Kino Korner: Movies by Michael Gildea
History of Violence
are few things worse than seeing a film or movie that youíve
been looking forward to seeing ultimately suck. Itís really
disappointing and it means that thereís one less personís
opinion about movies you can trust. But it helps you weed
out the bad stuff. Eventually, though, you get so jaded
about the concept of film as an art form. In the plus column,
itís incredibly easy to review them.
there are those films that grip you like some treetrunk-necked
shitbrick son of a bitch bouncer when you walk into a Chippewa
Ave shithole without meeting their dress code, except in
a more enjoyable way. Those ones are harder to write about.
The films/movies I speak about actually speak to
you on some level. That spark or those sparks of brief,
brief joy can make watching movies worthwhile again.
History of Violence is not one of those movies. I am
not really at a loss, for good or ill, for things to say
about this film. A History of Violence starts with
two (Iím going to pretty much give everything away
from here on inĖyou may as well get some popcorn and a liter
of cola) guys on the lam who kill a hotel manager, the cleaning
lady, and what canít be older than a five year-old girl.
we cut to Viggo Mortensen and Maria Bello married. They
love each other very much and still 69 with Bello in a cheerleading
uniform. Theyíve got a clever teenage son and an albino
daughter whoís probably the same age as the kindergartner
who just took one in the face. Mortensen runs a small town
diner and Belloís a local attorney and everybody loves each
other very, very much. They have the perfect life.
evening just before closing time, the two bastards from
the beginning stroll into Mortensenís diner, ignoring the
Ďclosedí sign on the front door. Viggoís character, Tom
Stall, kindly asks them to leave, and when the scene ends
Mortensen has smashed one in the head with a glass coffeepot
and shot him in the face Ė and shot the other one
several times before sending him through the front
a big hero after saving all those people. News crews keep
following him and his dinerís always busy. So Ed Harris,
one of Stallís new customers, shows up with two Nordic mafia-type
heavies. Harris starts referring to him as some ĎJoeyí character
from Philadelphia, describing some unsavory things that
Stall, or this Joey, has done in the past. This includes
making Harris look like the Batman villain, Two-Face. Harris
acts friendly enough, but you can see that he doesnít just
want to talk about the good old days over a few beers down
at the local Fridayís.
and his goons start showing up more frequently. They show
up outside the diner and they even harass Bello while sheís
shoe shopping with the golden child at the dirt mall in
town. Bello spouts obscenities, and Harris retorts with
more sordid details of this Joeyís past; sheís still convinced
this is all some nightmarish case of mistaken identity.
Then comes the showdown in the front yard with Harris and
his men. The Stalls emerge victorious again after Tom takes
out the henchmen and young Jack Stall kills Harris.
Stall family now realizes that their patriarch was lying
to them all and that he is in fact the Joey character Harris
spoke of. They all hate his ass and after what appears to
be a goodbye fuck/rape between Stall and his wife, she lies
to the police and plans to never let him hear the end of
it for the next 30-40 years. While Stallís in the doghouse,
he receives a phone call from someone who sounds like heís
connected to Harris and Stall Ė I mean Joey. The voice on
the phone stresses dire urgency that Stall come see him
immediately. Stall drives something like fifteen hours to
Philly and goes to meet the voice on the phone. It turns
out to be the brother that the local friendly police officer
mentioned earlier, accompanied by about six goons, in a
fancy mansion. Turns out that big brother Ritchie is pissed
off at Joey and orders his death. Joey/Tom emerges victorious
yet again, and returns to his family for some uncomfortable
silence before the credits roll.
the worst thing you can do from a technical standpoint when
you write a film review is what I just did Ė tell
the whole goddamn story verbatim. Gene Siskel is rolling
around in his goddamn grave right now after what I just
did. I broke every rule in film reviewing. Bill Schuh must
want to break a bottle of Stihl Nacht over my head right
now. You go see that movie now and the only thing thatíll
surprise you is how hairy Maria Belloís crotch is. Whoops...
no more surprises. Still, I completely blew it for anyone
who planned on seeing A History of Violence before
they finished this review.
did all this to for the sole purpose of making a point,
but of course, in recalling everything I could about the
story, I completely forgot what that point was. Oh! Oh yeah
Ė I thought it was terrible! It was a less dramatic version
of finding your soul mate, only to learn something so horribly
unbearable and disturbing about them, something so maddening
that you start to lose your mind every time you think about
be fair, Iím not really referring to the first hour of Violence.
The buildup was nicely done, the acting was great, the photography
was top shelf. The softcore-borderline-hardcore sex scene
and the incredibly graphic violence definitely spiced it
up, but the movie dies the moment Ed Harrisí character does.
History of Violence was pretty clever in a way that
made you forget for the first two thirds of the film that
it was directed by David Cronenberg. Cronenberg has done
a lot of bizarre shit like Scanners, Videodrome, the
Ď80s version of The Fly, Dead Ringers, Dead Zone,
and the supremely twisted Naked Lunch. Heís a more
psychologically abusive version of John Waters, who replaces
filthy jokes with disturbing and uncomfortable head trips.
When I watched his 1996 film Crash, I was actually
in serious emotional pain. This wasnít because I was disturbed
by the film; it was because I was forcing myself to get
through the last ten minutes just to say I got all the way
through it. I also felt that way about Dead Ringers,
Naked Lunch, and everything else heís done that Iíve
seen. Youíve got to emotionally prepare yourself for one
of his films.
serious flesh wound concerning this film was William Hurt
as Joeyís brother Ritchie. Hurt sports the most ridiculous
facial hair ever conceived Ė itís nearly impossible to pay
attention to anything heís saying, let alone doing. He looks
like an Amish mobster, put on earth solely to prove thereís
something more ridiculous than a Jewish rapper.
mistake I made while watching A History of Violence
was that I took it from a straight on point of view. I didnít
bother to think of it as the Darwinian manifesto that it
was. After the scene when Stallís son beats the loving shit
out of two school bullies, I wasnít thinking in terms of
any Ďsins of the fatherí shit. I saw over the top characters,
people that could never exist getting wrapped up in completely
bizarre situations that could never happen.
you do decide to see this film, and youíre really in the
mood for a good character study with outlandish overtones,
youíve come to the right place. But if you want some sort
of paint-by-numbers story where loud noises, shiny things,
and cheap laughs rule in the dark over character, or decide
to check it out because you really liked Viggo Mortensen
in the Lord of the Rings movies, donít. Just donít.
were two times in my life after the age of three or four
that I can recall pissing my pants. One was the Christopher
Walken scene in Gigli where he talks about putting
a bowl of pie and ice cream on Ben Affleckís head (your
tongue would slap your brains out trying to get to it!)
and the second was when I saw the trailer for Serenity
early this summer. It looked so painfully bad between the
shoddy made-for-cable production values and the F-List (for
Fucking terrible) cast, placed like plastic people on a
death-laced wedding cake of CGI special effects. Then Ė
as a selling point Ė the best-that-money-can-buy
marketing department over at Universal Studios (if it wasnít
TNT, I wouldíve sworn that Fox shat this turd out) just
has to mention that Joss Whedon, creator of Buffy
the Vampire Slayer and Angel, is the big boy on this one.
Whedon must fail to realize is that nobody worth their salt
ever watched Buffy (and definitely not Angel) for any reason
other than to jerk it to the episodes where Willow became
a lesbian and because Sarah Michelle Gellar actually looked
halfway decent before she allowed Freddie Prinze Jr into
her vagina. Another story of how a no-talent tool brought
a reasonably decent girl down with him. Shameful, absolutely
we take some plot highlights from 1984 and Brave
New World. Stick them in with some aspects of the Star
Wars mythology because there are no decent sci-fi franchises
left. Itís years in the future and the government wants
everybody to be happy. Yippee. Oh, but the way, this steaming
pile is the remnants of a very short-lived TV show that
Whedon created called Firefly. Not that Serenityís
that much of a better title Ė all it does is make me think
of the ďSerenity Now!Ē episode of Seinfeld. Who wants that
kind of trip laid on them in a movie theater, where youíre
really not supposed to act out? Not that itís ever enough
to stop me, but itís just getting a little harder to get
people to excuse that kind of behavior is all.
are times when the history of a movie is more interesting
than the movie itself. Legend has it that Max Schreck, the
man who played Nosferatu, was an actual vampire.
Pretty wild, huh? Makes you want to see the movie, doesnít
it? If you take the time to watch Nosferatu, youíll
be engulfed in some wild imagery for about twenty minutes,
and the last hour and ten are painful. Itís like hitting
a strip club Ė youíre wowed for maybe fifteen minutes and
then the buzz of being in a room full of naked and pretty
decent-looking (provided thereís no bright overhead lighting)
women who will take you in a back room and rub themselves
on you for maybe five minutes for twenty bucks quickly wears
off. You know youíre not going to get laid without dropping
a substantial chunk of your paycheck, and you always feel
gypped after dropping that much on a lapdance, so thatís
pretty much that. I mean, Iím as big of a proponent of a
nice set of breasts as the next guy, but itís like getting
wood over a nice car youíre probably never going to own
in this lifetime, so youíve got to let it go.
take Triumph of the Will. Hitler commissioned German
filmmaker Leni Riefenstahl to make a propaganda flick for
the Nazi party. Allegedly, she slept in a room with hundreds
of miles of footage, living there for months while she edited
the movie. Itís noted for its excellent camera work and,
from a technical standpoint, is groundbreaking. But all
youíre looking at for a better part of two hours is fucking
Nazis. Nazis marching, Nazis giving speeches and bathing
each other (at least the Hitler Youth did) and some other
generally boring shit. Interesting from a historical standpoint,
but itís kind of a drag to watch more than once. Practice
and theory donít meet here.
where was I going on this one? Oh, theory and practice.
I donít think thereís anything else I can say in this tangent
other than that I got way off point here. I was slowly getting
to Roman Polanski. Roman Polanski was an up & coming
Polish director who struck it big in America with Rosemaryís
Baby and married Sharon Tate. If you study your recent
history, youíll know that she was pregnant when the Manson
Family killed her. As you can imagine, Roman slowly started
going off the deep end, which culminated with an underage-rape
charge hanging over his head. He hasnít been in the States
in about thirty years. Hereís a guy who did some pretty
tenacious work up until he had to split the country. Heíd
done Knife in the Water, Repulsion, and Chinatown.
But heís done maybe one good movie since heís been working
in Europe, and thereís only so much Europe you can take.
And boy howdy! Oliver Twist is a whole lot of Europe.
To make matters worse, itís a period piece.
kind of movie is best seen after eating some plain, unsavory,
and bad food served at room temperature. Donít bathe for
a few days beforehand, and make sure youíre dressed in a
black turtleneck and one of your most painful memories if
you do see it.
read a review of Into the Blue about a week before
I saw it, just to know much Iíd have to suck in my gut when
I watched it. I read the review, then I saw the movie. I
was left with the impression that I actually might enjoy
it. In all honesty, the only reason in the world I saw this
movie was for Jessica Alba in a bikini.
know who really grinds my gears? This Jessica Alba. Huh?
This Jessica Alba with all her little outfits, jumping around
on the beach half naked with her little outfits, and Iím
just sitting here with my beer. So, you know. What am I
supposed to do? What do you want? Are we going to go out?
Is that what youíre trying toĖwhy are youĖleaping around
there throwing those things all up in my face over here.
What do you want, Jessica? Tell me what you want!
tell you what you want Ė you want nothing! You want nothing!
Because we all know that no woman anywhere wants to have
sex with anyone, and to titillate us with any thoughts otherwise
is just bogus.
fell off early with that one. But the reviewís author didnít
make much mention of Miss Alba and her little outfits. She
exudes that same dumpy hotness that doesnít look as hot
from certain angles, and she is the movieís only selling
point. Itís just another rags-to-riches story where evil
people come after the riches. If you want to catch this
sort of thing done properly, you should catch 1994ís Shallow
Grave. Danny Boyle (see Trainspotting and
28 Days Later) directs his first of three movies with
Ewan McGregor (a big favorite with Tom Maccioís kid) where
three Scottish flatmates find their new roommate naked,
dead, and in possession of a very large chunk of change.
It pretty much goes the way youíd expect it to, but there
are a few unexpected elements you donít really plan on.
youíre more in the mood for Jessica Alba and her little
outfits leaping around, then thereís very little I can do
to dissuade you. If you want to stare at her donkey and
fire off some knuckle children on the headrest of the poor
bastard in front of you, be my guest.
Burtonís Corpse Bride
getting to the point where there are very few things that
make you actually glad to go to the movies. If Martin Scorsese
and Robert DeNiro were to make another movie together, that
would be a great example of what Iím talking about. An episode
of Family Guy where Brian and Stewie go on some crazy adventure
together is another instance of this. But with Tim Burtonís
Corpse Bride we get the magical combination of Tim
Burton and stop still animation.
first project, Vincent was a brilliantly moody ten-minute
film, about a boy who wants to be Vincent Price, using this
animation technique. A few years later, he masterminded
A Nightmare Before Christmas, also in stop still.
They were both entertaining in their way and itís always
we skip twelve years later to Corpse Bride. Itís
basically Nightmare Before Christmas without the
holiday aspect, but the musical numbers are still there.
If nothing else, you could say you saw it because it will
in all likelihood be one of the last of its breed. The problem
with Pixar making computer programs instead of movies is
that like with CGI, thereís nothing real; itís all
too processed and lacks organic style. At least with Burtonís
preferred style youíve got something made with human hands,
something that actually exists. As for the story, itís a
fairy tale, and if you know anything about fairy tales you
know that no good can come of them. Neat animation, weak
story, famous voices. Have funÖ