The BEAST - Buffalo's Best 58 9/15/04--9/30/04



Movie Reviews by Michael Gildea



Every so often, I’ll see a movie that I can picture myself miming Robert DeNiro in Taxi Driver to; namely the porno theater scene about two thirds through where he makes a gun out of his hand an points it at the screen (boom!).

Needless to say, Cellular is one of those movies. Cellular was written by Larry Cohen. If you’re not familiar with the name, he’s the guy who wrote the Joel Schumacher gem Phone Booth. You know Phone Booth—the one where Colin Farrell has to stay on the phone with the sniper with the crosshairs on his head? Now you can refer to Cellular as the one where the transporter kidnaps Kim Basinger and she has to rely on a kid to help her before her son gets kidnapped.

This movie had such a fresh plot idea and I was truly amazed by the originality of both the plot and the way in which the acting was forced. In case you’re not perceptive even in the slightest or haven’t read one of these reviews ever, that was sarcasm. Cellular put me through all-consuming psychological pain. The incessant repetition of this plotline (I’ve seen this movie many times before) had me reeling in agony.

Cellular did inspire me though. It had to do with a recurring dream I’ve been having lately: Alfred Hitchcock is rolling around in his grave and begging me to help him stop this derivative, diluted cinematic drivel. Between this vision and seeing Cellular, I was inspired to somehow resurrect Hitchcock and place his brain into the body of a powerful mutant of my own design. I will then program my creation to go out and cripple those responsible for putting out these eighth-rate Hitchcock knockoffs. The apparition also told me that he’s “sick to death” (pardon the pun, but Hitch said it) of what’s been going on since he kicked the bucket. Believe you me, the man is pissed.


Resident Evil: Apocalypse

The original Resident Evil took all of it’s potential and emptied its wallet into its arm. George Romero was originally slated to direct the original, but the studio wanted to make their adaptation of the R-rated game into a PG-13 version. You know, for the kids. Romero told them to piss off and the rest hit the back pages of lesser-known cinematic history.

So Resident Evil finally hit the theaters—with an R-rating. That’s like dumping the love of your life due to fear of commitment and having to marry some skank you knocked up six months later with a shotgun pointed at your live-by-the-seat-of-your-pants-ass. But we all need to make our own mistakes, right?

Well, some of us need to make them more than once. Some call it stupidity, but I generally call them sequels. The first Resident Evil was vaguely entertaining, and I say that after viewing it under the influence of something that was so good I forgot what it was. All I remember was a brief shot of Milla Jovovich’s nether regions (thank God for the crystal-clear pause that a DVD player provides), the skankiness of Michelle Rodriguez getting kicked up a notch when she became a zombie, and the need to question my friend’s taste in movies, crotch shot or no crotch shot.

If you remember how the original ended (basically set up for that much-needed sequel) or have played even one of the overdone series of videogames, you can pretty much figure out where Apocalypse is going. They added some of the bosses from the games as characters and ripped off Return of the Living Dead. Yay.

Whoever wrote this doesn’t know that zombie movies were taken to the next level over a year ago when Danny Boyle put out 28 Days Later and Dawn of the Dead was released. Zombies don’t move like senior citizens on their way to shuffleboard anymore. They jump at their victims like Olympic track stars and tear into their prey like rabid wolves on a gang of My Little Ponies. Resident Evil: Apocalypse took a step back in the evolution of the zombie movie. And if, for some truly bizarre reason, Mr. George Romero is reading this paper, I would like to invite him to see Resident Evil: Apocalypse so we can sit in the front row and pull a “Mystery Science Theater 3000.” Those are the only circumstances under which I will see this movie again. It’s on me, Mr. Romero…


Vanity Fair

Vanity Fair excited me (for lack of a better term), because period pieces are usually the sort of movies that will strip an actor or actress down to their core, and let you know if they’re actually any good at their chosen profession. And that’s typically where the Oscars nominations are hiding. You know, if you’re actually into that sort of thing…

Vanity Fair isn’t that far removed from the stories of Jane Austen and the Bronte sisters, so if those stories/movies bore you to the point of impotency, you may want to switch back from decaf to regular coffee.

It’s got its fun moments, its moments of sheer delight (well, maybe not sheer delight), and, as with any movie set in a time and place completely different from the one in which you turn oxygen into carbon dioxide, it has moments that you won’t completely follow, and therefore will not interest you. Sort of like college-level biology, without having to spend an entire paycheck on books.

However, if you’ve seen movies such as Jane Eyre, Sense and Sensibility, Emma, or any other that takes place in an era where women had a choice of about four things they could do with their lives, you may enjoy Vanity Fair. There’s a certain rhythm that you need to get into to follow these sorts of movies, and some people need to see a few period pieces before they get the hang of it. Vanity Fair may not be the best place to start if you’ve never seen one, although it is a movie worth seeing at some point.  

Reese Witherspoon’s in it, but Vanity Fair has nothing to do with Legally Blonde or the magazine named Vanity Fair. It’s just about English society in the early 1800s. If all of this is flying over your head, just go see Sweet Home Alabama again for crissakes. Or if you want to see a really good Reese Witherspoon movie, check out Election or Pleasantville.


Wicker Park

There are so many stars out there who are just…there. There’s nothing especially remarkable about them. They just look attractive and therefore sell tickets to people who think even for a second that they can land someone that comely. Somewhere down the line, those actors and actresses get a great role and show the world exactly what they’re capable of.

Which brings us to Josh Hartnett. He’s just there. Not especially remarkable. I don’t think he’s attractive. He sort of reminds me of DJ from “Roseanne” all grown up, with Keanu Reeves’ voice somehow built in. But who am I to say who’s attractive and who’s not? Oh sure, I talk a good game, but I’d pick up Hartnett’s overflow in a second given the chance (getting way off track here).

Wicker Park is a mystery, I guess, where a good-looking guy and a good-looking girl get together and they’re happy until the good-looking girl disappears without so much as an inarticulate goodbye note. Sniff, sniff.

So the good-looking guy moves on, but eventually starts seeing the good-looking girl again. He drops his whole life and then a bunch of twists and turns ensue. Then it gets what I’m assuming is supposed to be weird and creepy.

It’s up to the director from the beginning to take a cast (that includes Matthew Lillard) that you don’t particularly care about and make them engaging. Director Paul McGuigan had a hell of a challenge here trying to do that. He was handed a box of Milk Duds and a theater full of vegans by a film exec and left with the words, “I know you can do it big fella.”

I don’t know if the folks at the MGM studio thought they had another Vertigo on their hands, but Wicker Park is more like a vegetarian alternative to the classic Hitchcock masterpiece. It’s not the movie that’s going to make Josh Hartnett the next Tom Hanks. It’s an all right flick if you’re in a pinch for something to see, but when you’ve been fed tofu all summer long, you’re ready to kill the cow yourself if it means you’ll get a decent meal out of it.



What do you get when you add one of Matt Damon and Ben Affleck’s drinking buddies from Good Will Hunting, that is-he-acting-or-isn’t-he crazy quality of Tom “if the bitch gets outta line she’s getting a beating” Sizemore, and Mel Gibson’s former barber as a director?

That’s right. A cinematic abortion that lived.

The plot follows an up-and-coming actor who’s getting some recognition, and with that acknowledgement comes a gang of notch-above-child-molester camera-wielding parasites better known as the paparazzi. Sizemore and crew do the equivalent of what Lee Marvin and company did in the 1953 Marlon Brando classic The Wild One—terrorize people while being sleazy about it. And Cole Hauser I didn’t even recognize without his prison jumpsuit-orange hair as the actor who’s got to fight back.

Paparazzi is the cinematic counterpart to avant garde jazz. You know what I mean—the stuff that’s so discordant to the point of being unlistenable—unless you’re a musician. It’s music for musicians, and this is a movie for actors. Not that it has meaty roles or even an opportunity to work with Martin Scorsese, but it’s a daydream for them and a chance to vicariously fight back against the people that hide in their bushes and take non-airbrushed photos of them as they eat brunch on Sunday mornings.

That’s not to say that someone who’s not in “the biz” won’t enjoy this cat-and-mouse thriller. You probably won’t, but at least it doesn’t star Ashley Judd as an FBI pathologist.


We Don’t Live Here Anymore

Wow. I think it’s safe to say that there is nothing, and I mean nothing more interesting than a character study into the lives of two couples. I’m not shitting you either. If you don’t believe me, check out Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? and Your Friends and Neighbors, make sure there’s enough alcohol to get you in the right (namely volatile) frame of mind and you’ll either have enough fodder for a lifelong friendship (that is presuming that you’re not watching them alone) or it’s the ideal way to get someone out of your life.

We Don’t Live Here Anymore shows up to the party that the aforementioned movies started, but gets rejected at the door for its sham invitation. With those other movies, what you see isn’t necessarily what you get. There’s a buildup, the waters are chummed, the sharks are let loose, and with the keen eye of the director, you get one hell of a show. Mike Nichols slapped us in the face with Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? and Neil LaBute kneed us in the balls with Your Friends and Neighbors, but We Don’t Live Here Anymore’s John Curran doesn’t offer the audience so much as a wet willy or a titty twister.

I don’t blame the movie’s actors. Mark Ruffalo, Naomi Watts, Laura Dern, and Peter Krause have shown us time and again exactly what they are capable of. Ruffalo’s been on point for the most part so far; Watts and Dern have been consistently impressive, and Peter Krause has been nothing short of amazing on HBO’s “Six Feet Under.” I do blame the twit who turned the Andre Dubus stories into drier-than-Kafka dreck watching paint dry in a mid-western state.

Two Oregon college professors banging each other’s attractive wife. How can you go wrong? My advice to you—check out those other two movies if you want to see this sort of thing done right. Or just wife-swap with your neighbor.


The Cookout

The Cookout is a bad dream that you strain against all better judgment to remember throughout the next day—you get the shakes more intensely with each horrid detail that comes to you. Ja Rule playing a character named Bling Bling. Queen Latifah as a security guard. The Method and Red carbon-copied plot. The stereotypes—that is, everyone in the movie. All of the C-list celebrities whose careers are in the death-rattle stage. I can’t recall if there was a canned laugh track in the movie, but there may as well have been.

I don’t think my animosity has anything to do with the fact that this isn’t my type of movie. Not because its characters are black or rich, but because I couldn’t really bring myself to care about them. I cared slightly the first time I saw this type of fish-out-of-water time killer; I really did. But it’s like hearing a song that you kind of like for the first time on the radio. It’s a little less interesting every time you hear it, but you run with it anyway. Then next thing you know, it’s three months later and you can’t so much as take a shit without hearing it. Thirteen minutes/years later, you deliberately listen to something else (no matter how bad it may be) just to escape it.

(Obligatory movie critic zinger) – “Blow off this Cookout and hit a restaurant instead.” (Look as what this movie brought me to…)

© 2004 The Beast