Friday, December 23, 2005
Quentin Tarantino Presents
Written and Directed by Eli Roth
Starring Jay Hernandez and Derek Richardson
Well, Eli Roth of Cabin Fever fame has certainly been touting this one as the second coming of the splatter film genre, leaning heavily on the torture angle. I can safely say it ain't all that. But it ain't all that bad either. The story centers around two Americans enjoying themselves abroad...well, a couple broads actually, while travelling through Europe. Strange things begin to happen when they find themselves at one particular Hostel where the availability of hot chicks ready to party seems just a little too good to be true. And it is...but I won't tell you why...just know that there are boltcutters involved. Now, the version I saw still may be cut down, but frankly I am not totally sure which scenes these "audiences" were so shocked about.
Supposedly a man attending my screening had to get up and walk out to the bathroom where he stayed in a chair near the toilet in case he threw up. What a puss. I am a seasoned horror fan from the early days, coming up with some of the originals like Friday 13th, Texas Chainsaw Massacre--and frankly I wasn't all that shocked. But it is more of a return to that style than the recent crop of watered-down wannabes like House of Wax or Even Saw for that matter. Roth shared, during the Q&A session afterward, that he had an alternate ending in mind. Now let me tell you, this ending truly would have been ballsey and edgy, and I frankly would have liked it better. You can hear all about it if you download the podcast that Creative Screenwriting will be making available when the movie is released.
Roth seems quite taken with himself, but he was entertaining nonetheless. He does truly love the genre and I say more power to him, and hats off to the man for bringing back true gratuitous nudity to the horror film. As a writer, he does at least try to start off slowly, setting up the story with patience, letting us get to know the characters for a while, problem for me was the writing, and acting for that matter, just wasn't all that good, so the characters ranged from uninteresting to annoying. I remember thinking, "Man I can't wait to see this jackass get killed." Only to come to the horrifying realization that he was the hero. So there was not much tension for me, but if you are looking for some good effects and some cleverly bloody predicaments, then this one might give you your ten bucks worth...but, trust me, that alternate ending...hmm...
Wednesday, December 21, 2005
Ron Howard's Cinderella Man now on DVD.
Starring Russell Crowe and Rene Zellweger
Written by Cliff Hollingsworth and Akiva Goldsman
Directed by Ron Howard
I missed Cinderella Man when it hit theaters, as did most folks at the time. I'm not sure what it is about this film that doesn't quite jump out at audiences--it certainly was well produced, well acted, so what gives? Don't look to me for answers, I'm just a reviewer...all right I do have a theory, but give me a second. Universal's release of the DVD of Cinderella Man is pretty "by the book." The picture and sound quality is, as to be expected, excellent, and the DVD features quite a few extras which include deleted scenes and some featurettes about the making of the film. Boxing enthusiasts will enjoy a short segment on legendary trainer Angelo Dundee, who has a small role in the film and also served as a technical advisor. I've always had a soft spot for him so that was nice to see. Now on to the film itself.
Cinderella Man is a competent film that follows the not-too-well-known but quite extraordinary story of Jim Braddock, a depression era boxer whose astonishing comeback captured the imagination of a nation that was greatly in need of a hero at the time. The hard-working fighter lost everything during the depression, and had to take advantage of government assistance programs in between stints working on the docks and battling injuries sustained while fighting for pennies--until fate handed him a chance to prove himself. He became the Sea Biscuit of the Boxing world and the story truly was captivating. Crowe and Zellweger as Braddock and the Mrs. handle their parts well and Ron Howard pilots the ship into the dock without much trouble. Yet, that being said, the film never really catches fire. The fight sequences, despite Crowe's obvious serious and hard training and mastery of Braddock's style of brawling, were sometimes lazily photographed. There are good moments, enough to make me recommend the film for a nice evening at home, but you'll probably find yourself more interested in looking up the actual facts of the real Jim Braddock than talking about the merits of the film itself.
I tend to think that this type of "forgotten underdog" film does not lend itself to big stars and fully orchestrated music with the typical Hollywood moments that telegraph its punches like a tired south paw. This is the type of film you'd like to see an unknown or b-actor rise above themselves and turn in a great, subtle performance. It should have been as scrappy as its subject, but the treatment was just too grand to do it justice in a way. There, I said I had a theory, and there it is. Could you imagine if Rocky had starred Paul Newman, been directed by Francis Ford Coppola with music by John Williams...it really just wouldn't be the same. Still, the film is a good recounting of the story of Jim Braddock, who deserves to be remembered, so I'd recommend at least a rental on this one.
Friday, April 29, 2005
Jiminy Glick in Lalawood
Written by Martin Short, Paul Flaherty, Michael Short
Directed by Vadim Jean
Working from a 60-page outline and no script, Martin Short, Jan Hooks, John Michael Higgins, and a host of cameos team up with their improvisational expertise to bring us, well, an okay comedy. I do not watch TV with any regularity and know nothing about Martin Short’s alter ego, Jiminy Glick, so I can’t comment on how the film captures the nuances of the imaginary rotund reviewer, but I can say that there are some laughs, which are difficult to get in an improvisational setting, even for seasoned veterans like Short. The story follows Jiminy and his disgusting family as they head to the Toronto film festival to cover the affair for Jiminy’s hometown of Butte, Montana. Jiminy falls asleep during a screening and subsequently gives a rave review to a gigantic turd of a film that everyone else pans. The star of the film decides to grant Jiminy an exclusive interview and suddenly everyone knows Jiminy Glick. Jiminy is then besieged with interviewees such as Steve Martin and Kurt Russell, and there are a few funny moments there, but no real breakout nuggets I’m afraid. The improvisational aspect of the film is no doubt inspired by the recent success of the Chris Guest films “Best In Show,” “Mighty Wind,” “Waiting for Guffman,” which are all better than this one I’m afraid. One of the more inexplicable and not-so-funny storylines in the film revolve around Martin Short’s portrayal of David Lynch as the manager of the hotel that Jiminy is staying in. Lynch narrates parts of the film and introduces a fairly lame Mildred Pierce-Lana Turneresque murder mystery in which Jiminy becomes involved, Short does a good job playing Lynch but this whole Lynch thing might have played funnier ten years ago, and really does not serve as much of an anchor for the characters to draw from--improv is hard enough without handicapping yourself from the get-go. Don’t mean to trash the whole thing, as I said, I did find myself laughing at times, and if you are a Jiminy Glick fan, you will too.
Sunday, February 13, 2005
Written by Prachya Pinkaew and Panna Rittikrai
Directed By Prachya Pinkaew
Running Time: 105 Minutes
Hey, look, it's Mil's bimonthly review! Yeah, yeah, I know. Anyway, as I walked out of the Arclight with a good buddy of mine, a buddy with whom I spent many an evening in smoke-filled theaters in San Gabriel in the 80’s watching Jackie Chan, Chow Sing Chi, Chow Yun Fat, and other folks tear up the screen before Hollywood had any inkling of who they were; we had to say how fantastic it was to actually be blown away by good old-fashioned physical artistry in the form of the martial arts fight sequence. I don’t mean to denigrate some of the truly fine flicks coming out recently, such as the soon to be released Kung Fu Hustle, which is superb, but this little surprise from Thailand, Ong-Bak, really needs your attention. It’s the story of Ting, a monk-in-training, who is sent on a mission into the big bad city after the head of his village’s Buddha statue is stolen by a low-level gangster. The story is fairly elementary and does lie there occasionally, but its star Tony Jaa is simply astonishing. The filmmakers boast that there are no wires and no special effects—well, who needs special effects when Tony Jaa simply IS a special effect? The action sequences are raw and dirty and amount to a brilliant hodge-podge of vintage Jackie Chan, Jet Li, and Bruce Lee, but Jaa is so unique that he really molds it all into something refreshing and bold. As a long time fan of no-holds-barred fighting, I also was really excited to finally see the use of knees and elbows in fights utilized so often and with such ferocity that I actually gasped a few times.
As I said, you don’t want to look for a lot of meat with the story, it is quite simplistic, even the clichéd moment where his teacher tells him “Now that I have taught you the art of Muay Thai, I now ask you never to use it,” tries to set up some conflict in Ting’s mind as he sets out into Bangkok to retrieve the stolen head, but as soon as his much-revered master is out of the rear-view mirror, he doesn’t think twice about raining skull-cracking elbow-shots onto the dome of whoever stands in his way. Tony Jaa is definitely the next big thing in martial arts filmdom, it will be interesting to see what happens when Hollywood ropes him in and shackles him with insurance companies that won’t cover him for just about every stunt he performs in Ong-Bak, so I say “get it while it’s hot.”