Buffalo BEAST - Buffalo's New Best Fiend
 

Oct 5 - Oct 19, 2005
Issue #85

  ..Buffalo's Best Fiend
   
Bursting the Bennett Bubble
Count me out on this one
Allan Uthman

Post-Katrina, Pre-kaboom?
The Nukes are Loose
Russ Wellen

Tenet & the Bare Necessities
Touch the CIA Director
A Monkey
Fristing America
In Search of the Senator's Rolex
Ian Murphy
Life, Liberty & the Pursuit of Gasoline
Kit Smith
FAUX-TURES
Bush Declares War on Hurricanes
"It's time to fight back"
Luke Allein
Ask a Janjaweed Militiaman
Genocidal social advice
How to Wipe Your Ass With Buffalo Current
New paper finds its niche

Visitor's Gude to  Buffalo--Cheektowaga
Tom Maccio

The BEAST BLOG
Buffalo in Briefs
Wide Right
Bills Football
Ronnie Roscoe
Kino Korner: Movies
Michael Gildea
Page 3
Separated at Birth?
Beast-O-Scopes
[sic] - Letters
 Cover Page

COMIX:
Idiot Box
Perry Bible Fellowship
Bob the Angry Flower

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Kino Korner: Movies by Michael Gildea

A History of Violence

There are few things worse than seeing a film or movie that you’ve been looking forward to seeing ultimately suck. It’s really disappointing and it means that there’s one less person’s 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, it’s incredibly easy to review them.

Then 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.

A 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 (I’m going to pretty much give everything away from here on in–you 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 can’t be older than a five year-old girl.

Then we cut to Viggo Mortensen and Maria Bello married. They love each other very much and still 69 with Bello in a cheerleading uniform. They’ve got a clever teenage son and an albino daughter who’s probably the same age as the kindergartner who just took one in the face. Mortensen runs a small town diner and Bello’s a local attorney and everybody loves each other very, very much. They have the perfect life.

One evening just before closing time, the two bastards from the beginning stroll into Mortensen’s diner, ignoring the ‘closed’ sign on the front door. Viggo’s 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 faceand shot the other one several times before sending him through the front door.

Stall’s a big hero after saving all those people. News crews keep following him and his diner’s always busy. So Ed Harris, one of Stall’s new customers, shows up with two Nordic mafia-type heavies. Harris starts referring to him as some ‘Joey’ 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 doesn’t just want to talk about the good old days over a few beers down at the local Friday’s.

Harris and his goons start showing up more frequently. They show up outside the diner and they even harass Bello while she’s shoe shopping with the golden child at the dirt mall in town. Bello spouts obscenities, and Harris retorts with more sordid details of this Joey’s past; she’s 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.

The 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 Stall’s in the doghouse, he receives a phone call from someone who sounds like he’s connected to Harris and Stall – 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.

Probably the worst thing you can do from a technical standpoint when you write a film review is what I just didtell 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 that’ll surprise you is how hairy Maria Bello’s 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.

I 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 – 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 it.

To be fair, I’m 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 Harris’ character does.

A 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 ‘80s version of The Fly, Dead Ringers, Dead Zone, and the supremely twisted Naked Lunch. He’s 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 wasn’t 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 he’s done that I’ve seen. You’ve got to emotionally prepare yourself for one of his films.

Another serious flesh wound concerning this film was William Hurt as Joey’s brother Ritchie. Hurt sports the most ridiculous facial hair ever conceived – it’s nearly impossible to pay attention to anything he’s saying, let alone doing. He looks like an Amish mobster, put on earth solely to prove there’s something more ridiculous than a Jewish rapper.

The mistake I made while watching A History of Violence was that I took it from a straight on point of view. I didn’t bother to think of it as the Darwinian manifesto that it was. After the scene when Stall’s son beats the loving shit out of two school bullies, I wasn’t thinking in terms of any ‘sins of the father’ shit. I saw over the top characters, people that could never exist getting wrapped up in completely bizarre situations that could never happen.

If you do decide to see this film, and you’re really in the mood for a good character study with outlandish overtones, you’ve 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, don’t. Just don’t.


Serenity

There 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 Affleck’s 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 – as a selling point – the best-that-money-can-buy marketing department over at Universal Studios (if it wasn’t TNT, I would’ve 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.

What 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 shameful!

So 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. It’s 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 Serenity’s that much of a better title – all it does is make me think of the “Serenity Now!” episode of Seinfeld. Who wants that kind of trip laid on them in a movie theater, where you’re really not supposed to act out? Not that it’s ever enough to stop me, but it’s just getting a little harder to get people to excuse that kind of behavior is all.


Oliver Twist

There 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, doesn’t it? If you take the time to watch Nosferatu, you’ll be engulfed in some wild imagery for about twenty minutes, and the last hour and ten are painful. It’s like hitting a strip club – you’re wowed for maybe fifteen minutes and then the buzz of being in a room full of naked and pretty decent-looking (provided there’s 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 you’re 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 that’s pretty much that. I mean, I’m as big of a proponent of a nice set of breasts as the next guy, but it’s like getting wood over a nice car you’re probably never going to own in this lifetime, so you’ve got to let it go.

Let’s 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. It’s noted for its excellent camera work and, from a technical standpoint, is groundbreaking. But all you’re 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 it’s kind of a drag to watch more than once. Practice and theory don’t meet here.

So where was I going on this one? Oh, theory and practice. I don’t think there’s 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 Rosemary’s Baby and married Sharon Tate. If you study your recent history, you’ll 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 hasn’t been in the States in about thirty years. Here’s a guy who did some pretty tenacious work up until he had to split the country. He’d done Knife in the Water, Repulsion, and Chinatown. But he’s done maybe one good movie since he’s been working in Europe, and there’s only so much Europe you can take. And boy howdy! Oliver Twist is a whole lot of Europe. To make matters worse, it’s a period piece.

This kind of movie is best seen after eating some plain, unsavory, and bad food served at room temperature. Don’t bathe for a few days beforehand, and make sure you’re dressed in a black turtleneck and one of your most painful memories if you do see it.


Into the Blue

I read a review of Into the Blue about a week before I saw it, just to know much I’d 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.

You 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 I’m 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 you’re trying to–why are you–leaping around there throwing those things all up in my face over here. What do you want, Jessica? Tell me what you want!

I’ll tell you what you want – 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.

I fell off early with that one. But the review’s author didn’t make much mention of Miss Alba and her little outfits. She exudes that same dumpy hotness that doesn’t look as hot from certain angles, and she is the movie’s only selling point. It’s 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 1994’s Shallow Grave. Danny Boyle (see Trainspotting and 28 Days Later) directs his first of three movies with Ewan McGregor (a big favorite with Tom Maccio’s 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 you’d expect it to, but there are a few unexpected elements you don’t really plan on.

If you’re more in the mood for Jessica Alba and her little outfits leaping around, then there’s 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.


Tim Burton’s Corpse Bride

It’s 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 I’m 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 Burton’s Corpse Bride we get the magical combination of Tim Burton and stop still animation.

His 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 it’s always a treat.

So we skip twelve years later to Corpse Bride. It’s 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, there’s nothing real; it’s all too processed and lacks organic style. At least with Burton’s preferred style you’ve got something made with human hands, something that actually exists. As for the story, it’s 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 fun…

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