, guns, or prison. Well, I guess I just did.

Funniest thing about Clerks II: when they showed the Miami Vice trailer and some dude behind me said to his girlfriend, "Actually, that movie looks pretty good."

UPDATE: Becca tells me that Waist Deep already came out, like, a month ago. So, well done there, publicity team. I didn't even notice.

Not to Be a Dick, But...

After five years of university and 12 years of public school, I do have one question regarding the teaching of literature: are there any other problems in America besides racism and feminism? And this isn't just because I'm a white male or anything, but am I to assume that the only people who have existential problems in this country are black people and women? Oh, and Jews? I admit I'm a WASP and we can be extremely whiny about things, but is it just to be assumed that nothing bad ever happens to us? Because here I am, 30 years old, in my last semester of college, reading yet another Alice Walker story, yet another Toni Morrison story, and commenting on Their Eyes Were Watching God for the third damn time, and I think I'd like to do something new now. No offense, Walker is an excellent author, Their Eyes Were Watching God is an excellent novel, but I'm ready to move on to something else. This is supposed to be the 20th Century American Short Story here. You can't just jump from Melville and Irving to Steinbeck with a single day on Malamud, Roth, and Updike, and then spend every other class session talking about poor white women and poor black women. Unless, I guess, nothing else happened in literature in America in the 20th century. I just think that, maybe, in an attempt to get a supposedly unheard viewpoint attention, you've shifted attention away from everything else.

Next time, we can talk about why magic realism is taken seriously and not science fiction.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Ashlee Simpson Is an Asshole

What the fuck happened? Shaving off her pretty nose for a bland one was bad enough. But now she's all plastic and really, really ugly. Everything about her face that had character, that had the kind of imperfections that make someone different and unique, has been removed. Which, I guess, is appropriate, since the kind of person who would do this to themselves really has no character, anyway. Does this really make you feel better, Ashlee? Does this make up for the fact that your second album sucked as bad as it did? As far as I'm concerned, you died and you don't exist anymore. Posted by Picasa

Til Death Do They Go Away

I was watching some crap on VH1 yesterday morning when my mom called. I talked to her for awhile, and when we hung up with one another I turned the TV back on, and VH1 was airing My Fair Brady, the horrible show that rubbernecks the unholy union of washed-up former TV star Christopher "Peter Brady" Knight and the winner of America's Next Top Model, Adrienne Curry, who seems to have not done much modeling since then. I'll admit that I did watch an unhealthy amount (read: any) of The Surreal Life that they were both on, but I've never watched this show that's about the two of them and their pathetic relationship. Why didn't I watch? Because they're pathetic! They were pathetic on Surreal Life, I'm sure they're pathetic now. Curry is an overly masculine, unattractive, entitled wench who makes me want to puke, and Christopher Knight, it turns out, is an ass. (The wonders of reality TV; finding out people you loved as a kid--Hulk Hogan say--are clueless idiots who let their stupidity override their basic decency.)

I hit the guide on my TiVo, trying to find something else to watch, and ended up listening to Curry and Knight have some kind of argument about how they're getting married and his friends want to take him to a strip club for his bachelor wake--er, party. And she sits there and berates him over the phone, telling him that Christopher Knight going into a strip club ruins his image for Brady Bunch fans, and "you're going to look like a lecherous man."

I don't know, hon. I kind of think what ruins his image for Brady Bunch fans is appearing on reality shows in the first place. Because my mom, who is the same age as Knight (49), was a HUGE Brady Bunch fan as a child, and she's told me how disappointed she is in Knight for being such an ass as an adult. And what makes him look like a lecherous man is that he's now married to a 23 year-old girl who constantly emasculates him and apparently needs every moment of her life to be one of high drama. But, you know, thanks for playing.