Friday, September 30, 2005

WALKING TALL -- by naudy (it gets a 3)

This movie is intended to appeal to The Rock's core audience... yer average WWE fan. It contains all the elements one would expect -- a small town crippled by the loss of a lumber mill, morally justified violence, big trucks, a hot stripper, and a kid to save. The only thing which dosn't quite fit the formula is the fact that The Rock has a delicious spray-on tan to make him look like the half Africian-American ex-military man he plays. So, other than the pleasant surprise of a story about a not-white good guy, it's exactly as bad as you would expect it to be. There is some cool fighting, and Johnny Knoxville manages to be amusing, but after that it's all illogical and silly. As much as I love The Rock, he's an awfully self-aware actor. He walks around visibly thinking "I Am Not The Rock" to himself and the viewer can see it. Were I to bother to go back and review this movie, I'm fairly certain that there are moments when he looks directly at the camera and just barely stops himself from doing the eyebrow thing.

I know you're not surprised.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

THE CHORUS -- by naudy (it gets an 8)

It's good. Made me cry in bits though probably not in the bits everyone else cries in. I wish I could handle punk kids half as well as this composer/teacher. But, I also wish I could write 6 part music for choir boys based on a poem by Rameau. And I wish I were a soprano like the "star" singer in this film. I also wonder what it's like to be a star singer until puberty hits and one's voice is gone. Sort of like high school football stars except one's peak is at eleven instead of eighteen.

But I digress. This movie is in French so if you don't like to read I wouldn't recommend it. Also, if you have a problem with "prison movies" skip it. Other folks who wouldn't like it are folks who hate choral music, people with an aversion to the color grey, and anyone who has a strong phobia of preadolescent boys.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

50 FIRST DATES -- by naudy (cuteness earns a 5!)

My nieces (aged 13, 9, and 7) insisted I watch this movie with them. (They also insisted that I watch HITCH with them, too, but I managed to weasel out of that one as it was a school night.) I was reluctant to sit down and view this film but every time I "accidentally" got up and wandered into another room, the kids would pause the DVD and yell at me until I came back and sat down.

So, what exactly makes a movie beloved by my tween-aged nieces? Well, I'm not exactly sure. I do know why I enjoyed it. Like any Adam Sandler film, it's mostly about the ensemble. Sean Astin as the mesh-shirt-wearing lisping steriod-muffin brother of Drew Barrymore's character was reason enough for me to see it. Face it, there isn't anything better than seeing Samwise come into a room, hang himself by his knees from the chandelier to do sit-ups only to have the entire chandelier fall from the ceiling a second later. The other reason to see this film is Rob Schneider. When I first saw him cast as a half-blind Hawaiian named Ula, I felt guilty. I mean, Rob Schneider's white... right? The thing is, he sort of looks Hawaiian/Caucasian/Asian and since his character is someone no one wants to be, it ends up being okay.

As for the story, well, it's Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore being cute. Since they both are at about the same acting level, it works out fine. There are also cute penguins, a cool walrus, some really great actual Hawaiians, pretty views, pineapples, Dan Akyroyd as a physician, amateur art, head injuries, and a happy ending. Which is enough for my nieces and was more than enough for me.

Monday, September 26, 2005

THE RED SHOES -- by naudy (a 3 'cause it takes forever)

As you can see from the poster, this film is from 1949 and has all the stylistic components considered glorious at that time. (I only mention the poster because there's no way that a real ballerina -- as Moira Shearer was -- could possibly have hips/thighs like that and still be a professional. She doesn't and she is.)

Anyway, I have heard about this movie off and on for some time. It's reviewed and considered to be a study on "art" as a creed, as a way of life, and the decision a dancer has between being the best in the world or being a housewife.

I found it to be a 1950's morality tale about the dangers of a woman wanting to have a life. Why else would her stupid (I didn't much like him) composer husband demand she give up everything to hang out and watch him work? Why else would the impressario who ran the ballet company demand only single women? (He tells us that happy contented females don't give everything they've got on stage and therefore are lousy artists.) Anyway, she dies, but not before dancing a lot on a Dali-esque soundstage and demanding that her husband remove the red shoes from off her feet. Historically it's an important movie as it shows a strong homosexual man right after World War II when to be homosexual was likely to get ya killed. Which is nice. I just didn't care since it was a grasping insensitive hetrosexual man butting heads with a controlling emotionally manipulative homosexual man over who got to ruin this woman's life. I would have left both of them and started my own dance company, if only to escape the seething testosterone (from the gay man) and hateful sniping (from the straight guy).

::sigh:: It's a sad movie, but not in that dreamy lovely "they really loved each other and it was a noble sacrifice" sort of way. Nope, this is sad in that "it's horrible that she felt compelled to kill herself rather than telling both the men in her life to stuff it" way. Probably I'd let any little girl I had watch it but only if I meant to deter her from ever wanting to be a ballerina.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

CASABLANCA -- by naudy (10, no question)

Humphrey Bogart is the man. Seriously he's the coolest person ever. I can't think of a single actor who exudes the same ... whatever it is Mr. Bogart exudes. He's amazing. He is indescribably undeniably cool but he's not cool in the self-aware Rat Pack sort of way. He's got a huge head, narrow shoulders, wears his pants around his rib cage and he's COOL!


CASABLANCA is one of those movies I've always intended to watch. So, through the miracle of Netflix (who's primary function, as far as I'm concerned, is to provide me with a chance to see all those movies I've always wanted to see but couldn't be bothered with going to a video store to not find) I finally saw Casablanca. I was happy to hear all the punchlines that are now basic pop culture ( "Here's looking at you kid." "We'll always have Paris." "Play it, Sam." "This is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.") delivered with the emotional weight and naturalness that made them the catchphrases they are. But, what I think I most appreciated about CASABLANCA is it's unashamed drama. This is bad stuff happening to folks at a really really bad time ( fact: WWII was no picnic) and we get to watch them deal with it. What's best is they're not living their lives like a made-for-TV-movie, or rolling around in angst, or smirking because they're so amazingly cool that naturally everything will turn out alright. Nope, these folks are flawed and dangerous but decent and they're just trying to find their way through. Somehow, they manage to make something happen, and whatever we think of their decisions is A) of no concern to them and B) beautiful because of it.

It amazes me is that this film was made in 1945. Admittedly it was mostly at the end of the war, but it still was war. What's our pro-war propaganda like now? Was this a pro-war movie? Will any of our junk last longer than the time it takes to air it? Would singing the Marsellaise be as inspiring to an American audience now like it was then? Probably not, to most of my questions. We don't have a man like Humphrey Bogart around to be in anything. Which is fine. We all can learn from the Rick we have. We can refuse to "stick my neck out for anybody", we can enforce political neutrality in our nightclubs (though I felt quite a surge of nationalistic pride when Rick tells the German general that "there might be a few parts of New York you'd have trouble invading."), or we can decide when and where our line of tolerance is crossed and act accordingly. Whatever. No matter who we are there's always a Casablanca, the place where we get stuck. Whether we grow stagnant or fight our way out is our decision. However, Humphrey Bogart in CASABLANCA might just have shown us the way to overcome.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

THE MAN -- by naudy (a 3)


Yeah, I know, it's Samuel L. Jackson and Eugene Levy. It should be great. It's not. It manages to stay just this side of trite, but only just.

My advice? Make it a matinee... at the dollar theater... when there's nothing else to do... and you're trying to compromise with a friend who really really wants to see VENOM. If yall see THE MAN you'll both be unhappy and it's that kind of mutual suffering that really brings a relationship together.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

"Bones" on Fox -- by naudy

I live in a household that has satelite dish television. I watch it. A lot. I used to watch it more. When I first moved in I would lie on the couch 'till 2am exploring the magical options of late night television. There are 300 channels being sent to my house. What does one do with that many choices?? I'v learned that 300 channels are useful if you want to catch the Asian Variety Show (a Bollywood version of Entertainment Tonight.) If you want to watch music videos you've got four channels to choose from -- as long as you're willing to watch between 11pm and 4am. If that dosn't do it for ya, Disney broadcasts on three channels 24 hrs a day and there's always Food Network, TCM, Animal Planet, and non-stop Law & Order on TNT.

I'v watched so much television that now I'm starting to notice things about it. I'm not talking about little things one notices, like the way The Men's Channel never plans or posts their programming. (It's always just a crapshoot. If you turn on The Men's Channel your liable to see anything. Sure it's all boring stuff like tractor pulls and hunting shows and infomercials about rototillers, but it's always a surprise.) And I'm not here to tell you that everything on Lifetime is a bizarre fairy tale for housewives. (Bizarre because it all too often involves abusive husbands, horrible circumstances, and sensitive bearded men tearfully over-acting. Why would one want to watch things like this?) or that all of the original series by Showtime are about shallow self-righteous people being horrid. Nope, what i'v been noticing is something a little more all-encompasing. I'v noticed that television is careful to not be too good.

Yup. You heard me. They strive to maintain a strict mediocracy. Which is not to say there aren't talented actors, writers, directors, and such working on television programming. I belive there are many very talented people in the industry. But I also am starting to think that there is something/someone who works very hard to ruin any chances of a show being too good. What about the good shows, you ask? What about the brilliant shows with well-developed characters, fine actors, and clear directorial vision? What about those?

Those shows, my friend, the shows which somehow miraculously make their way through the laborious burecratic mediocraty machene, those shows are cancelled. The networks work pretty hard to make sure they have a good reason to cancel 'em too. They move the time slots around so the average viewer can never manage to see it more than once. They pick the worst episode and re-run it five times in a row. They tamper with the sponsors, the time slot, the contracts, they try to interject some element of awfulness (like another child or a talking dog), they do everything they can to make the show not succeed. The only time they condescend to not cancel a really good show is if no one watches it. (see Arrested Development.) A cult favorite and critic's darling do not a mainstream sucess make. Which is just fine with them.

As you can see, I'm building up quite a head of steam on this little conspiracy theory of mine. I'm quite proud. I love paranoid crackpot ideas. Could listen to 'em all day. Which brings me to my point -- why. Why would T.V. be best served bland? Why do they not just pander to the lowest common denominator (which is understandable) or the sensational (which is sort of fun) but to the determinedly average? Well, I belive it's because television programming is designed to provide the viewer with a lack of resolution.

It's sort of like the entertainment equalent to salty potato chips. Or milk chocolate. Or lemonade. You have some and as soon as it's done your mouth isn't quite satisfied (because it's too salty or too milky or too sugary) and you want some more. Instinctively, and without thought, you reach for that next chip, that next Hershy's kiss (w/ caramel), that next glass of too-sweet-sour drink, the next hour of television. And when you reach the end of that next hour do you think to yourself, "Aaah. That was satisfiying. Now I can turn the television off and go be productive!"? No. No you don't and you probably never will. You'll instead feel just a touch unsettled, a bit unresolved. Perhaps the happy ending of the last hour wasn't quite happy enough, or perhaps some of the actors responces rang false and you don't quite believe they meant what they said. Maybe the storyline introduced some disturbing images and so you're thinking about the conflict of the story far longer than the theoretical resolution. Or maybe it was just a really boring episode of Hogan's Heros and you wonder who's idea it was to make a comedy about a German concentration camp.

To prove my point, let's examine a selection from the new fall television schedule. "Bones" is a show about a forensic anthropologist, which is actually pretty cool. What's better, it has David Boreanaz in it. For those of you who don't know, Mr. Boreanaz is the actor formerly known as "Angel." The premire of this show was in a prime slot right before "House." Everything is set up to be perfect, to become a burgeoning science/mystery/crime franchise for Fox. And yet... it's not all that great. The stories are cool. The science is neat. The sidekicks and lab assistants rock. All of the Washington D.C. officals are actual people and act like politicians. David Breanaz is georgus and human and smart and can act. So what makes this show mediocre? Emily Deschanel. That's right. Of all the seething hordes of actresses available to play this role, they picked someone who can't act. She's got one face and she sticks with it. (In the photo she's the one who looks like a big-jawed skeleton w/ bad hair. the one on the left.) As an example there's a scene in the premire where Mr. Breanaz is "arguing" with Deschanel in the close confines of a shooting range booth. It's written beautifully and all the (theoretical) sexual tension should be simmering close to the surface. The director set up the shot prefectly, and Mr. Breanaz even goes so far as to do that "leaning" thing. (you know, leeeeaning....) My roomate walked into the room at this point, observed Deschanel's complete lack of responce to Breanaz and flatly stated, "She's a lesbian. That's the only possible way someone could NOT have chemistry with that man. Wait, no, on second thought, lesbians would react to him too."

I laughed pretty hard. Anyway, if you watch it you'll see further proof that television is designed to keep your couch potato backside exactly where it is. I'm going to start working on my crackpot Media Conspiracy! theory newsletter right now so let me know if you want to subcribe. Well, okay maybe I'll start working on it after "House" is over....

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Fall Movies!!

Get set, kids! Mirrormask is coming! Mirrormask is coming!!! So now you know what I'M doing September 30th!
Find out more about the fall movies at:

click on the "Fall Movies" quick link!


Sunday, September 04, 2005

BEAUTY SHOP -- by naudy

 BEAUTY SHOP, or BARBER SHOP III, has Queen Latifa, Alicia Silverstone (who for once I actually enjoyed watching) and this gentleman, Dijimon Hounsou. He might be a good actor but I was too busy looking at him to notice. Also in this movie is Andi MacDowell (in the only charming role I have ever seen her in) and the underutilzed Kevin Bacon as "Jorje." It dosn't matter anyway as this is another Barbershop movie -- which means it's formula. Primary formula points:
  • One (1) small business owner
  • One (1) small business
  • Lots (4-10) of spunky individual characters who act as a foil for the sane and mostly right Small Business Owner
  • Entertaining trash talk/political commentary
  • A happy ending
Generally I liked it. It's a weak film, which at first glance seems strange. I mean, it's got good actors, lots of money, and plenty of time to be made. It's a fun formula which would seem to enable the screenwriters to really have some fun playing with the dynamic and trying to outdo each other. Unfortunately, even with all that this movie has going for it (Mr. Hounsou not being an insignificant part of the assetts!) this movie is weak and it's all because of it's director. The cinematography is rife with badly planned/executed/focused shots. It's weak with pointless details which pull focus from the story and distract the viewer. The script is chewed up and thinned down until the storyline dosn't really make sense and dosn't give the actors enough to work with. All of the good moments are from the actors themselves, and they had to work to get them there.
So why did I like it? Well, I still like those actors. And I could see (just like in the film ROBOTS) that it once had been a cute movie. It's still a cute movie, but it's more of a mangled distracted wobbly cute than a polished and perfectly presented cute.