Monday, August 22, 2005

Alexander: The true origin of the mullet

Poor Alexander. Or maybe it's poor Oliver Stone. He wanted to make this movie for SO LONG! And then he finally did and everyone said it sucked. I really tried to watch it objectively and I did see it had some interesting stuff. Like hair! Colin's dyed-blond mullet was just fantastic. Angelina's snaky curls were extra perfect. And Val's King Philip barbarian scruff was scruffy. Some warriors had short hair and some long. Did they have scissors in ancient Macedonia? Or did they just use their swords? Or daggers? Who cut hair? It's a mystery.

Early on in the movie Angelina did something I didn't like. She threatened Alexander (while he was in bed) with the snake she was holding, telling him to be careful, or the snake will strike. Well, that snake was easily identified as a ball python, which is a really nice, non poisonous snake. I used to have one as a pet, and he/she was really sweet. I miss you, Casey. But Olympias was kind of a crazy person, or so it seemed to Alexander. I found the movie fairly misogynistic. I worked hard to find one female character that Alexander wasn't afraid of and couldn't. He was threatened by his mom, dad's new wife, his own wife, you name it. The only woman he didn't seem afraid of was the babylonian princess and that's because she was more afraid of him.

What a pageant! This movie reminded me of the old MGM films I used to watch with my dad on Sunday afternoons. "Cue the elephants!" "You! Dancing slave girls! You're up next!" The screen seemed like it would bust with all the activity. Another thing I found amusing was the first big battle scene in Persia. I could barely keep up with the strategy and I guess no one else could either. So, just when I need it, a title comes up on the screen "Macedonian Center" and then later "Macedonian Left" to let all us non warrior folks understand what the hell was happening. I imagined Oliver viewing the dailies with the cinematographer: "Who are they? they look just like that other bunch of dudes!" "How will anyone figure it out?" (Photographer dude) "We'll just label them on the screen and then they'll understand." "Good, good. I like it." What a dope!

What about all those poked-out eyes? Did you see all of them? King Philip had such a scary facial scar I barely recognized Val Kilmer. O.k., he's a dude who has seen some battle. But then, in perhaps a macabre King Philip Lookalike contest I started seeing them everywhere! I counted at least four faces with similar eye scars. I'm always wondering if folks working on the film play tricks on us, the poor viewers. Were they playing a joke? Or was it just a bad year (or ten) for eye injuries? Huh.

Alexander, Alexander, Alexander. The world just isn't ready for an ambiguously gay world conquerer. Even the Greeks cried "Alexander wasn't gay! Alexander wasn't gay!" Audiences hated the gay scene so much Oliver cut it out just to sell some dvd's. What a cop out. Remember Braveheart? Remember Gladiator? Even Russell Crowe, as annoying as he can be, exuded significant manliness onscreen. And that movie didn't have one sex scene in it. In Braveheart, after the coolest battle scenes, the warriors went back to camp to rib each other and tend to their wounds. In Alexander, warriors went back to camp, washed the blood off and applied eyeliner. Even the characters in the movie were homophobic. Mom didn't seem to care but cautioned him to "get an heir!" and "remember your father!" who I guess was severely homophobic. I actually worried that Alexander was so gay he wouldn't even be able to be with a woman. But with enough slapping Rosario around he managed to make things happen.

Alexander was clunky and confusing to the non-Alexander the Great-historian. I was left guessing during the movie (what's his name?) (who the hell is that again?) as the story plodded along. But! Always a glutton for punishment I will soldier on and watch Troy next.

Friday, August 19, 2005

Training Day: How to ruin your night in 122 minutes

****SPOILER ALERT**** But you'll thank me

I completely hated this movie. Not because of poor acting - Denzel portrays a sociopathic corrupt cop with unerring accuracy. I loathed his character five minutes into the movie. Ethan Hawke does his best to play Jake, a hapless rookie trying to impress his new boss. But the problem is that the new boss is psychotic, and that's where the story loses me.

Perhaps if it had been called "Training Week" or "Training Month" I could have bought it. But what were they thinking? O.k., here's the pitch: (Sidebar - anyone who has seen Tim Robbins in The Player knows how it works) Idea guy has the first appointment of the day with the studio exec. The exec hasn't had his ambien wear off yet, and is pretty groggy at the Beverly Hills restaurant they are breakfasting at. The idea guys says, "here it is. A rookie cop spends the day with his new boss, the leader of an elite narcotics squad. The rookie wants to make good. But the mayhem starts when he quickly finds out this is one dirty cop. But instead of leaving he spends the entire day with him as he spirals deeper and deeper into the abyss of corruption that is LA's police force." The studio exec spots Bruce Willis walking past his table - "Bruce, baby! How ya doin'?" "Great!, great!" The exec turns back to the idea guy, "what were you saying? "Yeah, yeah, dirty cops in L.A. Do people get killed?" "I like it, I'll take a look."

In one early scene, before all the big evil has occurred, Denzel holds his gun to our young cop's head. Now, it's clear to all that this is one crazy ass mofo. But what does Ethan do? Does he run back to the squadroom (I assume it's called that) and say, "Jesus Christ I need a reassignment!" No. He caves in to the pressure. The movie lost me right then and there.

The biggest insult of all was when the credits rolled and I saw the director's name pop up: Directed by....Antoine Fuqua! I jumped off the sofa and clenched my fists. It's official. I refuse to watch anything else directed by that man. After being rooked into watching his EPIC film "King Arthur" I thought I had sworn him off for good. But this one snuck in when I wasn't looking.

Certain folks deserve some kudos. Macy Gray played a convict's wife and her drug deficient shakes chilled me. Snoop played a crack dealer, and while that might not be much of a stretch, he was wheelchair bound and it didn't stop his badass attitude. There was a good line delivered by Denzel as he walked past a plump latina: "Hmmm, mmmm, all that jelly, and no toast."

Thursday, August 18, 2005

The Animatrix: The Wachowski Brothers watch "Heavy Metal" and get the munchies

These were really cool. Nine short movies created by the brothers showcasing CGI and Japanese anime. How cool is that? I was really geeked watching this last night. A rather strong warning at the beginning "this is rated R!" alerted me that this was no Matrix-as-cartoon fit for kids event. Whew! Thank God they were all in bed. True to its rating, it was violent.

What I liked about the films was that the animation for each was different. The first one, Final Flight of the Osiris, feels just like a game - except the characters get naked! That's her butt! I shut my eyes. Then we had some Trinity style jumps and an ashphalt-rippling landing that was way cool.

The Second Renaissance I and II gave us a history lesson with pretty obvious political parallels to real life. Machines getting crushed by tanks in Tienanman Square, for example. I felt as if I were watching scenes from Terminator with the rise of the machines stuff. Those two also had some trippy psychedelic scenes with lots of colors, dude. Made me feel like I was either going to have a grand mal seizure or a flashback.

My favorite film was "A Detective Story" which had a film noir feel to it with black and white comic book colors. Seeing '40's style items such as rotary telephones and typewriter mixed in with computer screens was a cool way of mixing the old with the new. In this film a Sam Spade-styled detective is hired to search for Trinity. He finds her, of course, which leads to an unhappy ending. It was perfect!

This DVD is for die hard Matrix fans. I was brought back to my memories of watching "Heavy Metal" on WHT, which for the young was our first foray into cable, Wometco Home Theater. I recently found I can buy a copy of Heavy Metal on tape or DVD. I think that's going to be one for the wishlist.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

National Treasure: Aw, c'mon Nick! What gives?

****Spoiler Alert**** But, who cares?

I watched “National Treasure” one night and was sorely disappointed. There is Nicholas Cage, acting his little heart out, for this yucky piece of formulaic Disney fluff. One of the characters even commented at the end, “well, you got the girl” to which Nick replied, “yes, I did” as he kisses the blond. [Gaaaack] I loved the tidbits of American history but the movie plot was so embarrassingly superficial my nose was permanently wrinkled. I hope the actors had fun making the movie and a few bucks on the side. And I’m sure a host of 10-14 year olds enjoyed seeing a grown up movie with Mom and Dad. Ah well.

Whoever executed the dumbing down of National Treasure deserves a spanking. It had the bones of a great “Da Vinci Code” style story and it could have had a tremendous edge. I was attracted to it because of Nicholas Cage and Jon Voight as well as Sean Bean as the villain. The comments section of IMDB reports “PG movies are back with a vengeance!” My sentiments exactly.

And how could I forget? Harvey Keitel! He plays the FBI agent who is chasing Nicholas Cage because he stole the Declaration of Independence. Like I said, for the heavyweights in the movie it was a real shame.

Pitch Black: Yeah, o.k., all right, I get it. (P.S. this is not a picture of Vin Diesel in the movie. I think those are espresso cups).

I was lucky to find a copy of Pitch Black at my local library. I watched it the other night and was very pleased! Although it lacked depth in parts, and made a few mistakes, it was a well done B movie. I wondered if Frye from the cartoon “Futurama” was named after the docking pilot from this movie. (She was the mistake: when they were skittering across the atmosphere, and the “windshield” blew out, she didn’t get burned or anything). But Frye was a great name for her character and I thought she lent a tough seriousness to the role.

Remember the end when Riddick got to the ship and was going to leave without the others? And Frye shows up? I thought he looked almost embarrassed as he attempted to help her into the ship, after breaking her spirit (or so he thought). But then she died and he had his Streetcar moment (“Stella!”) shouting “it was supposed to be me!” or whatever he said. Then he flew away with the black guy and “girl/boy” Jack.

I loved the junkie mercenary. He was a tough, kick ass kind of guy brought down by a habit. And shooting up in his eye was marvelously skin-crawling.

Maybe I was a little tired watching it but I found it difficult to figure out what everyone was doing on the ship. Did Jack belong to the antiques dealer? Where the hell was everyone going? Who were all those people? The woman with the long dark hair? And the ship seemed to be hit by unfriendly fire but they never seemed to agree why. I was trying to pay attention, really.

I thought hard about the second movie (Chronicles of...) based on the first. Riddick’s reluctant hero/criminal/superstrong/tough guy character isn’t fully explained. It seems he’s human but had the operation on his eyes so he could see in the darkness of prison. But did that make him blind in the light? I saw him looking around without his sungoggles on. What was this talk about his race being so special? The handprint on his chest?

The aliens were cool killing beasts and I wished we had seen them in the second movie. Not those stupid Necromongers. Maybe if they gave birth to the aliens it would have made more sense. I guess David Twohey has been taking Epic lessons from Antoine Fuqua. He said, “I can do that!” And Vin said, “Yeah, I’ll, like, be the star, and have all the cool lines, and the other dudes will talk like the guys who were in ‘I, Claudius’ on PBS.”

I decided to rename the Chronicles of Riddick to: “Pitch Black II: Not so dark.”

Friday, August 12, 2005

Million Dollar Baby: Darn those Oscar Winners!

I know it's really bad form to knock Oscar winners but I did not like this movie. I tried, though, but I just couldn't do it. I usually avoid obvious chick flicks like the plague but this one was cleverly disguised as a good movie, one that everyone must see. MDB wasn't a chick flick exactly, or a date movie. I put it more into the Grandma/Grandpa class with the aging Clint Eastwood and Morgan Freeman. Plus, it was sad, and, while I can appreciate honest movies without happy endings, this one hit too many sad buttons for one evening. (Whew! That was a lot of commas!)

Anyway, let's talk about the good and the bad. Danger, our boxing gym groupie, was a hoot. I enjoyed his antics and was genuinely pissed when he was attacked by those gym thugs. Lucia Rijker was excellent as Billie, the title holder Maggie fights. She was one scary lady, with her powerful shoulders and evil look in her eye. Reminded me of riding the bus in NYC.

I was confused about a couple of things with Maggie's character. One of the problems she had was her age. She's supposed to be "too old" when she's taken on by Frank. I can handle that she doesn't have much education but her goggle-eyed naivete runs really deep for a 31 year old. What has she been doing for the past ten or eleven years? Honing her waitress skills and dreaming about boxing? (I'm not even going to discuss her gross practice of stealing leftovers, it's too desperate). There's no man, or illegitimate kids about. Only the estranged relationship with her family. That didn't wash for me. Although I did like her flaw! In a candid moment she asks Frank an odd question: "how much does she (his daughter) weigh?" Reacting to his confusion she reveals, "in my family, trouble comes by the pound." That was a terrific line, and I loved it. Harboring a deep prejudice against the overweight humanized her for me.

One of my favorite characters was the F-bomb-dropping Catholic priest. We don't see him very often but I believed in his frustration with Frank and his annoying questions about faith. His advice to Frank at the end of the movie was right on, but, since Frank hasn't listened to him for the last 20 years he wasn't going to start then.

After being accepted by Frank, the training begins. With probably some more annoying voice over from Morgan Freeman, we get the workout montage. Every good transformation movie has a workout montage! Remember GI Jane? And those one-armed pushups? Ah, those were the days, Demi. But I digress. Anyway, Hillary's strength and physical fitness was something to be admired. And she can even be forgiven for wearing that ugly blue dress at the Oscar's for wanting to show off her back.

Sad to say, I found Million Dollar Baby really boring. It was about fifteen minutes too long and the pacing too slow. And while I don't want to do any spoilers here, I found the very end of the movie fell flat in the believability department. The type of thing that happens is, in this country, a crime that would have been investigated as such. Going off for a slice of pie didn't cut it for me. (No pun intended).

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Blade Trinity: Next Gen of Vampire Ass Kickers


I love surprises. Flowers, birthday parties, Christmas. Don't tell me what the present is! I don't want to know! Just surprise me. Which is what made me so happy about this movie. Who knew that Jessica Biel would be so fantastic as a warrior princess? And that Ryan Reynolds would deliver his lines with acerbic clarity while barechested? I mean, he *must* work out. Fabulous effort, Ryan!

I always like it when actors portray their characters with humility and Jessica did so elegantly. Perhaps I should thank the costumer but I loved her work with the bow and arrow and the zip up leather sleeves of her jacket. I appreciated that her boobs were under control. (Ryan Reynolds' were not, however, he flexed those pecs all over the place). The weapon of the day was the light-saber-bow-thingy which vaporized the vamps in a way cool fashion. She wielded it well.

Parker Posey never disappoints. In Blade she trades her mouthful of 'Best In Show' braces for a set of vampire teeth and acts sufficiently psychotic. Although I was a little skeptical as to why she didn't rip out Ryan's throat when he was slave chained to the floor, taunting her mercilessly. But we couldn't hurt him too badly, I guess. I would have liked a little bite, however.

Drake (Draco?) scared the pants off me in the beginning of the movie. I love a pop up! I really enjoyed the opening scene with the "soldiers" walking through the desert. I don't know if that was really Parker, but I thought - that's a woman! as she swung her hips and arms. I admit I was surprised when Drake took a human form. My mental image of men from antiquity include long hair. His military buzz cut was sexy, but modern. I forgave him when he too removed his shirt.

But wait a sec. What happened to Whistler? O.k., he doesn't get burned up in the warehouse because he comes back with Drake (doing his own dirty work, probably for fun) to steal the kid and Ryan. Then we don't see him again! Is he a vampire now? A ghost? Alive? If I missed something, please help me out.

Wesley does play Blade as kind of a cranky bastard loner but, in Trinity, he comes across as a little wooden, I thought. Although he railed at the team for the 'Hello' name tags, I found those funny. Nothing like a little in-your-face before you take 'em out. And as I mentioned before, what was up with the bicycle shorts? All my CSI watching has taught me that bodies are prepared by washing down with a hose prior to beginning the autopsy. Yet Blade leaps off the table - with pants on! I can just imagine him talking to the director: "My ass ain't going on screen. It's in my contract! You get me some pants or I ain't doing this scene!" I'm hung up about the pants.

One of my many favorite lines came from Ryan as Parker lay dying, "you wait here pumpkin, I'll go for help." I might not have gotten it exactly right, but that's about it. Another great line was delivered by Blade to the chief of police who was whining about being killed by the vampires if he snitched: "But they'll kill me!", he complains. "What?!, I'LL kill you, motherf***ker!" He seemed truly annoyed.

Call me crazy, but we're going to see Blade 4.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Constantine: Mr. Anderson sees dead people.

I wished they would have put Keanu in a sweater. It's time to lose the black suit, white shirt and black tie. Anyway Constantine is a solid-story flick well suited to the Halloween creepy movie season. I know I'm a day late and a dollar short on watching all these movies but that's what dvd's are for. Cut me a little, o.k.?

I really liked Tilda Swinton as the angel Gabriel. She was sufficiently androgynous when we first see the meeting with John in her man's suit and tie. She towered over him. Her clear skin and strawberry curls were a sharp contrast to what she was saying to Constantine: Re getting into heaven, "you're f**ked." My brain struggled to reconcile the non-angelic words with her appearance. What!? That's what happens when I don't really know the story going into it. Oh well.

I was impressed with Gavin Rossdale's smarmy performance as the demon Balthazar. With his slicked back hair and pinstriped suit he was pretty window dressing. Thank goodness his role was small so he didn't have much opportunity to screw it up. Musical crossovers can have disastrous consequences, right Mariah? Yikes.

Very honorable mention goes to our Mexican friend who finds the spear of destiny in the very beginning of the movie. In a non speaking part he manages to convey the desperation of being a scavenger and then showing real screen prescence through only facial expressions as he travels north to L.A. The herd dropping dead was a nice touch, too.

I think Satan was my favorite character. "Lou, what took you so long?" His red rimmed eyes and gooey black feet made my skin crawl. And I loved the tattoos peeking up from the neck of his white suit. I would have paid money to get a glimpse of those. (I want to get a tattoo in my hair so I was intrigued). The devil's appearance brought the story around in a real "who's your daddy" moment. A great plot twist.

I really need to see this movie again. Not for Keanu or Rachel but for the other supporting characters. They were much more colorful and interesting than either of them.

Friday, August 05, 2005

The Incredibles: Not a (just for) kid's movie.

O.k., maybe it is. But this time the writers got it backwards. Ususally, a kid's movie is made with enough high level dialog and jokes to keep parents interested while the kids enjoy the bright colors zipping past their eyes on the screen. In The Incredibles, the story was SO good, and the dialog so relevant, that the good vs. evil part was much less important.

Storyline for kids: Superhero family fights bad superhero and his big monster machine

Storyline for adults: Superhero family currently in the witness protection program struggle to cope with the frustration hiding their true selves from others and function in their day to day lives. The parents deal with issues as perceived infidelity, differing parenting styles and emotional distance. And oh, yeah, they fight bad guys too.

The casting was of tremendous quality - Craig T. Nelson, Holly Hunter, and Samuel Jackson as Mr. Incredible, Elastigirl, and Frozone. I was so drawn in by the film I forgot I was watching a cartoon. My husband remarked that my son was wandering away in the theater and I said, "you chase him."

The DVD has some terrific extras such as an alternate beginning which is a little scary. Bob (Mr. Incredible) seems to accidentally cut off his own hand at a barbeque when distracted by an argument his wife gets into. Of course, since he's nigh invulnerable (yes, that's a Tick reference) the cleaver bends into the shape of his fist. It was a little dark (think of the children!) so I'm glad they went in another direction.

The villian, Syndrome, an embittered fan gone off the edge, has tremendous presence in the movie. He even had the best line: while spouting off to Mr. Incredible, our intrepid hero tries to make his escape. Syndrome says, "ho ho ho!, Mr. Incredible! You caught me monologuing!" I loved this movie.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Torque or "I love trick motorcycle movies."

I have to tell you, the motorcycle you see pictured here does NOT appear in the movie, "Torque." This motorcycle is mine, it's a Suzuki DRZ400SM. But on to Torque.

Torque, in one unremarkable evening, became one of my favorite B-movies. Our Tom Cruise lookalike lead, Martin Henderson, does a bang up job playing Cary Ford. The character's name is ironic because he presumeably hates cars. Yet throughout the movie various characters shout "Ford!" again and again which constantly reminds viewers of that ubiquitous American brand.

But everyone is great in this movie! I so appreciate how all the actors pulled off their parts in this movie without being too serious. And did you see Jesse James? And how they dissed him? I almost came out of my seat. The cameo was so quick and my mind reeled with "you gotta be kidding me!" The movie didn't need Jesse but we forgive them.

Sure, the story was weak in parts but the motorcycle stunts were outstanding. The chase scene through the grove of palm trees had my fists clenched. And there was a fight scene with chicks - on bikes! While clearly a rip off from Mission Impossible (I or II I don't remember) to change gender was inspired.

If you don't want to strain yourself mentally, rent this movie. The reason it's way better than Biker Boyz is, I'm sorry Laurence, that movie took itself way too seriously. Torque is an enjoyable romp in the B-movie, fast vehicle, genre and I loved it.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Welcome to the site! Let's get started.

A Knights Tale or Heath Ledger gets medieval on our ass.

A terrific rental! You know, I really enjoyed that juvenile piece of fluff. I haven't watched it in some time now but I remember the best parts. I have conveniently forgotton the bad ones. I remember frowning about the music during the opening scene (Queens' We will rock you) and then my eyes widening in surprise that the actors were stomping their feet in time to the music! That was good stuff. I thought, "what are we in for, here?"

The sprinkling of modern images in the film was clever. Remember the nike swoop hammered into his suit of armour by our female blacksmith sidekick? The one scene (and line) that made me laugh out loud was his cinderella-like preparation for the ball: The female sidekick asks, "you're not going to wear your hair like that, are you?" And Heath, looking sexily mussed, cheerily replies, "oh, is there another way?"

I'm glad Heath went beyond this film (and the Patriot) to make a movie like Monster's Ball. We'll pick that up another time. I have a meeting.

Thank you Chris!