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Idiot Box by Matt Bors

Perry Bible Fellowship by Nicholas Gurewitch

Bob the Angry Flower by Stephen Notely


The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe

You have a highly successful cinematic trilogy based on what’s considered a literary classic. You belt out all three movies back-to-back-to-back, make a shitload of money and jerk off the impossible—all while making film history. For a few added perks, you make major stars out of a few of your cast members and you take home a few Oscars by the time the whole thing’s said and done. I’m speaking of Lord of the Rings. Yes, yes. Director Peter Jackson took J.R.R. Tolkien’s dry, sporadically bland (but somehow likable) classic fable and turned it into a ballsy, exciting adaptation that you didn’t have to be a total geek or mother’s-basement dweller to appreciate and enjoy.

I mention Lord of the Rings for a couple of reasons. First off, Rings was written around the same time, even in the same neighborhood, as The Chronicles of Narnia. Narnia’s author C.S. Lewis and Tolkien taught together at Oxford, writing their epics nearly simultaneously and bouncing ideas off each other. Hollywood crumbums will tap these long-dead literate fantasists for as much and as long as they can until every penny hits the floor. Maybe with Narnia they can succeed where they failed, from a marketing standpoint, with Rings. Think about it: Lord of the Rings only had three parts; Narnia seven. That’s a hell of a mark-up. And it gets better: Whereas the main characters in Rings were mostly adults, the main characters in Narnia are all kids. Think of the marketing possibilities.

That’s where the whole thing takes a nosedive when you actually go see it. Like I said, The Chronicles of Narnia is geared more towards kids, which means that you’ve got to listen to the little shits “yap, yap, yap” through the whole goddamn thing, while they crawl all over their completely ineffective parents and any other sorry son of a bitch who happens to be seated nearby. You’ve heard it before:

“Courtney, put that down!”

“Tyler, people are trying to watch the movie. You be quiet now.”

“Cameron, finish your nachos.”

You hear these words, or their admonitory equivalent, and seethe with rage and regret after realizing your fateful decision to see a movie like this in the theater. The kind you knew damn well kids would be at. It’s bad enough the country’s going to hell because people can’t beat their kids within reason anymore. That doesn’t mean I’m going to let some ankle-biting beast take a McDonald’s-greased shit all over my afternoon at the movies. I’ve hit them with stolen golf balls before. The blowgun has also served me well in the past. (And by the way, I’m like a surgeon with those items, so don’t worry if you catch me taking aim. I can hit the back of a head with a Titleist at a hundred yards; the jugular of a preschooler at fifty–windage permitting.)

The whole thing makes me think of when I worked at a theater down South. I used to stick a roll of toilet paper in my back when collecting for the Will Rogers Institute. Then I’d simply inform complainants my manager was dead when they wanted to gripe about my many antics. But the most fun I had was taking full advantage of my power when the kids got shitty. Just me and “Estelle,” my nightstick flashlight. If a kid wouldn’t shut up and the parents were loath to take control, I’d blind the little bastard with harsh light—or mace, depending on the paycheck–drag them into the aisle and start hammering away. If the kid didn’t put up much of a fight or shut up right away, I’d go easy. For one, it just wasn’t as fun. Secondly, they knew they fucked up and I could tell by glaring into those red, blotchy eyes they were indeed sorry. The beating was just insurance. If the little demon spawns couldn’t figure out why they were being attacked with a metal flashlight and kept crying bloody murder, I’d haul the little creep into the emergency exit hallway out of respect for the audience. But I’d also leave the door opened just enough to hint to the other moviegoers exactly what was going on. I’d let their imaginations fill in the blanks. But on every Saturday or Sunday afternoon, just like clockwork, an example had to be made.

I thought all of that was behind me. That was until little Devon’s ADHD medication wore off. When he started crawling over his seat and made his way onto what he thought was going to be my lap. I looked at the boy kindly, masking my contempt as other groaning, screeching, and whiny kids all over the theater ruined a perfectly good day at the movies. I asked him if he wanted to see my fire-breathing dragon trick. His eyes lit up, but he didn’t answer. I quickly produced my flask of gin that I often smuggle into the theater and took a big sip. I held it in my mouth and pulled out a lighter. WHOOOOOOSH...!

“Have some fire, Scarecrow!”

Devon was okay, aside from his newly bald head. I swiftly pushed him back into his seat. He’d faced my wrath today. I snapped. A man can’t change what he is, I told myself as I pulled out a slingshot from my coat pocket and grabbed a handful of really big ball bearings.

I’d had it with these kids. The stupid questions, the insolent behavior, the dopey looks. And the god awful noises they were making! I still hear them in my nightmares. I had no reservations as I picked off more than a dozen with precision accuracy, in record time. Gap Kids–2 o’clock. Poomf! Little Abercrombie polo shirt–10 o’clock–done! Mouthful of popcorn–12 o’clock–neutralized! The whole thing couldn’t have lasted more than 15 seconds and when I came out of it, I quickly sat down and wondered what the hell I’d done. The strangest part was no one said a word. And like an idiot, I almost went to the midnight show–look what I almost missed...!


I’m pretty much an agnostic, but 95% of the movies I saw this year had begun to convince me there is a hell. Not only that there is a hell, but also that I was entering the flaming pit of it every time I walked into a darkened theater. Look at my reviews in back issues or on our website, and you will see almost verbatim, unintentional descriptions that eerily parallel Dante’s Inferno.

Then I saw Syriana, and I was convinced that there is also a heaven. In case you saw the trailer for Syriana and mistook it for a cable news story, it’s the cinematic equivalent of the child of an overprotective mother playing out in the snow. The film’s got many layers and instills nervousness in its audience. It tells the story of the current energy crisis from every side: the CIA agents sent out to do the dirty work, the oil company executives who lost count of how many toes they stepped on, the trader executives who just know there’s a solution out there somewhere, the Arabian royalty who’ve had it with the US, and the budding terrorists who are just beginning to see some rays of clarity.

Syriana is written and directed by Stephen Gaghan who, you may remember, won an Oscar for his screenplay for 2000’s Traffic. While Syriana, in a lot of ways, is to Traffic what Casino is to Goodfellas, it is decidedly not Traffic Lite or Son of Traffic. It’s every bit as powerful and disturbing. Gaghan again throws the pieces of a puzzle, a dozen characters in complex situations, on the table. If your brain can get around it before the third act begins, not only will you be completely blown away—you’ll also understand why in a perfect world this film will win Best Picture at the upcoming Oscars.

The fascinating story and dialogue is matched by some top-shelf acting. There’s not a bad performance in the film, even from the otherwise contemptible Amanda Peet. No one steals the show either. Syriana belongs to no one character: each is perfectly fit together and no character is more important than another. Matt Damon and Jeffrey Wright play the youngbloods with something to prove. Chris Cooper plays the Texas oil exec with a dumb-as-shit grin that could easily get him elected president come 2008.

And as much as I hate to bring attention to the fact that George Clooney gained 30 pounds and grew a Guantanamo beard for his role as the can’t-tell-the-good-guys-from-the-bad-guys-anymore CIA agent, you only understand his motivation at the end. Clooney didn’t want to pull a Robert DeNiro or make a desperate bid for an Oscar. He transformed himself in an effort to become invisible–so you’re not paying attention to his otherwise dashing good looks that make soccer moms and aunts across the world groan with delight during bath time. For that matter, the only reason that any heavy hitters appear in Syriana is to help navigate you through the convoluted and complex storylines.

If you’re thinking of checking out Syriana to avoid the pox of thought, save your money. You should see it anyway, but wait until you’re up for the challenge. You’re going to be forced to think during the film, and long after you walk out of the theater. Even if you’re complaining on the way home about how you had to actually think, you can at least take comfort in the fact that you now know why the rest of the world hates the United States so much.

I know it’s not an official Kino review unless I have something snide to say about a film, but I have nothing negative whatsoever to say about Syriana. It didn’t have a line of bad dialogue, not a single note was off-key. The only thing that could be construed as criticism would be the fact that more than one viewing is required in order to properly digest it. But then again, doesn’t a truly great film make you want to watch it again?

Aeon Flux

Knowing things about movies is kind of like feeling out someone on a first date. There are certain red flags you want to look for. Talking excessively about their ex of four years, or Abraham Lincoln. About the time they fucked 9 people in the back of a Hummer, or their strong Christian-based religious convictions. In these cases, you’re probably better off running out of the place screaming in a tizzy than footing the bill and waking up alone in your own bed with your pants around your ankles yet again. It goes this way with just about anything—movies are no exception. If a movie’s release date’s been pushed back a couple times this likely means test audiences either laughed their asses off or demanded a refund—despite the free screening.

Another surefire whiff of trouble is when the movie studio won’t let film critics see the movie. The studio doesn’t want us to warn the movie-going public of the atrocity lying in wait to pounce. They want folks to take the leggy dame bait–the film industry’s answer to slipping you a mickey and suckering you into a game of chance.

And Aeon Flux definitely fits the type. It was supposed to come out in the early ‘90s, during the era of the Aeon Flux cartoon that debuted on MTV’s short-lived Liquid Television animation series. Then there’s the matter of screwing us critics out of a free screening. You get between a critic and his free movie? Next time you see him, you’d better run. So how did I get to see this waste of valuable resources without lightening my wallet, you ask? Well that’s a story all by itself.

I saw members of the local film press idling outside the theater, communicating through a series of grunts and hand gestures about their favorite films of the year. They continued to ignore me even as I stood there staring through them on that typically overcast Buffalo day.

“You boys here for Aeon Flux?”

They tried disregarding me, but my tenacity is legendary. The Tall Gaunt One knew the gesture was futile and turned.

“Yes. That’s what we’re here for. You’re not going to shoot off any fire extinguishers or anything during the screening are you?” he asked.

“Heavens no,” I answered. “There will be none of that nonsense today. Paramount isn’t letting any friendlies see this one early.”

The Short Twitchy One flew into some kind of epileptic fit immediately. “You’re full of it! You’re always trying to mix things up! I read your Terminal review (see issue #52) and you’re lucky I didn’t sue your worthless rag you son of a bitch!” He was mere moments away from gnawing my jugular like a Dollar Menu double cheeseburger.

“Hold your fire Tex,” I calmly replied as I held up and waved a white flag. “I’m telling the truth here.”

“And I’m Isaac Mizrahi,” The Effeminate One bitterly spat.

I knew I wouldn’t get anywhere like this with their sort. They only respond to power and influence. I pulled a copy of Aeon Flux out of my backpack and held it up. “Behold.”

Charlize Theron in all of her wannabe Eurotrash glory (and marginally convincing dye job) glared at their respective faces. They were utterly captivated.

“Where’d you get that?” The Short Twitchy One asked.

“I’m holding Theron’s Oscar hostage.” I said.

“Bullshit,” he spat as he snapped out of his daze.

“Language,” I admonished, as I pulled the bag off my shoulder and showed them my gilded captive.

The Effeminate One tried to touch. I slapped his hand. “All in good time. Now we can continue this exercise in animosity,” I said as I zipped up the bag and slung it back over my shoulder. “Or we can strike up a little deal and all have ourselves a pleasant day.”

“Oh?” The Tall Gaunt One asked. “And what do we have to do? Get you a real job working for a real paper? I’d consider it if I thought for a second that you even had a degree in anything other than basket weaving.”

“Watch your tone sir,” I retorted. “I’m quite happy where I am. Besides, your degenerate editors couldn’t handle my brazen style of truth and soothsaying.”

They all nodded, defeated.

“I’ve got something much better in mind. There’s some serious holiday merrymaking to be done. Now, who’s got the best home theater system among you?”

The Tall Gaunt One raised his hand, the other two nodding in agreement.

“Splendid,” I answered. I looked to The Short Twitchy One. “I just know that there’s some liquor store fool enough to give you a line of credit. There’s no other explanation for you. You’re getting the spiciest rum available and the egg nog. Or, if you want to do this Lebowski-style, grab some Kahlua, some damn good vodka, and vanilla ice cream. And don’t be stingy.”

The Effeminate One got mildly excited. “Oh my God, I never thought of that before! Vanilla ice cream instead of milk? That’s so clever.”

“I’m glad you’re pleased. Now you’re in charge of the pizza. Three should take care of the three of us. And don’t get any vegetarian crap. Make it cheese and mushroom, or green olives if you must.”

Once they realized I wasn’t completely insane, they got to work. We met up in The Tall Gaunt One’s mother’s basement. The Short Twitchy One was smashed in no time; even after taking out most of one of the pizzas. He couldn’t stop talking about how “fahhkkking haat” Theron looked and kept hooting whenever it seemed she might get naked—and booing when she didn’t. The Effeminate One couldn’t stop commenting on the costumes and Theron’s make-up, once the sauce kicked in. The Tall Gaunt One drank straight vodka while stroking his chin—pipe in mouth–and commenting on how this is what would’ve happened if Kafka and Fellini ever met. Every once in a while, during a particularly poorly written part or a completely pointless action sequence, one or all three of them would shoot me a dirty look. You know, like I made this piece of shit.

Once the movie was over, it was high time for a meeting of the minds. We all agreed that there was no reason for this movie to be made. All action films with female leads have a tendency to think that as long as there’s a decent set of tits and an ass you could bounce a quarter off of and get fifty cents back, they can skimp on the story. The Short Twitchy One remarked that it’s like when they write these characters they take a man and strip him of reason and accountability. Like I wasn’t supposed to remember that from As Good as it Gets. Tool.

And that’s how Jesus saved Christmas.

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