Wednesday, November 29, 2006

So if Kofi Annan ever steps down: "Borat"

No, I'm not typing out the entire title. Sue me.

I had seen a couple of Borat bits in random viewings of "Da Ali G Show," and they usually made me chuckle, at least more than the Ali G and Bruno characters. Then I saw the trailer for "Borat," and I about peed my pants. My wife? Not so much. So it was a solo viewing for your trusty blogger, and that was a good thing.

As you likely know, our story is a mockumentary about a journalist from Kazakhstan (Sacha Baron Cohen) who travels to America -- first to do a report on our great nation, then to pursue the new love of his life, Pamela Anderson. That leads to a cross-country trek from New York to California, and as you might guess, hijinks ensue.

Actually, "hijinks" is much too tame a word, with Borat wreaking havoc and offending more people than some may have thought possible. It's all under the guise of an ignorant foreigner, of course, which makes for great hilarity ... sometimes. Other times, it's a tad uncomfortable, but you have to admire Cohen's cojones for doing this stuff.

I'm wary of citing specific examples since I undoubtedly will overlook some. Such is the peril when recapping this machine-gun series of interviews and interludes across the land of the free. But I'll cite a few of my favorites:
  • Borat meeting with "real chocolate face" Alan Keyes and learning that the man who stuck a rubber fist up his anus (Borat's, not Keyes', although you never know ... ) the night before just might have been a homosexual.
  • Borat returning to the dinner table at a fine dining society in Mississippi with a bag of his feces, apparently not knowing what he was supposed to do with it.
  • Borat rallying a rodeo crowd with a bloodthirsty rant about killing everyone in Iraq.
Now, some people have made a big deal about what Borat shows Americans about ourselves. The rodeo scene is one example. Another is when a gun dealer doesn't hesitate to recommend something when Borat asks what gun is best for hunting Jews. And sure, I suppose those scenes are clever and telling. Gee, some people sure don't get this modern world we live in!

But for me, the less political, more outrageous stuff was funnier. True, Borat and his chubby producer wrestling naked and then running through a hotel was probably too much. But Borat trying to buy a car, trying to learn how to drive, trying to learn how to tell jokes ... that was when Cohen's clueless schtick was most convincing.

Of course, the big thing with all of this is how the other people aren't in on the joke. For the most part, I bought it. Uptight Republican Bob Barr did not look happy to learn that the cheese he ate was made with milk from Borat's wife's breast. Other scenes are harder to accept as pure ambushes -- the drunk frat boys reportedly were plied with booze before picking up Borat in their RV, and there's no way Pamela Anderson does her thing without knowing what's going on.

Still, it all runs together well, and ends at about the right time -- after less than 90 minutes. Rather than wax on about its brilliant satire, I lean toward this becoming one of those see-it-again-and-again movies to appreciate certain scenes and, yes, nuances that run throughout the movie, i.e. Borat's humor lesson coming up again late in his adventure, or the ultimate fate of the aforementioned rubber fist. I know I want to see it again, although I may have to skip the nude man wrestling. My eyes are still burning a bit.

Monday, November 27, 2006

A trip to the trailer park

Quick rundown of my take on the movie trailers out there now.


300: "Sin City" meets "Gladiator/Kingdom of Heaven/Braveheart." Looks like some mighty fine killin' here, and I'm digging the washed-out colors.

The Good Shepherd: Saw this trailer for the first time Saturday, and the story of how the CIA started seems rather epic. What a cast, too.

Reno 911!: Miami: I've seen the TV show only a few times, but it's pretty funny, and this movie version of doofus cops thrust into action looks equally hilarious.

Spider-Man 3: Between the stellar track record of this franchise and this deep, dark installment, Take Three clearly is a must-see.


Night at the Museum: I'm only a bit ashamed that I laughed at Ben Stiller bumbling around a museum where exhibits come to life after dark. The big concern: All the funniest parts were in the trailer.

Curse of the Golden Flower: More high-flying martial arts in ancient times, a la "Hero" and "House of Flying Daggers," neither of which I've seen. (Not on purpose, though.) Looks like some decent large-scale battle scenes, to boot.

Alpha Dog: I thought Emile Hirsch was OK in "The Girl Next Door," and he seems ready for prime time here as a punk who takes a kid hostage.


The Pursuit of Happyness: Will Smith is in danger of getting way too weepy in this story of a father trying to improve his lot in life. Not a fan of the shaggy hair or the incorrect spelling, either.

Blood Diamond: No offense, Leo, but after "The Departed," this tale of people chasing a priceless diamond seems a bit of a comedown, no matter how much you run around Africa.

Dreamgirls: I still don't know if this is based on The Supremes or not, but the music sounds good.

Turistas: Yet another low-grade horror film. But hey, at least they threw in a little Latin flavor.


Rocky Balboa: Really ... this is a joke, right?

Ghost Rider: First, nobody cares about this comic book. Second, the flaming skull looks way too cheesy. Third, isn't Nic Cage a little old to be playing superhero?

Apocalypto: So let me get this straight, Mel ... Jews are evil, but Mayans are just fine?

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Blond ... James Blond: "Casino Royale"

Let's get one thing out of the way: I'm a James Bond fan. Big one. Seen all of the Bond movies, all more than once, some more than a dozen times. If my dog hadn't had a fun name when I got her, "Moneypenny" would have been considered. I college, the Mac disk I used to store all of my papers and whatnot was titled "Oddjob."

Yes, I'm a geek. This surprises you how?

Anyway, you can guess that I was rather excited about "Casino Royale," the latest and revamped Bond entry. Rather than get caught up in this "Dear God, he's blond!" crap, I reserved judgment first until the trailers (which looked great) and then until I saw the movie for myself (today). The ruling? Positive, very much so.

Our story has a young Bond (Daniel Craig) recently promoted to Double-Oh status, which, as we all know, is license to kill. (Or "licence," if you're a limey.) While looking into a bomb maker who works with terrorists, our hero stumbles across the nefarious dealings of one Le Chiffre (Mads Mikkelsen), financier of terrorists. Even better, he makes it so the villain calls a bigtime poker game in which our favorite superspy will have a chair. Meanwhile, shepherding the money for Bond's stake is a comely British treasury agent (Eva Green), whom I've seen naked.

(OK, since it was courtesy of her full frontal action in "The Dreamers," I guess I wasn't the only one. Still ... )

While the story asks a bit more than the simple world domination normally sought by Bond villains, the overall reimagining/reinventing/whatever you want to call it works quite well. Instead of having another fortysomething step into the role -- see Moore-Dalton-Brosnan -- we go back to the beginning, when Bond was raw and rough. Very rough, in fact. Not only is he less than smooth when it comes to the violence, but he definitely hasn't learned how to love-'em-and-leave-'em. It's kind of cool, actually, to not have to hear a bunch of hammy innuendoes while womens clothes fall to the floor. Sacrilege, I know.

Craig does a nice job of being a hardass in need of polish, both when it comes to spy work and women. He definitely seemed up for the physical part of the role -- running, jumping and bouncing all over the place. A long chase sequence in Madagascar is amazing, and frankly makes every action scene after that a little lackluster (but not bad, mind you). I also didn't mind the dearth of gadgets in "Royale." Again, with the sacrilege.

Yes, this movie is a bit of a paradox. On one had, it's stripped down. Few gadgets, no Q, no Moneypenny. On the other, it's more complex. We get a better look at Bond's mindset, as well as his heart. Ah, yes ... the fetching Ms. Green. As easy on the eyes as she was in "The Dreamers" -- being naked a lot will do that -- she's stunning here. In addition, the chemistry between her and Craig -- yeah, I know he's 12 years older -- is good, and while it may be asking a bit to buy the two of them falling in love, it's not asking too much.

No question the movie has some flaws. It could have been at least 15-20 minutes shorter; I would have cut some of the poker action, although that was broken up nicely by a couple of fight/death scenes. And again, the love story wasn't a 100 percent believable. But overall, Craig does a fine job in a role that's fleshed out more than normal for a Bond movie. Throw in some solid action scenes, and it was a successful debut for the latest incarnation of 007.

Now, about this blue-eyed blond business ...

All I'll say is this: I remember Entertainment Weekly several years ago running one of those regular "How to revive the James Bond franchise" stories. Of course they had some of the usual suspects as "the next Bond," i.e. Clive Owen (whom I like just fine). But they also talked about blowing up the franchise altogether and doing something radical, like making Bond black, or a woman.

Instead, we have this trip back to the beginning -- not quite a reinvention but also not a cookie-cutter installment. And since it works, can we not argue about the guy's hair and eye color? Seriously, it's not like Dr. Kovac or Mr. Nip/Tuck would have knocked us on our butts as 007, anyway.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Pretty thin: "The Ice Harvest"

This may sound trite, since I know I've seen more than one critic slam a movie in this way. But a few minutes into "The Ice Harvest," I felt like I had come into the story halfway through. In other words, there seemed to be a lot missing up front, like maybe a half-hour of explanation for why the heck these people were doing what they were doing.

It's too bad, too, because I still like John Cusack and Billy Bob Thornton, despite their various missteps. Alas, they clearly shouldn't be in movies together. "Pushing Tin" pretty much blew, but I think it was better than this mess.

Our story, as it were, has Cusack as a lawyer and Thornton as a pornographer in Wichita, Kansas. (Why Wichita? Why not?) As nasty winter weather rages, the two apparently are finishing off the embezzlement/robbery of a local mobster. The big question is whether then can get away before the bad guy's henchmen catch them. Along the way, we watch Cusack interact with a comely strip club owner, his buddy/ex-wife's husband and other assorted oddballs.

The biggest problem with this movie, other than asking us to accept the muddled plot -- i.e., how these guys fell into cahoots, who the mobster is, what the relationship is between Cusack and the strip club owner -- is that it's not sure what it should be. Black comedy? Film noir? Heist film? It tries a little of each and succeeds at none, leaving us to watch Cusack mope around town.

Thornton has some mildly amusing moments here and there, and Oliver Platt -- as Cusack's drunk buddy -- provides some comic relief. But by the end -- which mercifully comes in less than 90 minutes -- I was left disappointed and a little pissed, since the people involved in this are capable of much better. Not only the two lead actors, but also director Harold Ramis. Sure, he's older now, but this is the guy who gave us "Caddyshack," "Vacation" and "Groundhog Day." Stick to funny, Harry.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

That's not what I meant when I said "nice stems": "Broken Flowers"

What we have here is an unfortunate combination: a director who's too artsy-fartsy for his own good and an actor who wants to cultivate a "serious" reputation.

I must admit I've never bought into the schtick of Jim Jarmusch. My friend John was always pushing "Dead Man" on me, and when I finally did watch it, it didn't seem too bad. The only problem: I kept falling asleep. Really. Didn't matter how many times I tried to finish it ... I must have nodded off three different nights before saying, "Screw it."

Then there was "Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai," which was amusing but ultimately unsatisfying. Sure, Forest Whitaker is intriguing as an assassin who fancies the old Japanese ways, and you haven't lived until you've seen a wiseguy drop some Public Enemy lyrics. But it was kind of plodding and seem more of a concept than an actual story.

"Broken Flowers" suffers from the same problem, even with Jarmusch throwing different characters at us. Our story has an aging bachelor (Bill "The Man Who Knew Too Little" Murray) learning through an anonymous letter from an old flame that he has a son. Prodded by his neighbor -- the always watchable Jeffrey Wright -- our hero sets off to find out which former squeeze birthed his boy.

This leads to all sorts of odd -- but far from zany -- encounters with different types of women. It's an impressive honor roll: Sharon Stone, Frances Conroy, Jessica Lange and Tilda Swinton. We also see Murray's character -- Don Johnston ... "John-STON" -- be tempted by sweet young things, from Stone's full-frontal teenage daughter (Bill Fichtner's daughter in the TV show "Invasion," and let me just say ... wow) to Chloe Sevigny, who, for once, doesn't get naked. Boo!

All this causes a bunch of soul-searching in our protagonist. We know this because he stares a lot, says little and listens to the same instrumental songs on the CD his neighbor made for him. Oh, and he has weird flashback/dreams, too. It's deep stuff, man. Eventually, Murray meets his son ... or does he? It's a big mystery, although I'm sure there's an Important Lesson in there.

Like "Ghost Dog," "Flowers" mainly gives us some interesting parts but not much of a whole. A few scenes are rich and on target, but others are kind of flat, and it definitely doesn't add up to anything great. I'm sure he meant well, but Murray seems to be going for that introspective, older, lost man thing that he did so well in "Lost in Translation." Alas, neither his character nor the story have much depth, and I can't believe he inhabited this role as much as that one (or his great turn in "Rushmore," for that matter). Maybe now he can get the serious stuff out of his system and get back to doing funny. You know, like the "Garfield" movies. Hide your lasagna, Jon!

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Neither dot nor feather: "The World's Fastest Indian"

I gotta tell you, this sounded like a sequel to that cheesy Jan-Michael Vincent movie from the '70s. You know, "The World's Greatest Athlete." That's OK, though, because that movie ruled!

Alas, what we have instead is the feel-good story about a kooky sixtysomething guy in New Zealand -- that makes him a Kiwi, you know -- who tinkers with his 1920 Indian motorcycle to the point that he thinks he can set a land speed record on the thing. The only problem is that he has to get to the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah to do it. So begins the odyssey of Burt Munro, whose journey across the sea and from the West Coast to the salt flats is actually a true story.

Playing our hero is ... well, I was about to say "the venerable," but there was the matter of "Bad Company" and "Meet Joe Black" ... Anthony Hopkins, who worked really hard on that Kiwi accent, let me tell you. In the other land down under, he pals around with a precocious neighbor kid and gets amorous with a saucy old lady. He also gives us the movie's most entertaining scene: a race between the old fart on his old bike and a bunch of young punk bikers. I won't tell you who won, but it's pretty funny how the race plays out.

Eventually Burt gets to the U.S. and makes some new friends in L.A., en route to Utah and in the Beehive State itself. Even with some adversity along the way, it's all rather pleasant, although I kind of got tired of Hopkins' "Innocents Abroad" schtick now and then. Yes, you're a sweet man. Yes, we know you want to go fast. No, I don't need to hear about how you walked three miles to school in the snow, uphill. (Both ways!)

While a tad sappy here and there, "Indian" overall was nice enough and successful at making you care about Burt's quest. I might have wanted a little more real adversity, but this by and large is meant to be a safe, uplifting tale, I suppose. And bonus points for actually shooting the movie in New Zealand -- even the town where Munro fixed up his old bike. Still, I was a little surprised not to see any hobbits around.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

It's like looking in a mirror: "Shaft"

OK, maybe I'm not the whitest guy in America. But I gotta be in the top 10.

Still, "Shaft" ... I can dig it.

I'm pretty sure I never saw the original "Shaft" before the other night. Knew the theme song, of course, and had seen the Samuel L. Jackson remake in the theater, which was merely OK. But I couldn't pass up a chance to see the real deal when it rolled across my cable TV, could I?

We all know the movie's about a black private eye with plenty of bad-ass attitude. Here's the actual story, for what it's worth: New York P.I. John Shaft is recruited by a black gangster to find his daughter, who apparently has been kidnapped by the Italian mafia. Gee, think there will be any racial or ethnic slurs here? One or two, perhaps?

Looking for more plot? Well, that's about it. Oh, it takes a bit to find out that this is the real story, but for the most part there's not much there. Doesn't matter, though, since this movie is all about an empowered black man who takes absolutely no sh*t. On that note, it does quite well.

In a protracted opening sequence that takes forever to get to the theme song, the first words out of Richard Roundtree's mouth are "Up yours!" That's directed at a car that almost runs him over, but it may as well be to the white movie establishment. It's funny, too, because IMDB says this was written as a run-of-the-mill detective story for a white guy. Instead, it became maybe the most famous of the blaxploitation movies ... a truly landmark film in that regard.

Roundtree really gets into the role, as Shaft mouths off -- but in a smooth way -- to white cops, white gangsters, black gangsters, black punks, black women, white women ... pretty much everyone. But don't think the ladies don't love him, as he beds women of both races. Right on.

While the movie is a little slow to take off and somewhat padded to make its 100-minute running time, it's mostly entertaining, especially in the middle when Shaft is trying to figure everything out despite all these obstacles. You know, like people simply talking to him. Of course, this allows for all sorts of great lines. To wit:

"When you lead your revolution, whitey better be standing still, because you don't run worth a damn no more!"

"Warms my black heart to see you so concerned about us minority folks."

Woman: "You got problems, baby?"
Shaft: "Yeah, I got a couple of 'em. I was born black, and I was born poor."

(And my favorite exchange ... )
Would-be tough guy: "Listen, Snow White. Me and you gonna tangle, sooner or later. Did you hear what I say?"
Shaft: "Why don't you stop playing with yourself, Willy?"

Man, if I had a dime for every time I dropped that line on someone. That's right ... stickin' it to the man.

Friday, November 10, 2006

No one here gets out alive

Before I head out of town for the weekend, quick thoughts on a few movies that probably don't warrant full posts:

The working title for "Steel Magnolias" as well: "Goke, Body Snatcher from Hell"

Yeah, I guess you can say the title sucked me in here. (Pun intended, you'll see.) This Japanese movie from the late 60s is about an airline flight that crashes amid weird lights and dead birds. Even stranger, one of the passengers gets corrupted by what we learn are space aliens and starts feeding on the blood of other passengers. You know, that's not going to get you any more frequent flier miles.

Despite some fun scenes -- a blood-red sky, a mannequin clearly standing in for a guy who falls off a cliff -- and goofy performances, not that much really happens here. Between that and the subtitles, it was a bit of a chore to get through the short running time of 84 minutes. Even so, if you see only one Japanese movie about an alien parasite that turns people into vampires ...

Hey, look alive out there: "I Walked with a Zombie"

Another amazing title, even moreso given it's from the early 1940s. I'll take this over such grandiose ones as "Gone with the Wind" or "From Here to Eternity" any day.

In this case, a nurse takes a job on a plantation in the West Indies, caring for a man's sick wife. While wifey appears physically fine, she's a little on the blank side, walking around but not talking at all. Could it be the result of some strange island magic? Because, you know, those dark-skinned folks are all about the hocus-pocus.

Yeah, this movie doesn't hold up well in a few ways, starting with the whole "spooky black people" thing. And for a "zombie" movie, there isn't any gory flesh-eating, decapitations, etc. George Romero surely must shudder at that thought, but I guess zombie movies had to crawl before they could walk, walk before they could run, run before they could lurch.

Magnum, P.U.: "Runaway"

Nobody quite succeeded like Tom Selleck in parlaying huge TV fame into a middling movie career. I mean, this guy was big in the early '80s. Yet consider these films: "High Road to China," "Lassiter," "Her Alibi." I mean, when "Quigley Down Under" seems like a great movie by comparison, you've got troubles.

"Runaway" was the sci-fi part of this crappy mix. It was bad in 1984, but I thought the robot spiders and missile-shooting gun were cool when I was 11, so I watched it again recently. It's worse now, but almost worth seeing for the villain: Gene Simmons.

Yes, Mr. Kiss is the bad guy, and he's hilarious. Not because he's over the top, as you might expect, but because he tries to show restraint and quiet menace, and fails miserably. I mean, you can't call someone "sucker" or say "that wasn't very nice" and be taken seriously. Believe me, I've tried. Then again, that might be because I had my face painted at the time.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

So you're saying the coin wasn't REALLY in my ear?: "The Prestige"

I'll shamelessly cite what one critic -- I think for The Washington Post -- said: If you see one movie about turn-of-the-century magicians in Europe, this is the one.

As I noted, "The Illusionist" was merely OK, which was something of a letdown after the rave reviews from my pal Louie. "The Prestige," however, was much more enjoyable. Let's put it this way: If the former was three-card monte, the latter was sawing a woman in half. Which one of those would you find on a street corner and which one pretty much has to be on the big stage?

(Side note: Before the lovefest begins, a note about the film's title. It kind of sucks. Sure, it makes sense in the grand scheme of things. But it just sounds awkward, and it also resulted in rampant mocking by me and My Forever Love. It started with her asking, "What is this movie again? 'The Protagonist?'" From there, we traded off. "What time does 'The Pretext' start?" "Two tickets for 'The Premise,' please." Fun stuff.)

Granted, I may have been predisposed to like "The Prestige." One, I like Christopher Nolan. Two, I like Christian Bale. Three, I drool over Scarlettttt Johanssssssson. No offense to Jessica Biel, who was a favorite of mine between the bikini scene in "Summer Catch" and butt-kicking in "Blade III." But I've fully gotten over my uncle's claims of Scarlett having a butthole mouth to find her rather saucy. And unlike Jessica, she fits this period piece perfectly.

That said, the ladies have a secondary role in this movie, which focuses on an intense rivalry between two magicians. Hugh Jackman ("Swordfish") is the flashier guy who better fits in high society. Bale ("Newsies") is the superior magician who's still rough around the edges. After they start out as sort-of friends, a tragedy tears them apart and sparks a rather cutthroat competition to become the absotively, posilutely bestest conjurer/illusionist/what-have-you around.

And it does get nasty, which makes "The Prestige" much more interesting than the other magic movie, in my mind. Bale and Jackman both get into their roles -- and adopt accents, to boot -- and the script throws us all sorts of twists and turns, tilting the story toward one guy, then the other, over the course of a couple of hours. (Yep, that's Nolan for you.) Along the way, we get insight into just what these guys are obsessed with -- sometimes the same thing, sometimes not -- and how each of them ultimately prove to be among the more deceptive and duplicitous people you can imagine.

The supporting cast is pretty good, too. Michael Caine has a big role as the mentor to the two magicians, and David Bowie(!) shows up as inventor/scientist Nikola Tesla. In addition to Johansson as a magician's assistant, Piper Perabo plays Jackman's wife, while Rebecca Hall is Bale's. We even get real-life trickster Ricky Jay -- you know, the cameraman from "Boogie Nights" -- in a small role. But of course.

Like I said, the big fun for me was watching the whole back-and-forth between these two magicians and their unhealthy interest in topping each other. Some dark stuff, to be sure, but I was mostly riveted and very curious to see who would win out. And to be honest, I wasn't going to leave until I knew for sure that there wasn't a fake bottom to that hat the rabbit came out of.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Oh, you're too good for the pull-my-finger trick: "The Illusionist"

You gotta see "The Illusionist," my friend Louie said. It's amazing. It's incredible.

Guess what? Louie was wrong.

Oh, the movie was OK, but young master Lou now has confirmed his place in the Ebert Hall of Fame, where bad is good, passable is great and decent is four stars (highest rating).

I blame Edward Norton, on whom Louie has a well-known man crush. How else to explain his gushing reviews for "The 25th Hour," another merely OK movie? Hey, I like Norton, too. Not just "Primal Fear" -- his "wow" debut -- but "Rounders," "Fight Club" and even "The Score" all showed off his serious chops. Still haven't seen "American History X," but I understand that adds to Eddie's resume of prime roles.

Norton's good in "The Illusionist," too, as ... well, an illusionist in turn-of-the-century Vienna who dazzles crowds and has his eye on a women who he once loved as a young boy. Now all growns up, the woman (Jessica "I've looked hotter" Biel), unfortunately also is the target of the affections of the crown prince (Rufus Sewell), who wants to be the Big Cheese in the Empire. All the while, the local police inspector (the unparalleled Paul Giamatti) tries to find out how the illusionist makes with all the magic.

The tricks are generally fun, and we occasionally get a look at how Norton's character pulls them off. (As IMDB shares, Norton did many of his own tricks. Of course. The guy's a stud.) The cat-and-mouse game between him and Giamatti is pretty good, mainly because these are two guys who really can act. Sewell isn't bad, either, although it's a pretty one-note role and I kept being reminded of Joaquin Phoenix in "Gladiator." One other plus: Everything looks good, from the costumes to the street and theater sets.

Like I said, not bad ... but not great, either. First, I wasn't at all surprised by the outcome. Second, I thought there should have more explanation of how everything worked out, even if I knew what was going to happen in the end. Does that make sense? It's kind of like -- yes -- a magic trick. Much more interesting than watching someone make something float in the air is figuring out how he did it. Yet in "The Illusionist," the look behind the scenes of the ultimate trick was lacking. I don't want to say more for fearing of giving anything away, but let's say I was left with a big "That's it?" feeling.

This certainly didn't kill the movie, but it did keep it from being anything more than decent matinee fare or a film people will talk about for months on end. Well, unless your name is Louie.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

It's horrible, yet I can't look away

I've actually seen a few movies recently and hope to venture to Ye Olde Cinema House this weekend. Meanwhile, it's time to come clean about a chronic problem: watching crap more than once simply because it's on HBO.

What you're about to read is Exhibit No. 1 for why I really should cancel HBO, especially with a kid on the way. (Because, you know, with a baby you can really start saving money.) Oh, sure, I see plenty of real movies, including some I've never seen before. I've got the original version of "The Desperate Hours" (not the Mickey Rourke laugher) recorded from HBO Signature, and My One True Love and I stumbled across "Sixteen Candles" on HBO Comedy the other night.

Alas, other movies continue to show up on one or more of our many HBO channels, and for some reason I seem to click on them and spend a few minutes killing more than a few brain cells. I'm not talking about accepted guilty pleasures such as "Road House" or solid comedies such as "Wedding Crashers." What am I talking about? Well ...

This hasn't been on for a while, but when it was I couldn't help flipping to it just to see what was going on at that moment. No good explanation for this, especially since I think Colin Farrell by and large sucks. Maybe it was LL Cool J and Michelle Rodriguez, or that guy from "Unfaithful" hamming it up as the villain offering big money for anyone who breaks him out of jail. In any case, this movie is bad, even with all the bang-bang, and I'm more than a little ashamed.

This truly depressing tale seems to pop up every 12-18 months and will cure anyone who thinks Florida is just sun and fun. Larry Clark, who gave us "Kids," presents a bunch of deadbeat kids, centered around a punk who terrorizes his "best friend," the friend's girlfriend and others before getting his comeuppance. Plenty of nudity and sex, much of it unpleasant. Yet this is so much of a train wreck, with so many uncomfortable scenes, that I must be subconsciously testing myself whenever I think, "Hey, 'Bully' is on!"

Alien vs. Predator
You may recall my post on this, a flashy but empty sci-fi movie that came out a couple of years ago. It's really an insult to both movie franchises; hell, why didn't they just throw Freddy Krueger into the mix while they were at it? Of course, the rampant silliness makes this "film" easily accessible, and I'll confess being partial to two scenes: (1) The lecture by the accented archaeologist on how the predators and aliens have used Earth over the last thousands of years -- oh, that makes sense -- and (2) when the lead predator forms an alliance with one of the humans. (Can't we all just get along?) High comedy all around, although it's a shame we don't get more Lance Henriksen.

Behind Closed Doors
This, um, has been on HBO Zone after 1 a.m. over the last few weeks. It's, ah, mature programming. I wouldn't expect you all to understand. Moving on ...

The Chronicles of Riddick
Never have I loathed a movie so much yet found myself reflexively flipping to it. I'd like to tell you it's for laughs, and that would be true: I laugh. I also could say something about me generally being forgiving when it comes to sci-fi, especially stuff that at least looks good. But really, after watching the entire movie once, there's no excuse for watching any part of it again. Yet there I go, checking if this is when Vin Diesel stabs that guy who swings around those two axes. Or if it's when the Diesel dodges killer sun rays on the prison planet. Or when that dude rips out the guy's soul. Or -- and this is the best -- Judi Dench is on screen. Yes, Dame Judi Dench. Academy Award Winner and four-time Nominee Judi Dench. You know how I sometimes end these posts with a joke? This isn't one of them.