knows that with an M. Night Shyamalan movie there’s a “big secret” or
an “incredible plot twist.” These secrets are so important and shocking
to the movie that it’s illegal to reveal it to anyone who has intentions
of ever seeing one of these movies.
Shyamalan was ruined for me when his first major movie,
The Sixth Sense, came out. All I knew about it was there was
a twist ending and within 72 hours of its release, some hippy named
Zippy (no shit) blew it for me. It sounded fun, but when I ultimately
saw it, it was like playing a video game with the cheat codes on: mildly
fun, but not mind-blowing.
So whenever Shyamalan put out another one of his two-hour
long “Twilight Zone” episodes, I always made sure to get the hitch before
I got taken for eight bucks.
So, since the words “Samuel L. Jackson’s the bad guy”
and “water kills the aliens” have saved me sixteen some-odd dollars
over the last few years, I figured I’d had a good run and that it was
time to give back…
Viewing the trailers for The Village sparked no
interest whatsoever in me. A bunch of puritans living in the woods,
and in mortal fear of monsters. And for once, the trailers did justice
to the movie. Shyamalan gives us a gorgeous-looking movie where nothing
gorgeous or even interesting really happens. Everybody acts somber and
boring, with the exception of Adrien Brody as the village idiot, who
must have been the only one having fun during the making of this movie.
About forty-five to sixty minutes in, you reach a point
where nothing could possibly happen to keep you interested, and as a
result you will leave the theater with no opinion on the matter. Not
even the twist. Walking out of The Village is exactly what it’s
like being on Paxil: you don’t feel bad, but you don’t exactly feel
anything else either.
The Manchurian Candidate ***
A few weeks back when I was on “The Greg Sterlace Show,”
Greg, his lovely co-host Paula, and I sort of attempted to get into
a debate as to why there was a remake of The Manchurian Candidate
Not much of anything came of that debate, with the exception of Sterlace
calling me an idiot, and the 1962 version of the movie something to
the effect of “a crappy Frank Sinatra vehicle.” When Mr. Sterlace came
out of character between segments, he asked me, “yeah, why are they
I like to think I learned something that day. Something
about showmanship. I think that Greg was trying to put on a show, and
perhaps Manchurian Candidate director Jonathan Demme is trying
to add to the really big show that we’re going to have coming up later
this year with this satire. That big show being the presidential election.
You see, The Manchurian Candidate is more than
a typical remake of a movie; it’s a pigsticker to the ribs of the today’s
system, a goodnight story conspiracy theorists tell their kids when
they tuck them in at night.
Updated from the sixties, communists are replaced by corporations
as the villains and Korea is traded for Kuwait. In most cases, it goes
without saying that the original’s always going to be better than the
remake, but usually the deciding factor for me is how interesting it
ends up. And as much as I love to complain about remakes, The Manchurian
Candidate is one of the better ones out there.
Harold and Kumar Go To White Castle ***
This one was an iffy one for me. Harold and Kumar Go
To White Castle looked like it could go the way of the less-than-known
Road Trip or the atrocious Dude, Where’s My Car? I know
these movies aren’t gunning for Oscars. I know they’re not trying to
do anything more than make people laugh. And if they don’t, fine! But
if they do, you’ve got yourself your own personal goldmine my friends.
Chances were that Harold and Kumar was going to
be roadkill grilling on the radiator of a pickup truck. After all, they
did make it a point of mentioning that this movie was made by the director
of Dude Where’s My Car? (I still have flashbacks about the wretched
day that movie first entered my life. It was even worse with the person
you’re watching it with looking over at you the whole time trying to
figure out of you like it. Waiting for that look of approval. It’s like
you’re eating a casserole or dessert they made from a recipe in Redbook.)
Normally, I don’t like harping on that sort of thing. Even directors
I love have done movies that are flat out crap. Guy Ritchie did Swept
Away, David Fincher did Alien 3, and The Coen Brothers did
Intolerable Cruelty. Every movie these guys ever made wasn’t
a total abomination.
So with that said, I will say that Harold and Kumar
Go To White Castle was pretty damned funny. It’s just two guys having
an odyssey a few states away after seeing a White Castle commercial.
It gives you a few nice surprises that the previews don’t let you in
on, thus restoring your faith in the modern idiotic comedy.
While I can’t say it’s the best comedy I’ve seen in a
while, I can say that Harold and Kumar Go To White Castle is
one of the better ones. For optimum viewing, I’d recommend some libation
in the parking lot, and buying tickets ahead of time, because, frankly,
who really wants to be bothered waiting in a line to buy movie tickets
after they just drank a twelve-pack in a half an hour? Do what you like
with your life man, I’m going into the theater and eating the two double
cheeseburgers I smuggled through in my back pockets.
You know that things are bad in H-land when the only ‘60s
TV show left you can think to turn into a movie is based on a British
kids’ show, with puppets, that only lasted 32 episodes. Frankly, this
is the kind of thing I knew one day would come from
Bill Paxton, but Ben Kingsley as a character named The Hood? That’s
like getting shit-faced and putting the title of your Bentley up in
a game of back alley dice.
As for Thunderbirds, it’s a low-level Spy Kids
knock off and making such a knock off this soon after the last Spy
Kids movie is like trying to get the jewelry off a dead body at
the wake. At least give us some time to forget the things you’re ripping
off and give us the illusion that it’s something new when you finally
do “liberally borrow” from it.
Clearly, you don’t need to see Thunderbirds to
know that this movie shouldn’t have been made. But let’s consider some
other ‘60s TV shows ripe for the picking…
“The Munsters.” I see Vin Diesel as Herman, Gary Busey as Grandpa
and Carmen Electra as Lily.
“The Addams Family.” I know what you’re thinking: It’s already
been done, dummy. They even did a sequel. How much lamer can it get?
I know all this, but what about a remake of a remake? Who’s ever done
that? Plus you can give the late Raul Julia his due with a cameo from
beyond the grave. Just CGI him in!
“Adam 12.” No one’s ever heard of it before, so you don’t really
have to worry about being unimaginative! You can do casting by running
a reality show to cast the movie. Two birds with one stone! I love this
The Bourne Supremacy *1/2
I liked The Bourne Identity for a few different
reasons. It’s always somewhat interesting to see someone discover that
they’re a trained killer and outwit his would-be assassins. The look
on Matt Damon’s face right before he beat the shit out
of two European cops said it all for me. When you get a surprisingly
good cast and add a top-notch director to give what could easily turn
into a typical unimaginative espionage movie an enema to cleanse the
Clancyness out of it, you’re cooking with gas.
Pardon the pun. I really didn’t mean it.
But what our smog-saturated friends in Southern California
don’t fully realize is that a sequel to a good movie is not and was
not necessarily necessary. Oh I know that there’s a series of these
books out there, but there’s a series of James Ellroy books out there
too. Try and make money on those instead.
But now we’ve got The Bourne Supremacy and, with
it, the remainder of said cast, but we lack the original director who
held the original together. Doug Liman is replaced with Paul Greengrass,
who must have been smoking green grass when he set this flick up. Either
Paul or his director of photography has a serious case of Parkinson’s
disease. I say this because most of the action is either out of focus
or bouncy (the arteurs will no doubt call this “documentary-style filmmaking”)
to the point where popcorn and nachos at the concession stand should
be replaced with Dramamine. The brilliant Chris Cooper’s role is replaced
with the equally talented Joan Allen and her power-bitch hair—delivering
her empty calorie dialogue lines perfectly straight-faced while playing
sports coach to get his/her ass who has to answer for this mess off
of the chopping block.
Watching Allen and Brian Cox is probably the highlight
of the movie. While Matt Damon didn’t exactly level me with his subdued
performance, I do respect him for the fact that he didn’t show off even
in the slightest. The action for the most part pales in comparison to
that of The Bourne Identity. I’m always prepared to ingest a
certain amount of bullshit whenever I walk into an action movie, but
the car chase toward the end of the movie was sillier than roomful of
ferrets on LSD.
The Bourne Supremacy is the typical sequel chasing
the dragon--looking for all the thrills that the original delivered
while just leaving the theater eight dollars poorer and sadly disappointed.
Catwoman (no stars whatsoever)
After viewing Catwoman, I wrote two reviews. I
was torn between the two because as a film critic, I feel the need to
inform my readers (as ungrateful as they may be) as to what kind of
a painful experience they are putting themselves up for.
that late-‘90s movie Steel with Shaquille O’Neal? It was based
on a character from the Superman comics that was one of four replacement
Supermen after Superman briefly died in the early ‘90s. It’s story really
had nothing to do with the comic and if you’ve never heard of the movie,
there’s a good reasons for that—you’ve never heard of him unless you
followed that particular storyline and the movie was a fate worse than
death. As you can imagine, it flopped.
But Catwoman has something of an edge on Steel.
People are familiar with her from the ‘60s Batman show and more
recently from Tim Burton’s 1992 underrated Batman Returns. Initially,
hearing about it, I knew that the movie would have nothing to do with
the Batman character from which the character of Catwoman was originally
spawned. She was a cat burglar with feline powers (I think) whose arch-nemesis
was the caped crusader himself. Batman Returns kind of touched
“But screw all that! Let’s take an interesting R-rated
character, sex her up to the nines as far as PG-13 will allow, and stick
her in a truly terrible movie. Rehash some of what Burton did, but put
her up against the evil owner of a cosmetics company and his over-the-hill
wife. We’ll have everybody act like third-rate versions of ‘60s horror
actors and call it irony! We’ll also get a eurotrash director with one
name! It’ll be brilliant! Brilliant I say! Hahahahahahahahahahahahahaha!!!!!!”—Warner
Bros. Film exec in charge of development
If you’ve seen even one trailer for Catwoman, you’ll
know that it’s that out of control car that you see coming a mile away,
and you’ve got plenty of time to run or at least get off the street.
Dennis Hopper was once asked by his son why he made the
movie Super Mario Bros. Hopper explained that he needed to buy
him shoes. To which his son replied, “I don’t need shoes that bad.”
I know that everybody’s got to eat, but if they did this movie for reasons
other than sustaining themselves, shame on Frances Conroy, who is otherwise
brilliant on the HBO series Six Feet Under. And as for Alex Borstein,
who you may know as the voice of Lois Griffin on Family Guy…why?
All I knew about this movie was that it was about a geek
who’s happy to be left alone. I also knew that this was one of those
movies that’s going to be trendy and probably pasted on a three-quarter
page ad in Artvoice because it’s the must-see movie of the year.
So I donned some jock clothing and walked, carrying two
of the biggest imaginary pails of water I could find. I stole a pick-up
truck and went to the theater. I started with anyone who was nerdy-looking
in the slightest (especially anyone with a Weezer t-shirt on) and told
them to go rent Welcome to the Dollhouse instead. Then I’d give
them a wet Willie, wrestle them to the ground asking “whyyahittinyourself?whyyahittinyourself?”
and call them a “fuckin’ faggot geek pussy” or some variation thereof.
I really should’ve played football in high school.