Thursday, June 28, 2007

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Movies I watched last week, from favorite to least.

The missing link between John Hughes and Kevin Smith, for whatever that's worth to you.

Serious lead isn't really Marky's forte - he needs an ensemble cast to bully and bounce off of - but even if he can't singlehandledly make an overlong slo-mo action flick with confused attempts at political commentary satisfy, he survives it.

I'm guessing Herman Meville told it better, but Crispin Glover.

Walter Hill on the way up, Ryan O'Neal on the way down. Bruce Dern as the median.

Why do so many counterculture comedies just feel like logy Mel Brooks?

Self-important melodrama full of good actors who'd rather be anywhere else and Robert Redford. There's a decadent house party where the herky-jerk dancing devolves into a mock shoot-out between the cartoonish, boozing over-thirties, though. Dug that.

"Fuck the traps, I watched Saw for the doll!"

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Maybe I'm just grateful to see the Hives in a follow-up video to a #1 single, but I'd rate "Throw It On Me" as the best video of the mo'. Very honorable mentions: Eve doing Missy better than Gwen or Fergie, Ne-Yo debating sending his ex a letter (not a myspace message!) before calling her at a PAY PHONE (dude is old school!), Lil' Mama giving me hope for the future, The White Stripes making eyes at each other over novelty solos, Enrique Iglesias overcoming some meta bullshit with wounded passion and his beautiful beatiful face, Shop Boyz redeeming a lame rewrite of Trick Daddy's "Let's Go," QOTSA rocking in the face of death by sexy, R. Kelly and Usher getting played, Timberlake staring into your vagina as reward for putting up with four minutes of his screensaver, Maroon 5 humping their instruments as Adam Levine stares us down in a sexy airport, Linkin Park taking on the weight of the world while rocking out in the desert with a lot of gear, and The Plain White T's singing an acoustic ballad to a girlfriend in NY named, duh, Leila.

Monday, June 18, 2007

These children are now old enough to be VH1 dating show contestants. Probably too old.

Top Five People I'd Rather See Get a VH1 Dating Show Than Bret Michaels

5. Liza Minelli. Given 50 men, let's see if she STILL winds up a beard!

4. David Lee Roth. Dude is like Ozzy, Flav and Bret Michaels put together. Reality TV gold. All his talk radio failure proved is that he needs an editor, and VH1's got the best. The opening credits can recreate the boardwalk sequence from "California Girls." Hell, make it the theme song!

3. Britney Spears. 50 skeevy men fight for the hand of the world's most famous single mother! Too famous for this kind of shamefulness, you say? Don't forget, she's already HAD a reality show. Within five years, she'll have divorced again and be ready to accept her role as a has-been. Actually, judging by her current desperation, make it three.

2. Tim Gunn. The problem with a gay-themed dating game is how quickly it could turn into the man-on-man orgy middle America isn't ready for. But not with Tim Gunn around! Gunn claims he's been resigned to singlehood ever since he was jilted by a philanderous lover in the '80s. The '80s! Sounds like VH1 needs to stage an intervention! Can they, with the help of 50 dashing, intelligent and fashionable men...Make It Work?

1. Morrissey. One of the few celebrities I can think of where the dating pool could be co-ed. At the end of each episode, the remaining contestants would be given gladioli and told "I think you understand me." The tears! The screaming! The bicycle rides! The potential for bi-curious heartbreak! "Morrissey, I saw Shauna making out with Lance." "'ve lied about your interest in me..." "no, Morrissey, no..." "I am...repulsed by your treachery. You don't understand me, Lance. Please leave." "MORRISSEY!!!! MORRISSEY, NOOOOOO!!!!" Security goons pull Lance away as Morrissey turns from the miserable affair, his face awash in sadness. But eventually, one lucky man or woman will get to hear "There Is A Light That Will Never Go Out" sung by candlelight. And if no one understands him, there's always next season.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

DVDs I watched last week, from favorite to least.

Another Billy Ray thriller about a mediocre staffer (Ryan Phillipe) who ostensibly proves his worth by revealing that his more successful, more fascinating antagonist (Chris Cooper) is living a whopper of a lie. And like Shattered Glass, it's so aggressively factual that the DVD includes a commentary track with the real-life hero (who looks greener than Phillipe!) and a corroborative news segment. As it concerns the FBI rather than The New Republic, Ray gets to incorporate gunplay and races against time. Not only is Cooper's performance unsurprisingly more layered than Hayden Christiansen's was, Phillipe (who has carved a niche as a well-intentioned lightweight with this, Crash and Flags Of Our Fathers) makes for a better hero than Peter Saarsgard, despite the marital strife cliches.

Nick Nolte's chiseled sheriff of few words eventually has a showdown with childhood friend/romantic rival/drug kingpin Cash Bailey, who understandably refers to himself in the third person and is played by Powers Motherfucking Boothe. Additional gunfire for director Walter Hill's Peckinpah tribute is made possible by an elite cast of B-movie veterans, including Michael Ironside, William Forsythe, Tiny Lister and Lamar from Revenge Of The Nerds. Hollow, but I'm not complaining.

A casually pathetic French millionaire tells a cabin car of polite countrymen about his obsession with a manipulative virgin. Pretty thin compared to Discreet Charm Of The Bourgeoisie.

Peter Weir used the outback as an ominous mystical/natural threat in Picnic At Hanging Rock. Here he uses Aborigines, which is a lot more offensive whether or not he thinks white Australia deserves what it gets. Richard Chamberlain, playing a visionary attorney, doesn't help.

Monday, June 11, 2007

I haven't seen David Milch's John From Cincinnati yet, but after wasting a weekend watching Season 3 of Deadwood I won't be in any rush. Even by Season 2 I was basically watching it as a soap, indifferent to its artistic merit as long as the characters I was emotionally invested in were flung about dramatically. But thanks to the startling number of uninteresting individuals thrust into the mix, most of the cast is only given one or two Emmy moments over the entire season. The Doc is reduced to coughing fits and Sol Star gets a minute or two of teary time with Trixie near the end in exchange for episode after episode of nodding at angry people. Sometimes you'd just get a second long shot of a character to remind you they're still alive.

Instead of focusing on characters fans already know, we get a completely worthless season-long subplot involving Brian Cox and a troupe of actors (as if this show really needed more empty theatricality), countless scenes with a blustering racist who won't shut up until he's rendered comatose by a horse, Wyatt Earp and his brother (just so I could scream "THAT'S WHO HE IS! I THOUGHT IT WAS NATHAN FILLION!" when my housemate asked if the guy from Queer As Folk has shown up yet), some unfunny British dude who looks just like the Russian dude, the painful return of Stephen "My Voice Is My Passport, Verify Me" Toblowsky and dozens of anonymous no-goodniks working for evil Gerald McRaney. And while Major Dad does an OK job as George Hearst, his presence can't help but demote the show to CBS quality rather than HBO. If they'd wrapped up his belabored drama half way through, maybe we could have seen more of Cy Tolliver seething with impotent rage and Al Swearingen remembering he's supposed to be a bad guy. The bloat was annoying enough over a weekend, but I can't imagine what it must have been like to turn on HBO week after week and find out how little the plot had progressed. Its cancellation feels like a mercy killing, as Milch would have undoubtedly found a shark for the townsfolk to jump in Season 4.

According to the bonus features on every season, Milch writes his episodes laying on the floor with several pillows, surrounded by writers, assistants and other cronies. A stenographer takes down his every word, which he then edits off of a giant TV screen. While that is totally fucking awesome, when the pottymouth Shakespeare got painfully ornate (in some episodes it feels like everyone's as desperately florid as E.B. Farnum), I couldn't help but think of this dude literally resting on his laurels, beaming with pride at the words on the monitor before him. Lacking much to distract me, I pictured that a lot.

Leila thought someone on John From Cincinnati had my last name, but it turned out one of the leads is named "Mitch Yost." Close enough for me to check it out someday, though.

Friday, June 08, 2007

DVDs I watched this week, from favorite to least.

Despite unforgettable moments of brilliance, I haven't seen a movie under 90 minutes that felt this long since A Night At The Roxbury. The bracketing story's excruciating, with whimpering feebs pondering the metaphorical ramifications of multiple interpretations of a crime until you have no desire to do so yourself. Judging by its absence from the fourth and most powerful sequence, it's possible the score's earlier obnoxiousness was meant to be satirical. Toshiro Mifune's great, but you already knew that.

The director was rightfully demoted to Zucker Bros. scriptwork for years after this, but Thomas Haden Church, Rob Lowe and screenwriter James Gunn (who should give the material a Buffy-style TV revisioning if he ever finds the time) earn every raise in public profile that followed this film. Plus: Gunn and future wife Jenna Fischer's on-screen meet-cute!

Skating spills, Candid Camera, gay fetish porn, parent abuse.

It doesn't take long to realize that Idi Amin is a magnetic megalomaniac despot, so a feature-length documentary about him should show us a little more than that.

Christopher Walken (reminding us that he's not entirely beholden to camp) and Leonardo DiCaprio (well cast as a manchild) hold their own against clumsy cartoons Steven Spielberg, Tom Hanks and John Williams. Unfortunately, the movie continues long after Walken dies.

Halfway through the movie, a retired gangster returns to London to discover his brother committed suicide. 2/3rds through, when he discovers his brother had been raped the night before, he decides to get revenge in the last quarter. Clive Owen doesn't even buy a shave and a trenchcoat until the last ten minutes. The title promises a bit more than all this.

Contains action scenes almost devoid of lighting, arbitrary and incessant use of splitscreen, casualty-free military battles worthy of a G.I. Joe episode and an inscrutable psychedelic climax. Everyone involved in the post-production must have been wearing stretchy, purple Bad Idea Jeans.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

SoulDecision, tragically ahead of their time

Questions inspired by recent #1 singles:

Would SoulDecision be as successful as Maroon 5 if they came out today?

What about the Afghan Whigs?

Why does Rihanna sound even more like Alanis Morrissette than Avril Lavigne does?

Why doesn't this similarity bother people? It bothers me.

Why hasn't R. Kelly sued Akon over the hook for "Don't Matter"?

Seriously, how can anybody listen to the chorus of "Don't Matter" and not hear "Ignition (Remix)"?

Will I ever remember anything about Timbaland's "Give It To Me"?

Does anyone actually like "Give It To Me"?

How come nobody's revisiting Zapp when so many R&B tracks today incorporate vocoder?

How long will it take T-Pain to acknowledge the debt with a cover?

Monday, June 04, 2007

Leila, who liked Knocked Up even more than I did, found a great response to Dana Stevens' Slate article about the film, which has being bugging me all day. Being a Brian DePalma fan, I'm used to seeing directors with genuine affection for women being called out as clueless saps and/or misogynists even though they create female characters who are more than some political/romantic ideal or mere proof that the male lead is straight. Has Stevens not seen your average American comedy? If Judd Apatow doesn't "get women," what male comedic director in America does?! Also, why would anyone think Jonah Hill's character showed more "depth of humor and humanity" than Leslie Mann's? Because he made more putdowns? All the men are portrayed as selfish, immature snark machines or bitter adults who secretly pine for their slacker past. If someone's going to complain about the limits of one gender's presentation in a film, it might be a good idea to look at the flip.

I found the film slightly overlong, and I hope Apatow finds a theme other than the modern American man's painful transition into adulthood before he gets insufferably sentimental. But crap like the Slate article makes me want to pretend Judd Apatow isn't just a TV dude smart enough to bring warmth to crude observational improv without turning it into treacle. Because that gift is impressive enough.

Friday, June 01, 2007

Films I watched this week, from favorite to least.

A trio of juvenile delinquents try to steal the wrong family's car, their misadventure climaxing in one hell of a Rammstein concert (a second climax, involving the angry and wounded rather than fire, is less dramatic). Bruce Willis does great "haunted cop." Surprisingly grand opening credits.

An FBI agent living on a houseboat is forced out of retirement by a serial killer who feels a "connection" to him. The obviousness doesn't become offensive until the dimly lit shoot-out, because director Clint Eastwood is old school. Don Siegel old school. While only one woman in the film has a sexual relationship with actor Clint Eastwood, all appear to love him. Jeff Daniels plays the harmonica.

Faye Dunaway successfully makes herself ugly, an impressive feat for the star of Bonnie & Clyde and The Thomas Crown Affair. Leaving an adult out of a will is treated as a more unforgivable crime than beating the shit out of a child. It's possible the frustrated, mentally ill single mother would be less sympathetic than her victims if anyone else in the film could act. I'd recommend watching the film with John Waters' commentary track whether or not you've seen it beforehand. You won't miss much dialogue.

The film proposes that, in dreams, each image is a cryptic clue related to a specific event (i.e. a wheel represents a "revolver," an angel means the incident occured at "Gabriel Valley"). We see Gregory Peck's dream, designed by Salvador Dali, for significantly less time than it is discussed by two Eastern European analysts. Ingrid Bergman is repeatedly chastised by her elders for either being frigid or possessed by lust, but her feminine intuition about Peck's basic goodness is proved correct. Bergman and Peck crouching anxiously in front of a backdrop fails to pass for a nerve-wracking ski sequence. The camera shoots itself between the eyes at one point, and I'm surprised I've never seen that in a film before.

A poorly kept nuclear plant owned by homicidal sociopaths turns Jack Lemmon and Jane Fonda into nervous wrecks while Michael Douglas fumes and slap his hands against surfaces. I know Wilford Brimley gets emotional at the end, but I can't remember seeing his mouth appear from under his moustache. There are several races against time.

Nothing like a Scandanavian film about a crisis of faith.