Friday, June 30, 2006


"Were you at the cinema? Did you go to the the cinema? 'Cause I went to the movies." - Shane Black questioning Val Kilmer on the commentary for KISS KISS BANG BANG Yep- that's the only flick I've seen since my last post. So here goes : KISS KISS BANG BANG (Dir. Shane Black, 2005) Its title comes from a phrase coined by an Italian newspaper critic in 1962 referring to James Bond: "Mr. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang" and the whole tone of this movie is just that self consciously hip - well smartass really. It even has a detective film type voice over by Robert Downey Jr. of the smarmy variety (Man, ROMEO IS BLEEDING did the "hey, wait I'm getting a little ahead of myself" fractured narration so much better!) and a convoluted plot which is annoyingly a homage to Raymond Chandler (like what LA crime caper isn't?) it even quotes the man directly in sequence heading titles. There is some good work here in both the writing and acting - Val Kilmer as Gay Perry (that name is not an example of good work in the writing - just to be clear) makes the smarm work for him and Michelle Monaghan amusingly plays with her lines just like her character toys with her men. Its just that the whole thing is so drenched in smartass sarcasm that it made me think repeatedly "this movie is sooo ten years ago!" George Burns once said "the secret of acting is sincerity. If you can fake that, you've got it made." Wish Shane Black had learned to fake a little better on this project. Now here's an email I got from a filmbabble reader about my last post : "I don't know...the Silverman thing? some of it's funny but there's a line between being funny and just being an arsehole. But I guess that's pretty much all comedy. I guess i don't know which side i'm on. Like that lemonade joke, pretty damn funny, mighty clever, but i feel like there's no real empathy or anything to give it weight; just an easy joke. Actually really looking forward to Superman, don't really know why. Haven't kept up with it in years. hey, ever accidentally lock your keys in your...motorcycle? Now see, that's sharp and empathetic -who hasn't been there? Sorry, Drunk Thanks Drunk for your comments. Keep on reading Film Babble Blog! More later...

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

A Slew Of Reviews...

"I don't really care for movies; they make everything seem so close up. " - Macon Leary THE ACCIDENTAL TOURIST (Dir. Lawrence Kasdan, 1988) Well Summer is officially here and it looks like its going to be an especially lame movie season - I mean except for SNAKES ON A PLANE, right? Don't get me wrong - I'm gonna give SUPERMAN RETURNS a chance and I'm pysched like crazy about A SCANNER DARKLY but otherwise we're wading in crap like MIAMI VICE, pointless sequels like FAST AND THE FURIOUS : TOYKO DRIFT and CLERKS II (why is Kevin Smith going back to that particular well now?!!?) - I mean last summer I thought we all learned something from fiascos like THE DUKES OF HAZZARD and BEWITCHED. Aren't you glad I linked all those titles to their IMDB webpage in case you didn't know what movie I was talking about? My little local hometown theater the Varsity and its sister theater the Chelsea now has a webpage : I work there part time mainly for the free movies and of course am happiest when we have movies playing that I like. Now playing at the Varsity are 2 movies I like : AN INCONVENIENT TRUTH (Dir. Davis Guggenheim) Al Gore's well honed powerpoint global warming lecture spiffed up a bit with dazzling graphics and swift editing has amazingly become a sure-fire summer hit and a definite must see on the big screen. It is compelling and completely convincing material even living up to the movie poster's tag-line "by far the most terrifying film you will ever see". Funnily enough on the same poster the movie's rating PG-13 is given for "mild thematic elements". The only thing that sucks about this movie is the God awful Melissa Etheridge song that plays over the end credits. A PRAIRIE HOME COMPANION (Dir. Robert Altman) Garrison Keillor's long running old timey radio show is embroidered with Altman (MASH, THE LONG GOODBYE, SHORT CUTS , THE PLAYER, GOSFORD PARK, countless other masterpieces) trademarks - an always moving camera even in simple close-up shots and everybody talking at once - that's right overlapping dialogue city! Good performances by the likes of Kevin Kline, Meryl Streep, Lily Tomlin, Virginia Madsen, John C. Reilly, Woody Harrelson, Tommy Lee Jones, Maya Rudolph, etc. all make up for the blank spot on the screen that is Lindsay Lohan's appearance. I never listened to the Lake Wobegon deal on the radio and was very cynical going in but this somehow worked for me. Now some DVDS I've seen lately : THE NEW WORLD (Dir. Terrence Mallick) Mallick is a film director legend despite having only made like 4 or 5 pictures in like 40 years. This re-telling (or more accurately re-imagining) of the Pocahontas/John Smith romance circa 1607 is beautifully shot. Mallick's camera appears to be in love with Q'Orianka Kilcher (never named outloud in the movie as Pocahontas) whose sunbathed dances make for some mighty fine visuals. As for the men in her life - Colin Ferell does his arrogant angst thing while Christian Bale puts in a nice accepting guy appeal in the third act. Looking on the message boards on the IMDb I'm aware that many many people hate this film - comments like "This film was also terribly edited, bizarrely cast, and just generally pathetic. People say they like this film in a simple attempt to feel elite." Man! I think it is worthwhile to see. The fight scene when the Powhatan attack Jamestown has a greater realism and artfullness to it than similiar multi-party fight scenes in Scorsese's GANGS OF NEW YORK and Oliver Stone's Colin Ferell atrocity ALEXANDER. And it doesn't make me feel elite to say so. TRANSAMERICA (Dir. Duncan Tucker) A transexual road comedy! Move over Crosby and Hope! Sorry - this is earnest acted and presented just a bit too conventional for my tastes. Felicity Huffman moves respectedly away from TV work (Desperate Housewives, Frasier, West Wing, etc.) to give a finely tuned portrayal of a pre-operative transsexual who finds out he/she fathered a son (Kevin Zegers). If only this wasn't drenched in will-they-bond /won't-they road movie cliches - one can see the ending coming less than a third in. "When God gives you AIDS - and God does give you AIDS, by the way - make lemonAIDS." - Sarah Silverman SARAH SILVERMAN : JESUS IS MAGIC (Dir. Liam Lynch) After toiling on the sidelines the last decade (appearances on Seinfeld, SNL, Mr. Show, and notably unfunny unrepresentive movie appearances like SCHOOL OF ROCK) Sarah Silverman makes good on stealing the ARISTOCRATS from everyone in comedy to be the star attraction in this part stand-up / part musical sketch film. I really wished they stayed with the straight-on stand up performance. The other bits - unfortunately including a cringing Bob Odenkirk as manager bit - don't work and disrupt and distract from the many funny lines like : "The best time to have a baby is when you're a black teenager." and "I love you more than my after show monster bong hit" That's right - shes far from PC. Reminds me of Letterman years ago repeatedly saying "know my theory on Madonna? She loves to shock." Silverman's take on done-to-death stereotypes is almost too obvious at times - I mean singing a plucky "you're gonna die soon" song to a room full of old people, come on! - but still very funny. More later...

Monday, June 19, 2006

A Big Lebowski Sleep-Over

"I guess that's the way the whole durned human comedy keeps perpetuatin' itself." - The Stranger (Sam Elliot) THE BIG LEBOWSKI (Dir. Joel Coen, 1998) 

A few weeks back I went with some friends to a BIG LEBOWSKI party. Of course there was plenty of White Russian drinking (everyone it seems had brought Kahlua, milk and vodka) and individualized drinking games - I myself drinking to every time "the rug tied the room together". The hosts had a bevy of t-shirts with quotes from the film like "The Dude abides", "mark it zero" and "Lebowski Urban Acheiver."

I was disappointed there wasn't one for "you mean coitus?" Anyway they had a DVD projector and it was great to see the movie on a big screen again. 

At the beginning of the movie when the Dude (Jeff Bridges) makes out a check to Ralph's grocery store for 69 cents it is notable that the date on the check is Sept. 11th 1991. 

Especially since he pauses while writing it to glance up at President Bush Sr. on a wall mounted TV monitor saying "this aggression will not stand" in reference to the Gulf War. Just a coincidence and not a prophecy, sure but I was watching THE BIG SLEEP (Dir. Howard Hawkes, 1946) the other day and noticed that at the beginning that detective Phillip Marlowe (Humprey Bogart) while reviewing his newest case is handed an envelope of promissory notes with the date September 11th, 1945. 

The Coen brothers have admitted that big influences on THE BIG LEBOWSKI included the arguably classic in-every-way THE BIG SLEEP and the Robert Altman's 70's shaggy private dick Rip Van Marlowe mystery THE LONG GOODBYE so it makes perfect sense. 

More later...