Friday, September 09, 2005


Layer Cake
Started with enough panache to be interesting, but then devolves into pretty standard gangster fare. The head gangster discovers that it's pretty much turtles all the way up.

Perhaps I'm just of the wrong generation in that I don't consider thugs either romantic or worthy of my empathy. I wanna see these bastards get it good.
But then maybe that's the point. Perhaps the story device of gangsters is used so we purposely don't care all that much about them, and when tragedy visits, it's more of a punchline than a sad moment. The third "Alien" film did this by setting it in a prison for that houses the most extremely violent criminals there are; you could care less when the alien munched them, unlike the previous films where you really really didn't want anyone to get hurt.

Still, didn't think Layer Cake was all that.

Things to Do in Denver When You're Dead
Another gangster film. Group of baddies goofs up what should be an easy job: Intimidate new fiancee of Christopher Walken's pedophile son's ex-fiancee so she'll take the freak back. Walken is wonderful as usual. Andy Garcia is not used enough.

But it's just two hours of thugs doing bad things and then dying, tra la. Who cares?

Well, I chuckled at how Walken managed to deliver the line "Next thing ya know you're chugging cock" in his unique way and still make it a believable thing that would pop out of his character's mouth, so to speak.

It occurred to me that my Dream Movie Pairing would be Walken and William Shatner. Wouldn't it be ... great ... to see the ... two premiere significant ... pausers ... chewing the ... scenery ... together ... ?

Kung Fu Hustle
I can see this had a very specific target audience, of which I'm not a member. I just don't like swat-fu for swat-fu's sake. And while I'm usually a fan of broad humor, I just don't enjoy the cliches of swat-fu films enough to enjoy the lambasting they receive in this film.

Besides, this was done first and much better in John Carpenter's Big Trouble in Little China, a much richer, funnier film. (And it wouldn't be fair to not also mention the Cato sequences in the "Pink Panther" films.)

Holy Smoke
Saw this mostly because Kate Winslet's on my "if she's in it, I'll see it" list. Also, so far I've deeply deeply loathed all of Jane Campion's films, and when I hate a director that much, it's almost like loving them. I worry at it like it's an infected sore. I keep hoping that I'll find the way into their world, or finally grasp something I must be missing.

I've concluded that Campion simply has a completely different perspective on the world than I do. We just don't have enough tropes in common that would allow me to enjoy her films. I'm tempted to say that her worldview is adulterated and fetid, but stop short because my lack of understanding of her is so complete I don't know if I'm capable of fair judgment.

I did like the way this one began. It pulled me in right away - which is a first for a Campion film for me. But I can pinpoint the exact moment it takes the turn that lost me.

Harvey Keitel plays the best cult deprogrammer in the world who's trying to pull Winslet back from the clutches of a Hindu David Koresh. They are in a remote house in the Australian desert so he can work on her. At the point he's supposedly "broken" her, he awakens the sight of all of her religious saris ablaze outside, and when he goes to investigate, she approaches him entirely nude (it was almost worth sitting through the film just for that) and crying. Since she's been "broken", she makes a pass at him, which he initially rebuffs (as he should). But as he's walking away, she inexplicably pees all over herself while pursuing him, and his reaction is to cave to her seduction(?), and in the next scene they're screwing, and she's saying, "Don't cum! Don't cum!" while he's obviously in the midst of that very spasm. From there it gets abusive like The Piano did, and Harvey winds up in a red dress ... and I couldn't really tell you what the point of the rest of the movie is.

A fun, light snack from Mel Gibson, supposedly loosely based on paparazzi incidents he'd endured ("loosely" because he was not forced by the paparazzi into a terrible car accident with his family in real life; though he may have used Princess Diana's death as inspiration). Fun little popcorn thriller. The wife and I enjoyed it.

Sin City
Didn't really like it. The visuals were great, but the story was, well, juvenile. Odd, given that Frank Miller, the creator and writer, is in his late 40s.

Anyway, the one shockeroo was when Carla Gugino, who plays the mom in the Spy Kids movies, pops up topless with a gun. It took a while for me to realize who it was.

It was akin to slowly recognizing a girl from a forgotten one-night stand in the grocery store years later. First you think you should know this person, and the mind chugs away at identification, then it dawns on you who it is, and then the whole shock of "I saw you naked!" bitch-slaps you pink in the face. Since I primarily know and love Carla Gugino as Mom from those other films (though, granted, as a MILF of the first order), it was akin to seeing Mary Poppins' tits in Blake Edwards' S.O.B.. It just feels .... wrong.

The Upside of Anger
I saved the best for last. This is one of those sweet little sleeper film surprises. Heck, Kevin Costner even actually bothers to bring some acting to this one. (Though he's playing a variant of the zen/stoner jock he's done a few times.)

Joan Allen is the star (in a departure from the standard Hollywood formula where the woman is primarily "the girlfriend" - here, Costner is "the boyfriend" since the story is primarily the woman's) whose husband has apparently left her for his younger secretary. Very inconveniently, at the same time her four daughters are all coming of age and leaving the nest for jobs and men she doesn't approve of. Her life is falling apart.

Costner's life fell apart a long time ago, and he's just learned to cope with it, so he kinda tags along after her, being a convenient fuck-buddy and accidentally dispensing occasional wisdom.

My lovely wife and I laughed and sniffled and had a grand ole time during this gem. Do check it out. (If you're over 30, that is - I doubt young turks would enjoy or even understand what goes on).