January 2011

Stoner Flicks: Mallrats (Part Two)

Despite Forlani’s meager appearances in Mallrats, she would go on to perform in Basquiat the following year.

Anyway, none of the aforementioned people have the best line in the film. Instead, the fat guy who generally plays a bully – and know I have no idea what his name actually is – but here stares at some 3-d art work for the duration of the film has that title. When a group of school kids comes up and are able to see what the fatty’s been attempting to conjure visually, one of the little on says he sees a schooner. The guy’s response, heavily dependent upon proper delivery, is “You dumb bastards, it’s a sailboat.” To which the kid replies, “A schooner is a sailboat, stupid head.”

Safe Men: A Few Complaints, But Not Too Many

To a certain extent, Safe Men can be understood as a film that happens when top tier actors aren’t available, but a handful of talented, lesser known folks are available.

Surely, Sam Rockwell, Steven Zahn and Paul Giamatti are recognizable figures in the film industry. But for the most part those actors don’t comprise heavy hitters in a feature work. Each had received a fair amount of acclaim and continued to land major roles over time, garnering a few award statues. Mentioning those first to names in casual conversation, though, isn’t going to result in too much else other than confused looks.

"The Exorcist III"

In 1975, a young girl named Regan MacNeil was afflicted by a rare and bizarre condition. Fifteen years later, a police lieutenant investigates a series of ritualistic, horrific killings, but the only suspects are a man who was executed fifteen years earlier, and a priest who fell down a long, long flight of stairs. Evil walks again in William Peter Blatty The Exorcist III (1990), based on his 1983 novel Legion and the third film in the Exorcist series.




Gasland: How Does Water Burn?

There’re actually a number of reasons why Gasland winning awards is amusing.

Politicized documentaries focused on environmental concerns are usually going to be received well. The people at Sundance selecting the top crop of films from any year more likely than not skew towards the liberal side of things. And Gasland figures those folks as the demographic its aimed at. Whether or not that was the initial concern going into production – surely, it wasn’t – the film still apes something of a Michael Moore vibe. Granted Josh Fox comes across as a bit better suited to being a public figure – he’s not a fat, bearded blow hard – but he is something beyond biased.

Sideways and Paul Giamatti Landing Hot Chicks

Thomas Haden Church didn’t write or direct Sideways, but we might his appearing in the film might mitigate his conception of Rolling Kansas.

Anyway, this flick right here assisted Paul Giamatti in becoming more than just a guy people thought of as the ugly dude who could act. The film again proved that he could in fact act, but perhaps more importantly, that he was capable of carrying a film. Granted there’re at least three other actors who might be considered Sideways’ focus, but none manage to out stripe Giamatti.

Stoner Flicks: Saving Grace

It’s always funny to me when an actor writes a script specifically so he or she can star in its leading role. In Saving Grace’s case the actor in question is the late night talk show foreigner Craig Ferguson. If not familiar with him from that evening time televised gig, Ferguson seems to have kicked around enough over the last twenty years to be, at the very least, visually familiar to just about anyone with a television. Alongside the funnyman, though, is Brenda Blethyn, a Britisher in contrast to Ferguson’s Scottsman. While the latter might be recognizable on this side of the Atlantic, Blethyn isn’t. But that fact doesn’t serve to detract from her performances, a leading one at that.

Stoner Flicks: Mallrats (Part One)

There’re two ways to look at Kevin Smith’s recent attempt to revolutionize the movie industry. One might understand the whole thing as at shot at total independence. But it might wind up (but probably not) being a water shed moment for film. Even if it’s not, though, Smith’s backlog of films is still working to install the writer and director in the pantheon of important, if not always well received, directors in the history of the medium.

True Grit: A Richer Form of Entertainment

Yeah, True Grit already got treated here. But get over it. I don’t rank as a Coen Brothers’ scholar, but I’ve probably spent as much time with their work as any other geek you know. So, that’s what prompts this here write up.

The Coens’ continue their march towards becoming the modern day Hitchcockian blowhards they so desire. Gone are features brimming with utter originality and taking its place seem to be a spate of remakes and reliance on films assumed viewed during the Brothers’ collective childhood. Now, none of that necessarily makes for a lackluster effort, but there’s not too great a likelyhood that something like Millers Crossing or the Big Lebowski is ever going to be produced again.

The Misunderstood: Very Bad Things

Last week I wrote about Peter Berg's successful but artistically mishandled super hero movie Hancock. Along the way I mentioned Very Bad Things, Berg's big screen directorial debut and also the first major motion picture he wrote. Very Bad Things is, itself, a woefully miscalculated picture, though in an entirely different and, in its own perverse style, more artistically compelling way. Released in 1998, Very Bad Things came at the height of America's unprecedented economic and cultural power, a time of incredible optimism and equally intense indulgence. With the exception of Saving Private Ryan and The Big Lebowski, 1998 was a pretty abysmal year at the movies, or at least not a very artistically ambitious one. There was a lot of popcorn fare (including no fewer than two movies about giant asteroids colliding with Earth), a remake of Godzilla and the toilet humor opus that is There's Something About Mary. '98 was an era of excess, so taking Very Bad Things in the context of its time makes it an especially effective satire instead of just the relentlessly cruel comedy it was originally branded.

Hard Candy: Loud Castration

Pretty much every moment comprising Hard Candy, a film starring pre-Juno Ellen Page, is extraordinarily unsettling. By itself, the feature’s tough to figure. But considering that the 2005 movie was followed by Page’s appearance in An American Crime, another effort detailing the abuse of an underage girl, viewers should wonder what was behind these choices.

While we’re all trying to figure that out, though, let’s run through the myriad reasons why Hard Candy ranks up there with Darren Aronofsky films as unsettling entertainment.

Stoner Flicks: Homegrown

I’d imagine titling posts of this nature in the manner I have reveals a bit too much about my time away from the keyboard – well, sometimes when I’m at the keyboard as well. The thing is, though, Sublime won’t now or ever really entertain me. And when a movie opens with a song from the California band – in this case “Smoke Two Joints” – it serves to make the entire affair seem kinda questionable at best.

Granted, Homegrown’s about pot. But pandering to the lowest common denominator doesn’t bode well for what follows. And despite counting Maggie and Jake’s pop sitting in the director’s chair, the entire effort was pretty much doomed from the beginning even if Billy Bob remains a tremendous, if occasionally misled, talent.

Freakonomics: A Big Payout

Not having ever read the Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner book of the same name, watching Freakonomics comes off like a cobbled together effort – a pastiche of short films. The book may well have the same feeling to it, but the written word being such a drastically different medium then film allows for maneuvers of that nature to work properly.

That being said, if investigating clandestine financial scams is something that makes your eyebrows raise and ears perk up, than Freakonomics’ jumping about from topic to topic with only the most menial common thread shouldn’t present a problem.

Stoner Flicks: Rolling Kansas

Just to get this out of the way, the best part of Rolling Kansas has nothing to do with the film’s main characters, the plot, how the film was shot or the script. Instead, Rip Torn hitching a ride with a car full of desperate twenty somethings, revealing he was a weed grower/horticulturalist for the government and gay as all out doors trumps just about everything else in the hour and twenty seven minute feature.

Yeah, things are that grim.


After bowling us over with Batman Begins and dazzling us with The Dark Knight, director Christopher Nolan incites the imagination with Inception, a heist film unlike any you're likely to see - or even understand. Leonardo DiCaprio stars as a special kind of thief, performing a one-in-a-million job that might clear his name and reunite him with his children. But the process of inception is fraught with unknown dangers and perils, and deep inside the subconscious mind, the lines between reality and dream become a matter of opinion.

"Knight and Day": Lots of Guns, No Sex

As soon as I realized that Knight and Day was rated PG-13, I instantly started to think that it would be something like Adventures in Babysitting, only without the extremely versatile actress, Elizabeth Shue. I wasn’t so far off from the truth and the more I watched Knight and Day, the more I started to wonder how much newspaper reviewers are paid by the big studios to write favorable reviews for movies like Knight and Day.

Forget Hulk Hogan, Bill Hicks is a Real American

For whatever reason, Bill Hicks hasn’t translated into a new millennium star in the way that other stand up comedians have. There’s no tremendous explanation for it apart from his being dead. Ya know, that usually hampers a performers career. But in his death – from pancreatic cancer just as Hicks was gaining significant acclaim – the very well could have been a ground swell in appreciation.

It wasn’t the impetus or the purpose of American: The Bill Hicks Story to work up a fervor. And it hasn’t, sadly. But the film does go a long way to piecing an entire life together and turning in a pretty entertaining feature along the way.

I Love You Phillip Morris: America’s Odd Perception of Sexuality and Coupling

If you’ve seen this, you’re surprised that I Love You Phillip Morris was produced and distributed.

The fact that the plot is based on the life of avowed con man and all around cheat – he still seems like a nice guy, though – Steve Russell should have presented a problem. There must have been consent sought and then granted by the multiple offender. But then the legal issue arises that it’s illegal to make money off of the crimes you’ve committed. I think that’s a law. If not, shouldn’t it be one? Otherwise, I’m liable to rob a bank and get caught in order to write a book about it all and make a few hundred thousand dollars.