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Saturday, March 27, 2004



JERSEY GIRL (2004)

Written and Directed by Kevin Smith

Mil is not what you'd call an avid Kevin Smith fan, but I do think he's a talented guy, writes pretty good dialog, and definitely gives back to his fans. And I've spent way too much time in line at the Nuart in West L.A. waiting next to shining examples of his fan base to see midnight screenings of some of his films. I'm happy to say that I think they are not going to like this film much. I think they'll consider it a sell-out. Well, good. Those people annoy me anyway, and I'd like them to all stay home in their cars. Bunch of comic-book-reading-drunken-goth-morons who are loud and unfunny for the most part. They see Kev as some sort of grungy Woody Allen or something. Which confuses me. But hey, I'm Kevin's age...and these kids are young.
So why the long preamble? I don't know, just venting, I guess. I know you're on pins and needles to find out what I thought of "Jersey Girl" so here goes....
I liked it. Yep, nice little movie. It's a story we've seen many times--a protagonist whose suddenly forced to give up his fast-paced life to wipe a baby's ass--and it ends up being the best thing that ever happened to him. I think Kevin Smith is maturing as a filmmaker, first, the look of the film is much bigger, more Hollywood you might say, but in the good sense, with help from cinematographer Vilmos Zsigmond. Smith's bathroom style humor actually lends itself well to this type of story, and yes, he does tone it down a bit for a wider audience. The performances are good, even George Carlin, whose not much of an actor, managed to put a little salty one in the corner of my eye once or twice. The daughter, played by Raquel Castro, is exceptionally lovable and precocious. There's a cute scene where Affleck walks in on his daughter and a little boy showing each other their junk. Other movies have tackled that awkward moment, but Smith handles it a little better than most I think. I must also admit that I got a little misty a couple times, and some accuse me of doing that too easily, but it only happens when I am genuinely moved by something. I often expect to be moved by certain films, but if the scenes are not handled well, I don't react. So I gotta give Kevin props for that. I don't frequent his website but I can imagine the horrible accusations flying out of the keyboards of his average fan. "You sell out!" "Hollywood whore!" and whatnot...screw all yall. Let the guy make what he wants to make. Here's a test if you feel disappointed by him. Sit down and come up with a list of all the people who've disappointed you, THEN sit back and make a list of all the people YOU have disappointed. Uh-huh. It's so easy to be disappointed ain't it? RELAX. I just have to say, good job, Kevin, and I am looking forward to the Green Hornet.

Tuesday, March 23, 2004



AILEEN: LIFE AND DEATH OF A SERIAL KILLER

Directed by Nick Broomfield
Lantern Lane Entertainment
Running Time: 89 minutes

You gotta love Nick Broomfield. Or you’ve got to at least respect his tireless efforts to sniff out any interesting bit of information he can find about the subjects of his documentaries. I prefer to think of him less as a documentary filmmaker and more of a stalkumentary filmmaker. The guy never lets up. And that’s what you need when you make this type of picture. He’s seemingly always on the run, narrating much of each film in his sedate, Robin Leach-esque detached voiceovers.
His 1992 film, Aileen Wuornos: The Selling of a Serial Killer, was about the first American female serial killer, a life-long prostitute who was convicted of shooting and killing seven men. It focused on the media frenzy surrounding her exploits and the shameless and pathetic—not to mention illegal—attempts made by those close to her to make a few bucks off of the whole thing. His latest is a follow-up to that eye-opening little nugget called, Aileen: Life and Death of a Serial Killer.
This time Broomfield keeps the spotlight on Wuornos herself, chronicling the days leading up to her execution in 2002. Nick is up to his old tricks, doggedly pursuing any and all avenues to get the story, old girlfriends of Wuornos, old boyfriends, even her mother, who left Aileen at 6 months old and never saw her again. But he also spends a large amount of time talking with Wuornos herself, and this seems to become a source of some anxiety for him. Let me interject here that I saw the dramatized version of her killing spree, Monster, only hours before watching Broomfield’s documentary in which Wuornos is brought to vivid life by Charlize Theron (who probably should be clearing a space on her mantle for the best actress Oscar). It is a great performance, and, ironically, I ended up feeling great sympathy for this woman, she had it rough from the get-go. But after viewing Broomfield’s film, it’s obvious that the Monster filmmakers chose the most sympathetic version of her story—namely Wuornos’ version. I suppose it’s appropriate, after all, there is no other version. Anyone else who could offer another viewpoint is dead. According to Wuornos, the first time she killed a man it was in self defense. He was beating her and doing all sorts of nasty things and appeared to be intent on killing her. She shot him. Fine, I got no problem there. But then she shot six more men.
Over the years, Nick had developed a sort of friendship with Aileen, and a kind of respect for her as well; he thought she was the most honest person involved in the whole affair. Nick does have a bit of a socialist axe to grind, he seems certain that the death penalty is no deterrent (jeez, I’m deterred from speeding by the threat of traffic school!) and calls attention to the fact that Wuornos seems to be losing what’s left of her marbles, thus, bringing up the mental fitness angle. But Aileen really shakes him up when she drops a bomb that basically makes him doubt that the first killing was self defense. He is clearly troubled by this and spends the rest of the film trying to nail her down on that point. And it troubled me too. Most specifically as it relates to Monster. Movies about real people and their stories are usually the most moving, and you want to believe that what your seeing is truth. I don’t mean that every scene has to play exactly as it happened, but at least it should keep the spirit of the true story it is depicting. That’s what Broomfield’s film got me thinking about.
The pacing is perfect and there’s no shortage of interesting revelations, and let’s face it, there aren’t many more subjects under the sun that are more interesting than serial killers. Consider Aileen to be an essential viewing companion to its dramatic narrative counterpart.

Saturday, March 20, 2004



THE PIANIST (2002)

Starring Adrien Brody
Directed by Roman Polanski
Script adapted from Wladislaw Szpilman's Book
by Ronald Harwood


Another World War II movie to remind us of the atrocities committed against the Jews by the Nazis? Yep, and it's DAMN GOOD! Director Roman Polanski has finally found his way back onto the main highway after being lost for so many years, he must have pulled over to ask for directions. Thank God! This is a film directed by the director of Chinatown, and Rosemary's Baby, not the muddled crap of late, most notably Frantic or Bitter Moon. Welcome back, Mr. Polanski.

This dead-on and riveting piece of storytelling is based on the book by Polish Pianist Wladislaw Szpilman and chronicles his years of hiding during World War II. The story begins with the Szpilman family in Poland, 1939, just as the Nazis invade and commence with corralling all the Polish Jews into a small, walled off area that became known as the "Jewish Ghetto". It was basically a prison camp, where people were systematically starved, and randomly murdered by scumbag Nazis before they were then shipped off on cattle cars to lovely places like Auschwitz, to be further tortured, and finally gassed to death.

But this story focuses on Wladislaw Szpilman, an already well respected Pianist, played passionately by Adrien Brody, who received a well deserved Oscar nomination for Best Actor (don't be surprised to see him pick it up this year). It's a very personal story, beginning inauspiciously enough in a recording studio where Wladislaw is in the middle of recording a piano piece. The studio is bombed but he doesn't stop playing until he is literally knocked off his chair by a blast, a great introduction to the kind of character we will spend nearly the next three hours with.

Moving on, we see the Szpilman family trying to adjust to the assinine and sinister rules being imposed upon them by the occupying Nazis. Jews are only allowed to keep a maximum of 2000 dollars in their homes, and they have 5000, so there's a great scene that introduces us to all the family members as they argue about how to hide the money, great writing, there.

Once the occupation is in full force, we see just how horrible living conditions have gotten in Poland. It's every man for himself, every child for himself. Wladislaw eventually ends up outside the ghetto, spending countless weeks, months, and even years basically hiding in apartments owned by friends, literally locked inside, unable to reveal himself, even to neighbors next door. One particular apartment even has a piano, but he can only sit and imagine playing it, because to play it would alert someone to his presence.

It does make your gut hurt, and it reminded me a bit of another great little movie called Europa Europa, about a young Jewish boy and his even more unbelievable tale of survival during Hitler's rampage through Europe. As in Spielberg's Schindler's List, Polanski's camera is unflinching, never blinking and unafraid, making it hard to watch sometimes, for even the most hardened moviegoer. But it's worth it.

Another element that I have been wondering about with regard to previous WW2 films is the following question: Did any Jews ever fight back? Well, this film does deal with that. And yes, some Jews did fight back, and it's depicted in this film. And there's even a Nazi (based on a real Nazi) who's not a complete load, just to humanize them just a little, and a little is all they deserve.

It's nearly three hours long, but feels like two, and it's great filmmaking, look for it to get something come Oscar time.

Wednesday, March 10, 2004

Somehow I let the girlfriend talk me into going to see a midnight screening of Mallrats at the Nuart theater in L.A. I'm not a huge fan of Kevin Smith, he's talented, and he seems like a nice guy, but I don't think he'll ever make anything better than Clerks, which was pretty damned funny. This is not really a review of Mallrats, although the film was slightly more enjoyable than it was the first time I saw it back in 95 or whenever it came out. It's a corny, sappy little film that should really not have been made, I mean it almost killed the guy's career. He had to make Chasing Amy for 250 thousand dollars just to get back into the studio's graces after losing about 4 million with Mallrats.

The thing about the evening was the fact that it was a sell-out at midnight, and that these young folks that showed up sort of look at Kevin Smith like he's Woody Allen or something. I thought, damn, that's kind of pathetic. I mean, Woody Allen has made some stinkers, but only a handful out of the nearly 40 movies he's written and/or directed, and for these bozos to shower such adulation on the guy was quite bizarre.

So the movie starts late, at about 1230, 1245, then I gotta sit through that-then after the credits roll, the fun begins, Kevin Smith is there, and proceeds to take a Q&A session for the next 2 hours. My girlfriend was in hog-heaven, I am slumped all over the seat trying to get some shut-eye. But Kevin is a funny guy, no doubt about it, we listened to some insider stories about his house flooding, and where Ben Affleck banged some famous actresses in his house before Kevin bought the place from him. Found out that Kevin recently finished his first draft of Fletch, which came out to about 200 pages. Obviously that will need some trimming. Yes, Kevin was amusing, I'm not sure if he was 4:30 in the morning amusing, but hey, give the guy props for standing there until the last slack-jawed idiot asked his dumb question.

The guy really gives back to his fans-and that is cool.

Tuesday, March 09, 2004



THIRTEEN (2003)

Written by Catherine Hardwicke and Nikki Reed
Directed by Catherine Hardwicke
Starring Holly Hunter, Evan Rachel Wood, Nikki Reed
Review by Mil Peliculas


I just did something I normally don't do. I looked at some reviews on IMDB before I sat down to review this one. Who knew there were so many masters of filmmaking reading and posting reviews there? I'm a snob, but I don't think I ever go off on movies unless it's particularly egregious, and the filmmakers know it's egregious. So I must come to the defense of Thirteen. Is it as shocking or depressing as Kids? No. But it is of that ilk.

Thirteen is the frantically paced story of a young girl who's recently become a teenager and her subsequent befriending of the "popular" girl at school, played by Nikki Reed, the co-writer of the picture. The union results in a downward spiral into drugs, drink, sex, self-mutilation, shoplifting, eating disorders...the kitchen sink. Some of the geniuses on IMDB were criticizing the film for holding back, I think they mean not showing the sex scenes or something. Well, folks, due to recent laws, you cannot show thirteen year old girls (even if the actresses portraying them are over 18) engaging in sex, nor could you show them naked, because it is considered "child pornography." I too found it to be excruciating that I was not going to see these girls get nekked, especially Nikki Reed, who's hotter than the Space Shuttle Columbia's last re-entry, but I knew it could not be.

The shoddy camerawork talked about in other reviews is obviously deliberate and meant to give us a documentary feel, which it does, so what the big deal is I don't know. The best thing to come from the film is Evan Rachel Wood's performance, which kept me glued to my seat. Holly Hunter is great as always as the clueless mother--another criticism from the amateur Eberts on IMDB, but aren't all parents clueless at first when their kid decides to take a dive into the deep-end? She figures it out soon enough.

Thirteen may not change your life, but it will provide a nice glimpse into the mind of a thirteen year old girl. My niece is going to be thirteen soon, I hope my sister is prepared for the possible mental nuclear war that could be in store. Speaking of that, the film does drive home the fact that girls are much more volatile and evil than boys at that age--perhaps at any age. If the film were about boys, there'd probably be some fisticuffs and everyone would go play some football afterwards, but with girls, Jesus, it's like Glengarry Glen Ross with tube-tops. I was drained by the end. Young girls do not know the power that they have over men, countries used to go to war over young, beautiful girls, so it's no surprise that that power can be used for all sorts of mischief and mayhem.

Monday, March 08, 2004



KILL BILL-The Trailer

God, you know I am not a religious man, but I say this to you now: my life of sin is over. Never again will I have impure thoughts about animals. I'll pay back all that money I embezzled from my company. I'll give that retarded kid the right amount of change from now on...I'll even stop taking your name in vain...if you'll just make sure I live to see KILL BILL. I mean it. I now have a new reason not to eat a bullet, because the new Tarantino movie is on the way.

QT is, in this reviewer's opinion, the most interesting and original voice in cinema today. Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction, Jackie Brown, all fine films, and Kill Bill looks to be a fine addition to his directorial filmography. All I know of the story is Uma Thurman is some sort of hit-woman, trained in the mystical martial arts by Asian masters. Her boss, Bill, double crosses her on her wedding day and tries to kill her. She goes into a coma for a few years, and when she wakes up, she's got but one thing to do: Kill Bill. But in the process she has to slice up a bunch of Bill's henchmen. This film looks like it will be the Citizen Kane of grindhouse action revenge movies. A real kitchen-sinker. A cross between Crouching Tiger and Master of the Flying Guillotine, with a little Bruce Lee thrown in. Notice Uma's clothes. In case you live under a rock, her yellow outfit with the black stripe is an homage to Bruce Lee's yellow jumper in Game of Death. There are more than enough delicious shots to absorb. One shot, from a above, features Uma standing on a glass floor above a zen rock garden surrounded by twenty or so baddies. The shot cranes up and over them, as if Busby Berkley had entered the dragon! Basically...satellites are orbiting below my expectations for this one. I may need therapy if it doesn't live up to them.

Knowing QT, I know he truly loves the old Shaw Brothers kung fu films, the old Toho monster movies (now, there aren't any rubber monsters in this film, as far as I know, but QT did ask Toho to design him a miniature Tokyo) and Bruce Lee, so I know he will do his best to do those genres justice, and in the process create something new, like he's shown a knack for over the last (holy Christ, has it been that long?) decade.

Now...how can I get to Cannes in October for the premiere...

Check out the official Kill Bill website...you can view the trailer there too.

KILL BILL VOL.1

Starring U

Written and Directed by Q


I had hoped to wait until I had seen Kill Bill twice before I sat down to review it, but I haven't been able to yet, and it's been a while since the poor website was updated so…

If you've kept up with this site for any period of time, you know that I was waiting for Kill Bill like the Second Coming. Actually, I look forward more to Quentin's fourth coming than I do Jesus' Second. If the latter actually were to happen, I may be in a spot of trouble. You'll also know that I was really expecting Kill Bill to be fantastic. Well, rest assured, it was fantastic. So there were no surprises there. Quentin Tarantino has reminded me, and I hope all of you, what movies are all about. What's that you ask? Well, movies aren't just about one thing, some movies are there to move you, some are to make you angry, some are there to wow you. Kill Bill falls into that last category. Well, "fall" may not be the right word. How about SMASHES into that category? Yeah. Better.

It's the story of a bride-to-be who's killed by her ex-assassin buddies on her wedding day-in the church for Chrissakes. Only she doesn't die. She goes into a coma for four years and wakes up a little ornery. That's where the story becomes mostly a revenge tale, but the story is told in the form of homage mostly to the Kung Fu movies of the Shaw Brothers from the glorious 70s. The opening titles even feature the Shaw Brothers Studios header. It definitely sets the tone. I remember lying on the floor on my living room right in front of the TV turning channels with my foot. Back then, and I ain't all that old mind you, remote controls weren't that common, and we only had a few channels: 2, 4, 5, 7, 9, 11, 13, then into the UHF channels-Speed Racer, Ultraman and Gigantor territory-then back to channel 2. Once in a while on the weekends I'd run across Kung Fu Theater, and see some long-haired Chinamen standing on walls or throwing flying guillotines at each other, ripping off heads. Those movies scored very high in the "originality" category. Quentin has taken the best parts of those films and woven them into one of his own clever, non-linear tapestries.

As usual, the real meat happens in the small moments, Tarantino has always been able to make great impressions with small details, and Kill Bill has plenty of them. The only bad point is that Quentin was really forced by Miramax to cut it way down, or release it as two movies. I'm glad he chose to keep it long, even if we have to wait a few months for the Kill Bill Volume 2. I wouldn't be surprised if the film ends its life on DVD as one full director's cut.

Kill Bill is perhaps one of the most violent films you'll ever see, but the violence is highly stylized, and more funny than disturbing. If you enjoy the fountains of blood shooting from severed torsos and necks you may want to check out some of the early Kurosawa films, as well as many other Samurai movies of the 60s and 70s. Hmm. I think I'll see this one again…tonight.

Sunday, March 07, 2004



OLD SCHOOL

Directed by Todd Phillips
Written by Scot Armstrong, Court Crandall, Todd Phillips
Review by Mil Peliculas

Uh...I WAS a bit excited when I found out that Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson were set to star in the new remake of Starsky and Hutch, backed up by Snoop Dogg as Huggy Bear. Well, I have fallen into the "post credit blues." That's a phenomenon that occurs with us movie geeks when we get real excited, then we find out who the brains behind the operation are. It happened with Pearl Harbor...ooh, that looks pretty coo--AHHH! Jerry Bruckheimer and Michael Bay! Oh crap. Anyway I have that feeling with Starsky and Hutch now, because the barely talented jackasses behind Old School are at its helm.

I don't have much to say about Old School. The razor thin plot involves Luke Wilson and his friends (Will Farrell and Vince Vaughn) who, in order to keep the house that Wilson has rented near a college campus, start a fraternity. I admit, there are 4 or 5 funny bits, none of which involve the intensely boring Luke Wilson character. The only reasons to stick around are Vince Vaughn and Will Farrell. This one suffers from one of the ailments that afflicted Road Trip (written by the same guys), namely a completely useless hero, whose friends are much more entertaining than he is. Not to bag on Luke Wilson, who I do like, just not in this snoozer.

By the time the ending rolls around, you really just want out. Let me leave you with one simple equation to remember this one with:

Animal House - laughs = Old School.

Saturday, March 06, 2004



CHARLIE'S ANGELS: FULL THROTTLE

Starring...bla bla bla...etc....etc...
Directed By McG. (no relation to the new McGriddle from McDonald's)
"Review" by Mil Peliculas


What can you say about this kind of movie? Apparently there's a big split. Half of you dig it, half of you hate it. For those of you who hated this movie, what the hell is your problem? It's just kidding. Full Throttle is played strictly for laughs, playing more like a spoof of an action movie than an actual action movie. Right from the gitgo, this movie makes no pretense that you are going to see anything that remotely resembles reality. It won me over during the crime scene investigation where Drew Barrymore discerns, from a shoe print, that it was a 1989 Air Jordan limited edition, and that from the weight distribution, it's wearer had knee surgery. Come on, that's funny, and I went with it. Problem is, it's really just like the first movie, amusing, but not much else.

Seems Hollywood has started to view sequels as simply another installment, akin to a sitcom or something. Well, that ain't how this snob views them. Come to think of it, I am not sure what I expect from a sequel. I guess I want to see characters evolving, new twists, a fresh take, a variation on a theme. You won't get that with Full Throttle, what you will get are a bunch of outrageous CGI-assisted stunts, some pretty funny gags, and loads of T&A for the boys. Other than that, I feel a plot summary is really not necessary, since the viewer is likely to forget it before he's left the parking lot. Actually, I think that is what happened to me. Something about Demi Moore as an ex-Angel gone bad, she's looking for the valuable whatchamacallit that the Angels want to get back from her, yadda yadda yadda. You get the idea. Demi Moore is looking fantastic, but perhaps a little too thin. Demi. Eat something.

If you live near Hollywood, and want to catch this one, I suggest seeing it at the Chinese. The climax of the film takes place on Hollywood Blvd, right in front of the Chinese theater. It's always fun watching a movie that features the theater you are watching it in.

Don't expect this one to be nominated for anything other than "Best panty crotch-shot" at the MTV movie awards.

Once again, Mil's famous closing words: You could do worse.