December 2010

'Your Highness' - For Big Kids with Little Kids Inside of Them

The Pineapple Express Goes Medieval?

This is a trailer review. I haven't seen the movie, just the trailer.

Your Highness -- from the Director of the Pineapple Express -- we are warned in the trailer. Little kiddies be warned. This is not for you. This is an "r' rated flick for big kiddies.

Well, sword and sorcery, knights and fools, wizards and monsters, lovely ladies in distress, a hot woman warrior, a big budget screen epic, what more can one ask for to waste, enjoyably, a couple of hours? Eye candy, mind candy, fluff and jokes too. Should one expect more from a commercial flick?. Naughty language? It's got that too? Girls stripping down? That too. Dirty one-liners? That too.

Johnny Mnemonic: Art Stars and Moviemaking

The nineties saw the culmination of a few things; the art star as multimedia phenom, punk and electronics. It was during this decade in which art stars who made millions during the eighties earned the chance to direct a few major motion pictures. Most successful was Julian Schnabel’s Basquiat. But Robert Longo had a go of it as well.

Additionally, punk as run through Seattle, finally impacted the airwaves at about the same time everyone wound up at least having access to a computer of some variety – in the library, at school or otherwise.

The King of Marvin Gardens: Jack Before the Crash

Pretty much everyone involved in the production of The King of Marvin Gardens is and or was insanely talented. Bob Rafelson, the guy who directed the feature as well as a number of other late sixties and early seventies efforts worth a look, being paired with Laslo Kovacs probably couldn’t ever result in a lackluster film. And this one isn’t bad, just a bit difficult to follow from end to end if watching Bruce Dern’s mustache twitch around isn’t your idea of cinematic majesty.

Margot at the Wedding: Noah Baumbach at His Best/Worst?

I dunno who goes to video rental stores any longer, but if you do, lemme know where Margot at the Wedding finds itself filed. With Noah Baumbach attached as the film’s writer and director, there should have been at least a modicum of humor included. But considering the general topic – a family of people who don’t exactly get along – there’s a somber tone, not dissimilar to Baumbach’s other work, that comes through as much as anything else.

Also, it’s not funny. And no, it’s not even Jack Black’s fault. Although, his acting for the majority of the feature’s pretty atrocious. But so are contributions from just about everyone – and especially from Jennifer Jason Leigh and Nicole Kidman when the two are paired in a scene.

Noah Baumbach's Affinity for Animals

This 2005 feature, produced by Wes Anderson, seems to have been the career maker Noah Baumbach was working towards. The Squid and the Whale also marks a relatively early appearance by none other than Jesse Eisenberg – who’s surprisingly unannoying in this particular appearance.

Either way, the film features another clutch of characters endeavoring to meld art and life in a weird familial situation. Much in the same way Baumbach’s other films revolve around arsty characters, this one tosses in some more infidelity that should already have been a hallmark of this guy’s work.

I am Sam

I am Sam” is an AMAZING film. If you have not seen this beautiful, but yet emotional, heartfelt, and captivating film….you must! I first watched “I am Sam,” a couple years ago and the film was so beautiful…that it almost drove me to tears. There were some sad moments and scenes in the film too that really “touched” and extremely “moved” me in a very sudden, emotional way. I am glad I watched this film because not only “I am Sam” is well-done and made, but will grab the audience’s attention through the “true-life” story of an adult man with a mental disability of a young child who is capable to prove to the Child Protective Services that he is a “fit” father to raise his 7-year-old daughter.

Management Notes From The "Star Wars" Universe

Note: IAFSAD, Re: Storm Trooper Laser Precision

It is the opinion of the Imperial Army Field Statistics Analysis Division that the state of laser rifle competency among the general storm trooper population is deplorable. In the latter stages of the war with the Rebellion the average hit rate in real combat situations was below 12%. It should be further noted that at least 5% of those hits were on Ewoks who, need anyone be reminded, are slow, stubby-legged creatures with no concept of modern weaponry and are actually attracted to bright colors. During the battle of Endor our troops scored only one direct hit on a human target and it was a non-fatal wound. That said, I would still like to commend Clone #38651 for the damage he did to Leia Solo (nee Organa), though I have yet to hear a credible excuse for why he did not simply shoot Han Solo in the back the moment he turned.

I would also like to see some proper research into how our troopers keep getting lasers deflected back at them by lightsabers. You're shooting lasers, people. They move at the speed of light. What's the average human reaction time? And I don't want to hear that "but he's a Jedi" excuse. We've beaten that particular Ton-Ton to a pulp.

Mr. Jealousy: Baumbach Arrives

While Noah Baumbch’s Kicking and Screaming (1995) came off as a frank depiction of how dudes talk to each other – note the various references to beating off once a day – the overall tone of that film was one of the minor leagues. Baumbach had everything that would go into his career, eventually making him a downer success. But was during his third film, the 1997 Mr. Jealousy that all the clever interwoven stories exert their dominance.

Granted, simple maturity and topical material in the scripts can be figured as reason to laud one over the other. But even with the dick and fart jokes all but absent from Jealousy there’s still an immature quality to the basic premise that aligns with the most childlike amongst us.

Stoner Flicks: High on Crack Street

The only thing I can summon in relation to Lowell, MA is that Jack Kerouac lived there. After writing the ridiculously overrated On the Road, he ostensibly sunk into relative oblivion, lived with his mother and drank a lot. It doesn’t sound like the worst deal on the face of the earth.

After watching Marky Mark on Conan the other night and hearing him mention High on Crack Street, it seemed that grounding Kerouac in an actual place might be entertaining. And thanks to the Pirate Bay, the HBO special soon nastily flowed across a screen right in-front of my face.

Shot over a few months during 1993, Lowell and its crack head inhabitants are attired like it’s still the eighties. It makes sense. But when we’re introduced to Boo Boo, Dickey and Brenda it becomes pretty clear that the date doesn’t make too much of a difference. Stealing junk and getting high does, not the year.

The Hidden Narrative of "Labyrinth"

Jim Henson's classic fantasy musical Labyrinth is something of a cultural institution these days. The generation that first experience it in childhood has grown into young adulthood, embracing it as an essential film of their demographic. Recently I got to participate at a gathering in celebration of Labyrinth and all of the imagination it inspires. The ongoing Seattle International Film Festival hosted a "quote-along" screening with two special guests, puppeteer Karen Prell and none other than a grown-up Toby Froud, the lucky baby who got to spend much of the movie in David Bowie's arms. A lot of things struck me during the screening, among them how well Labyrinth has aged and how funny it is to see Oscar-winning actress Jennifer Connelly in one of her first roles. But what really stuck with me this time around was how deeply Sarah's coming-of-age story is embedded in the filming of Labyrinth. Though the film is rife with not-so-subtle symbols of pubescent struggle, nascent sexuality and the conflict between responsibility and whimsy, there's also an incredibly moving story that plays out solely in mise-en-scene.

The Baxter and Why Michael Showalter's a Weird Dude

Whatever the true nature of Michael Showalter is, it’s kinda weird. Anyone catching the comic live at Chicago’s Pitchfork festival last year witnessed one those special moments when a performer, so broken down by the daily comings and goings of entertainment, just gave up. Admitting his set wasn’t going well and the fact that no one should have really been entertained by what was occurring around them, Showalter entered a relatively uncharted territory between performer and audience. It doesn’t rank up there with Orson Welles’ War of the Worlds or anything, but there’s still a sense of someone getting fooled. Thing is, no one seems to care.

The 2001 Wet Hot American Summer has, somehow, become a cult favorite. The Showalter and David Wain feature, though, isn’t too much more than a tarted up eighties’ teen movie, replete with short shorts and ridiculous make out scenes. Through the entire effort, viewers got the sense that the actors were the joke as much as a part of it. Either way, people loved it, even if there wasn’t too much loot pulled in at the end of the day.

You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger: There is No Center

The drastic shift in tone Woody Allen’s movies have undergone during the last twenty years should be shocking to long time fans if one just stumbles upon them as opposed to following the evolution.

It was bound to happen. But Allen being taken to task for working up sub-par features was a certainty by the mid seventies. Anyone creating such a large body of work – and mostly consistent during the first few decades – should be prepared for some verbal thrashings. But considering the writer and director’s released almost a film every year since the beginning of his career, the griping should be kept to a minimum.

Allen’s last effort, You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger, suffers more from over-extension than from any shortcomings in the director’s approach. Granted, some of the performances were short of spellbinding, but that might stem from the film’s lack of focus.

Allen’s best works have pretty concise centers – Sleeper for instance follows a guy on a weird journey through time and rebellion. Tall Dark Stranger by contrast includes so many characters that it’d be difficult to name the artist the Naomi Watts character introduces to her gallery owning boss. It’d even be a stretch to recall what she looks like.

Kicking and Screaming: Criterion Misjudges the Past

Whose Josh Hamilton? Apparently some actor that spends as much time treading the boards as he does in front of a camera. That’s not a criticism at all – and in fact, it might be considered laudatory seeing as the guy’s apparently escaped being a part of lesser Hollywood fair over the years.

Thing is, though, Hamilton stars in Noah Baumbach’s first feature length effort – the 1995 Kicking and Screaming, that for some unknowable reason, was re-issued by the Criterion Collection a few years back. The film being released in this deluxe edition missed by a year the effort’s tenth anniversary. When taking that time frame into consideration, pegging the movie as a second rate grunge proclamation becomes pretty easy.

While nearing 2011, we’re all far enough away from 1991 that a re-evaluation of that lost decade seems appropriate. So, whatever happened to Alternative Nation? Well, it seems like it was all mythologized not too long after occurring. The nineties weren’t really any more awesome than other decades. Some weird shit happened. Some awful music got made as well as some good music and film.