Sunday, January 28, 2007

Review To A Kill & 5 R-Rated Moments In PG AND G Rated Movies That Slipped Past The MCAA

“It's not really happening. It's a movie, and it's called acting.” - Dakota Fanning talking about her new film HOUNDDOG Okay, I got some DVD reviews and some babble 'bout R rated moments in G and PG rated movies so let's get started.


FACTOTUM (Dir. Bent Hammer, 2005) 

One of my favorite movies is BARFLY (incidently it's out of print on DVD - used copies sell for $89.95 - $200 on Amazon) in which Mickey Rourke portrayed Charles Bukowski's alter ego Henry Chimalski - a definitive movie drunk, a pouty poet, and an all around unemployable schlub. Well Chimalski is back, this time a splotchy-faced and cranky Matt Dillon fills his shoes. Dillon's take on the character is edgier with less of the humour than Rourke's but he's still the same schlub. 

Dealing mostly with the series of jobs Chimalski can't keep and interspersed with the destructive relationships (Lili Taylor, Marissa Tomai) he can't get a handle on, FACTOTUM doesn't have much of a plot but it does actually have a point. It's no BARFLY but after what some critics have mistaken for a inebriated exercise, Dillon's final monologue brings it all into sweet focus. 

IDIOCRACY (Dir. Mike Judge, 2006) 

Mike Judge's (OFFICE SPACE, Beavis & Butthead, King of the Hill) return to the big screen has an infamously troubled back-story (extensive re-tinkering, little distribution and almost no promotion), so it's recent DVD release will be the first time many are allowed to see it. 

Telling the story of 21st century every-man Luke Wilson who along with Maya Rudolph (SNL) is frozen in an army experiment for 500 years only to awaken to a collosally dumbed down culture where the President is a wrestler/former porn star, StarBucks offers sexual as well as coffee service, and Costcos are the size of Tennessee. 

The premise peters out less than half-way through and awful unneccesary narration annoyingly talks over full scenes of dialogue strongly implies further dumbing down of the movie in post production. Still there are some interesting attempts at socio-political satire and enough decent laughs involved to gain it a following particularly among fans of base level comedy. I've had those who lecture me on the worth of JACKASS, the SCARY MOVIE series and even CLERKS 2 so I know they are plenty out there who will dig it. 

BUGSY: THE EXTENDED CUT (Dir. Barry Levinson, 1991) 

"Dialogue's cheap in Hollywood Ben, why don't you run outside and jerk yourself a soda?" - Virginia Hill (Annette Benning)

Haven't seen this since it's original video release in '92 (didn't catch it in theaters in '91) so I don't remember it very closely and couldn't tell what was different about this new version but I enjoyed this new special edition much more than I expected. 

Based on the legendary mobster who ostensibly built Las Vegas and who Godfather fans well know was the inspiration for Moe Green (Alex Rocco) BUGSY doesn't quite acheive the levels of stylistic period piece lyricism it aims for yet it still works. Warren Beatty plays the right note as the slick vain enterprising yet not unromantic Ben Siegel (I know that doesn't sound like much of a stretch), Annette Benning puts in her usual silky never sleazy accompaniment and the rest of the cast is top notch (Ben Kingsley, Harvey Keitel, Elliot Gould, and Joe Montegna) James Toback's sharp script is worth singling out too. 

Levinson's directorial career has been spotty since (WAG THE DOG, ENVY, MAN OF THE YEAR, ugh) so it is nice to go back and re-appraise one of his most competant and under-rated films. 

THIS FILM IS NOT YET RATED (Dir. Kirby Dick, 2006) - Having been confused and weirded out by what the exact standards and/or rules of the MPAA's movie rating system I was excited about this film. I have to say though that this good-intentioned but ultimately misguided feature is fascinating but flawed as fuck. The idea of hiring private detectives to find out exactly who the people are who rate movies is a good one but the execution of said premise involving following SUVs around and getting un-insightful film of possible suspects is frankly a waste of time. Better is the interview material, the comparisons of what is permited between hetero and homosexual content and the background history of the MPAA and their former President Jack Valenti. I just wish it went deeper and was better structured - Kirby Dick appears to be passionate and dedicated and I wasn't as annoyed by his Gonzo-insertions as some were but this could use a bit more work. This Film Is Not Yet Finished, more like. Inspired by this documentary I thought it would be fun to look at: 


1. HEAD (Dir. Bob Rafelson, 1968) – The famous 1968 photograph and NBC-shot film of General Nguyen Ngoc Loan executing a Viet Cong prisoner in Saigon is one of the most shocking and violent images ever presented to the world at large. It is effectively used alongside other frightening war footage in the LSD fueled mind-bending montages of this freaky envelope pushing movie in which the Monkees deconstruct their pre-fab bubblegum image. Thing is, this is a G-rated movie! Really Seems like someone at the MPAA saw that this was the Monkees and stamped a G on it without even watching it. 

2. BRAINSTORM (Dir. Douglas Trumball, 1983) - A good example of what often sailed by the review board in the days before PG-13, this virtual-reality sci-fi thriller that is most famous because of the drowning death of Natalie Wood that occured while shooting contains a shocking scene involving one of the bulky combersome devices that Christopher Walken is wearing in the picture on the right. A man has a heart attack while engaging in a simulated sex program with full frontal female nudity shown. I learned this the hard way when I innocently put the movie on when I used to work at a local video chain. Definitely not 'in-store playable.'

3. JAWS (Dir. Steven Spielberg, 1975) – Many bloody moments in this movie qualify it for an R rating but the skinny dipping girl who gets eaten within the first five minutes should of set up some sort of ratings red flag. On the other hand I saw the movie when I was a kid and don’t remember losing any sleep over it. 

4. BANANAS (Dir. Woody Allen, 1971) - Squirmy neurotic low-level products tester Fielding Mellish (Woody Allen) has very little luck in his meager life - even the simple task of picking up a porn mag along side copies of news publications like National Review invites public scorn. As he makes his choice of purchase we are guided through an explicit wall of porn magazine covers that did oddly only earned a PG-13 rating in a later video incarnation re-appraising.

5. AIRPLANE! (Dir. Jim Abrahms, Jerry Zucker, 1980) – There are a lot of scenes and elements in this famous disaster movie spoof that would be questionable PG material these days but the extreme shot of female full frontal nudity that occurs during a riotous panic when the passengers are told the plane is in jeopardy takes the cake! Of course it goes by so quick one could blink or sneeze and miss it. Looks like someone at the MPAA sure did.

More later...

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