Thursday, May 29, 2008

More like Dead-ley LaMarr!

We can joke because Harvey Korman was a funny, funny man. Not only in "Blazing Saddles," but the old Carol Burnett show. Still love how he couldn't always keep it together when Tim Conway was doing something especially nuts. Rest in peace, HK.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

For once, Costanza was right: "Before the Devil Knows You're Dead"

I mean, Marisa Tomei ... wow. But let's all agree on this: If you insist on showing Philip Seymour Hoffman's a$$ in the same movie as Marisa Tomei's ta-tas, you really ought to show the ta-tas first. Otherwise, you risk viewers doing what I nearly did: throw up at the sight of that fleshy back end jiggling during sex. Not. Good.

I wanted to see this Sidney Lumet -- still working at 83, baby! -- movie last year but never made it to the artsy-fartsy theater. You may recall me instead seeing "The Mist," somewhat sheepishly. But get this: "The Mist" actually was OK, and "Before the Devil Knows You're Dead" wasn't that great. Throw in the gas money I saved, and it's a wash. Maybe.

Our story has Hoffman and Ethan Hawke ("Explorers") as brothers who are screw-ups in different ways. Hawke is obvious: He's little more than a deabeat dad who can't get or keep his sh!t together. Hoffman's flaws are hidden: He's a closet dope fiend whose perfect marriage to Tomei isn't all that perfect. (Their doing-the-dog-in-Rio opener notwithstanding. Minutes later, we see her naked with her brother-in-law. So that's how it is in their family ... )

After watching a jewelry store robbery early on, we soon learn the Brothers Dumba$$ were behind it. Through a series of flashbacks and flash-forwards -- not so much confusing as annoying -- we see how the heist came together, the various mistakes made along the way and the painful consequences. Let's just say that dear old dad, Albert Finney ("Looker"), isn't pleased.

There's all sorts of angst and compounding of mistakes, with Hawke falling apart rather quickly -- the scenes with his daughter and ex-wife are particularly pathetic -- and Hoffman taking a little more time before it all comes crashing down. And crash it does. Give Phil this: When he decides to go off the reservation, he doesn't just stick a toe over the line.

Like I said, the flashback/forward technique was bothersome, and I generally got the sense there was more atmosphere than depth here. Hawke did the better job with his character than Hoffman, which is surprising. Hoffman's perfectly fine, but I didn't totally buy who he was supposed to be. And I'm not even talking about bagging Marisa, since she wasn't the brightest bulb in the drawer.

In the end, "Devil" was a letdown. It asks you to except a lot without giving much of a payoff. Everyone here has done better work, although in Lumet's case you have to go way back to at least the '80s ("The Verdict") and even the '70s ("Network," "Dog Day Afternoon" and "Serpico.") Worst of all, you know how he dangled Tomei's boobs in the first few minutes and gave us a better look 20 minutes later? That's it for the movie. C'mon, Sid, we've been waiting for a peek at those ever since "My Cousin Vinny." You gotta give us one more look for the road.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

I take it back ... things CAN get better as time goes by

That more than anything sums up the trio of movies below. Saw these over the last few weeks, before heading out of town last Thursday for a long holiday weekend. The only movie I saw while gone? About 45 minutes of "The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen," which -- to use a technical term -- blows. Eminently watchable, yes. But blows chunks something fierce.

Enough of that. Onto other bad-to-mediocre-to-good movies.

You coulda a been a pretendah: "The Chase"

Classic example of seeing a dynamite cast and being sucked -- or rather, suckered -- into watching a movie that really isn't any good. "The Chase" has Marlon Brando as the sheriff of a Texas town to which an escaped convict (R0bert Redford) apparently is heading home. This throws the town into a tizzy, from the convict's wife (Jane Fonda) to her lover (James Fox) to the lover's dad (E.G. Marshall) -- the resident rich guy -- to a loan officer at the local bank (Robert Duvall).

There are some other characters -- quite a few actually -- thrown by the potential return of Bubber (yeah, not "Bubba") Reeves. Really, it's quite the big deal. What's bigger, however, is how crappy this movie is with all this talent.

Director Arthur Penn would go onto "Bonnie and Clyde" and "Little Big Man" (and maybe his piece de resistance, "Penn and Teller Get Killed"). This movie is a mess. Brando is all wrong as the sheriff. He basically does the Brando thing, which is fine in many other roles but totally off here. Same thing with Redford, who is too pretty to be a bad-ass criminal whose name strikes fear in townsfolk. I mean, dude's hair stays in place no matter what muck he wades through while on the lam.

Others aren't quite as bad a fit but still are saddled with a weak plot and script. The only bright spot: The women all are pretty hot. Fonda is saucy, and Angie Dickinson as Brando's wife isn't bad. Best, though, was Janice Rule as Duvall's straying wife. Never seen her before, but she had just the right amount of naughty to help me through the slow spots.

I guess Mr. Hand didn't set him straight after all: "State of Grace"

I vaguely recall this movie coming out way back in 1990; hey, I was 17 and had many things on my mind other than Sean Penn's ongoing bid for Serious Actor status. Then "State of Grace" showed up on either IFC or Fox Movie Channel a few weeks ago. OK, I thought, let's give it a shot.

Verdict? Eh. Our story has Penn as some kind of punk coming back to Hell's Kitchen, NYC, to hook up with his Irish buddy Gary Oldman and Oldman's brother and crime boss, Ed Harris. Meanwhile, Oldman-Harris's sister, Robin Wright soon-to-be-Penn, welcomes Sean back with open arms and open bathrobe. That's right ... Princess Buttercup shows her goodies. Didn't look like a body double to me, either. Nice work by her.

Anyway, Penn gets in with the gang, which is having a hard time working out a deal with the Italian mob. But -- dun-dun-dahhhhh! -- Penn actually is a cop. That should help an already tense situation, right? At least the Irish won't exacerbate things by drinking heavily ...

It's definitely interesting to see the three above actors -- especially Oldman -- in younger days, as well as solid supporting players John C. Reilly and John Turturro before they got a little bit bigger. Still, this movie is mostly defined by its fake gravitas. Everything oozes "We're telling an artistic, emotional story here," yet the actual story doesn't really deliver much. By the time we get to the climax, I was thoroughly nonplussed. There's something you'd like to see on a movie poster:


I kid, but you know, that would be kind of awesome.

What he really needed was a good old-fashioned a$$-kicking: "The Squid and the Whale"

Was thinking about the older son when I typed that, but this applies to the dad as well.

I recall enjoying this artsy-fartsy movie set in 1980s Brooklyn when it came out. I did NOT recall it being so short -- essentially 75 minutes, not counting credits. Surprisingly, it doesn't feel that short, maybe because most of the scenes aren't that long, given the appearance that the family's implosion is actually kind of long and drawn-out. Or something like that.

Our story has Laura Linney and Jeff Daniels as a snotty academic couple breaking up, leaving their two sons (Jesse "Rodger Dodger" Eisenberg and Owen "Judge Reinhold jerked off to my mom" Kline) adrift in different ways. Jesse is all about his dad, taking Daniel's pompous musings as God's truth, often to hilarious effect. Kline is a mama's boy dealing with puberty issues but still manages to be less annoying than Big Brother.

Meanwhile, the parents are insufferable in their own ways, although Daniels is much more obvious and entertaining. He's really pretty good and should have gotten an Oscar nom for this, even if 2006 had a strong field. Seriously, I love how he called people philistines and referred to something as "the filet of" its whatever -- neighborhood, genre, etc. I mean, what a pr!ck.

Billy Baldwin and Anna Paquin show up in supporting roles, but the story really is about this twisted foursome -- from the opening tennis match to the older son's break from his dad. Like I said, not a long movie, but still a lot to see. Definitely held up well the second time around. Not sure there will be a third. I mean, I can handle seeing Kevin Kline's kid get off on a library bookshelf only so many times.

Monday, May 19, 2008

They should have settled the Jerry-George debate on whether he wears underwear: "Iron Man"

Sure, we see Robert Downey Jr. in some kind of bodysuit. But underwear? Still a mystery.

Managed to get away Sunday night to see the first blockbuster of the summer season, which now starts in early May. Can't say I was ever a big Iron Man fan. It's not that I don't like the character. Just never got around to him. So no worries for me about whether this version directed by Mike from "Swingers" was faithful to the funny pages.

Our story has Downey as Tony Stark, a genius/playboy/weapons designer whose bonafides in all three categories are established right up front. At the same time, we see Mr. Stark suffer some unpleasantness in the form of an ambush during a military call in Afghanistan. Turns out Stark is injured by shrapnel from one of his own missiles, and the bad guys have a doctor keep him alive by implanting an electromagnet in his chest. There's a conversation starter for you.

The baddies also want Stark to make them a bad-ass missile. He instead makes something that helps him bust out: a crude version of an iron suit, complete with weapons and blast-off capability. Upon his return to civilization, Stark -- who got religion in captivity -- decides to fight evil with a new-and-improved suit. Better paint job, too.

As stories go, it's not that complex, which is fine. It also seems nice and current, which is notable considering the original took place during Vietnam. Our supporting players include Gwyneth Paltrow -- looking damn cute -- as Stark's assistant, Terrence Howard as his military buddy and Jeff Bridges -- with more hair on his chin than his head -- as the head of Stark's company.

Solid actors, although some get more meat in the script than others. Howard doesn't get much to work with, and each performance since his double-whammy of "Hustle and Flow" and "Crash" has seemed like a letdown to me. Paltrow is quite winning, and did I mention cute? Bridges is distracting with than shaved head but not bad. Every now and then some of the classic Bridges mannerisms show through. Still, I wonder if someone else would have been better here.

But on to more important things: the action and Downey.

The action? Not bad. Good little start and nice backstory. Drags a bit in the middle, but the Iron Man flying stuff was pretty good. The finale was kind of a letdown, but on the whole, the effects mostly worked. So yeah, cool suit.

I had a harder time with our hero's general background. I mean, it makes sense that most superheroes have to be either super-rich (Batman) or mutants of some kind (Spider-Man). Like a regular old homeless guy could build some kind of crime-fighting device. Still, the millionaire thing is just too convenient, and even with their different "jobs," Tony Stark is no different from Bruce Wayne. Makes me wonder if Bill Gates or the Sultan of Brunei are somewhere at this very moment righting wrongs in the dark of night.

That said, Downey does a fine job of pulling off this role. He's better as the bad boy but still good after his epiphany. There definitely was the risk of being more over the top -- all noble and that. He and the script also don't go overboard with the one-liners, which probably was the right move. Still, one joke about boxers or briefs wouldn't have killed them.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Not bad, but I wish Gary Busey had been available: "Being John Malkovich"

Who are we kidding? Busey was available. Just too freaking nuts.

I'm pretty sure I saw this very funny movie in the theater back in 1999, and I probably saw it on DVD or cable not long after that. But it definitely had been several years, and I got into a Malkovich mood when it strolled across my cable system -- IFC, I think -- a couple of weeks ago.

You know the story: A down-on-his-luck puppeteer (John Cusack) takes a thankless filing job on the 7 1/2th floor of a building. While crouching under the low ceilings, he discovers a doorway that leads into the mind of John Malkovich, "one of the great American actors of the 20th century." He tells the office chick that he's hot for (Catherine "Frosty, Much?" Keener), and she gets him to charge people to be Malkovich.

Meanwhile, Puppet Boy's wife (Cameron "I Can Do Fugly" Diaz) realizes after being Malkovich that she's hot for the Ice Queen as well. But wait! Mr. Marionette decides to take Malkovich -- and by extension, Her Bitterness -- for himself. (Never mind what Malkovich wants.) Where, oh where, does this treacherous road lead?

Straight to comedy heaven, baby. It's hard to imagine in this Will-Ferrell-yelling, Jack-Black-in-his-underwear era, but there's such a thing as high-concept comedy that's hilarious without throwing a bunch of slapstick at you. "Malkovich" is sly from the start -- "Nobody's looking for a puppeteer in today's wintry economic climate," Cusack says, then scans the want-ads for puppeteer jobs -- and gets weird but just as funny when Malkovich himself becomes involved.

And don't get me started on the supporting players, most notably Orson Bean as Cusack's boss -- nearly everything he utters is gold -- and Charlie Sheen playing himself as Malkovich's buddy. (Ma-Sheen! Malkatraz!) I'd dangle some more quotes here, but they really don't work out of context. That's how well the movie flows, with each quirky character and development leading to the next. But of course you get spit out at the side of the New Jersey Turnpike after 15 minutes looking through Malkovich's eyes! Why not?

Credit writer Charlie Kaufman and director Spike Jonze for pulling this off. True, each actor nails his or her role -- so much in Keener's case that I still don't quite like her today. But the story ... wow. I mean, who comes up with this? And how did they get Malkovich to go along? I thought he was busy making a sequel to that movie. You know, the one where he plays a jewel thief.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Hmmmm ... maybe they really DON'T make them like they used to

That as much as anything might explain why, of these three movies below, the best one is the oldest, while the one from two years ago blows chunks.

Based on this, I expect my daughter to take care of her own college tuition: "Paper Moon"

I first saw this movie a loooong time ago and remembered very little other than the part near the end when some very unhappy men corner con man Ryan O'Neal. That doesn't end well. I also remember this movie being generally praised, so it seemed worth another viewing.

Our story has O'Neal showing up at the rural Kansas funeral of a woman who left behind a precocious young daughter, played by O'Neal's real-life daughter, Tatum. (Yes, the former Mrs. John McEnroe. Former now, not then, since she wasn't even 10 when "Paper Moon" was made.) He agrees to take her to St. Joseph's, Mo. -- not out of the goodness of his own heart but because he can use her to get a little more cash. He soon finds she's a bit of a con artist himself, and as Rick said to Louis, this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

It's pretty fun to see these two work -- together and against each other. Both O'Neals are impressive and never better. (Kind of shame, when you think about it.) Supporting roles are solid, too. Madeline Kahn is amusing and has one great scene with Tatum as a loose woman named ... wait for it ... Trixie Delight. John "Higgins" Hillerman plays two roles as a bootlegger and his brother, a sheriff's deputy. And we even get a little Randy Quaid as a farm boy who wrestles Ryan O'Neal.

Throw in director Peter Bogdanovich's skill in creating a "Grapes of Wrath" atmosphere -- b/w film, dusty roads, deliberate scenes here and there -- and it's a great package all the way around. Besides, even in this crass age, odds are you still won't see a 9-year-old girl say "I need to go to the sh*thouse."

In case you didn't think he was a enough of an a$$: "Romper Stomper"

Before he was getting Oscar noms, Russell Crowe was just another Kiwi playing an angry Aussie. And boy, did he wear the Third Reich ink well.

"Romper Stomper" was released in 1992 -- three years before Crowe popped up in "The Quick and the Dead," five before he caught our attention in "L.A. Confidential" and eight before he reached the A list with "Gladiator." Here, he's the leader of a bunch of skinheads who torment Asian immigrants in Melbourne. This may be the first movie I've seen that's set in Melbourne, now that I think of it. Hmmmm. Wonder what that means.

Anyway, that's the long and short of it. These guys cause trouble, then get into trouble, then cause some more trouble. Crowe hooks up with a wayward rich girl who first helps then hurts the group. Otherwise, general mayhem ensues.

It's interesting enough, and I was curious to see where it was all going. But I can't say I cared very much about our sociopathic antiheroes. Crowe's buddy, played by Daniel Pollock, was intriguing in that he didn't seem fully into the thing, but rather was just friends with Crowe. Also, the big rumble between the skinheads and the Vietnamese -- which you see coming, which is cool -- was well done. But overall, I was left a little wanting. Consider this "Mein Can't."

But for something really sh*tty, try ... : "Lucky Number Slevin"

Well, maybe that's a little harsh. After all, this was better than "Smokin' Aces. " You know, like having your leg ripped off at the ankle is better than losing it at the knee.

This movie gives us Josh "Beyond 10 Minutes On Screen, I'm Really Not an Actor" Hartnett as some hapless schmoe caught in between two New York gangs -- one black, one Jewish. You see, these criminals think Josh is someone he's not, but rather than make a clear, reasonable case for his true identity, he'd rather just crack wise and look cute. Could it have anything to do with the very first scene in which some random guy (Bruce Willis) tells a story about a family ripped apart when a sure thing at the horse races goes bad? No way!

Willis plays a stone-faced killer, while Morgan Freeman and Sir Ben Kingsley are the crime bosses. Lucy Liu is around as a coroner/love interest. Stanley Tucci is a police detective. (Minor spoiler alert: By the movie's end, you wonder just how in the hell that could have happened.) Not a bad cast. Unfortunately, the story calls for more mugging for the camera and "sounding cool" than actual acting and character development. Considering the writer and director haven't done anything else of note, not a huge surprise. (I don't list them here to reinforce the point.)

I went along with "Slevin" for a while, but (a) the characters, especially Hartnett's, got annoying and (b) I was pretty sure what was going to happen. Maybe not every twist and turn, but the gist of it. So that was a letdown. As was most of the cute dialogue. Sure, I liked this line: "I bet it was that mouth that got you that nose." (The nose was broken.) But that's about it. Plenty of blame to go around, but the bottom line is that I need to swear off Hartnett. Other than his bit part in "Sin City," maybe "Hollywood Homicide" and one of his very first roles, "The Virgin Suicides," I find him falling short of tolerable. Put another way, he sucks.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Doppleganger may be a strong word: "The Lookout"

But damn if that kid from "3rd Rock from the Sun" grew up to look a hell of a lot like Heath Ledger. Eerie, I tell you.

I'm not sure I heard about this movie before my dad mentioned it in a post on this very blog. Sure can't recall it being in theaters, but hey ... I've got a kid now. "Iron Man," I can keep track of. Films that are a little more subtle and solid in their own way? No guarantees.

As it turns out, "The Lookout" was directed by Scott Frank, taking his first turn behind the camera after writing the screenplays for some decent movies, among them "Minority Report," "The Interpreter," "Malice" (which maybe only I like, but still ... ) and one of my favorite underrated movies of all time, "Out of Sight." Didn't know any of this going in, but it makes a little sense given how much I liked this movie.

Our story follows a young man, Chris Pratt (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), who ends up brain damaged after a car he was driving -- with three others inside -- crashes on a rural Kansas road. Chris now is trying to get by and get his life back, working as a janitor in a bank and living with a blind guy (Jeff Daniels, and not living together in that way). Eventually, though, our hero meets up with a ne'er-do-well (Matthew Goode from "Match Point," burying the British accent) who has the bright idea of robbing a bank. Hey, Chris works at a bank! What a co-inky-dink.

Chris isn't sure what to do. On the one hand, I still know that robbing banks is bad. Bad! On the other, this guy's hot friend (Isla Fisher from "Wedding Crashers," whose character is named Luvlee Lemons. Yes.) will sleep with me, my boss won't let me be a teller instead of mopping floors, and my dad (Bruce McGill, not as funny as usual) has turned into a real d*ck since my accident. Maybe I should get a piece of this action. And not just Luvlee.

So we've got the makings of a nice little film noir, and it comes together pretty well. All the main players are solid, especially Gordon-Levitt. Yeah, the kid from "3rd Rock." Once you get past the Ledger thing -- seriously, the hair's a little darker, but that's about the only difference -- he gives a great performance. Heck, I believed he had a head injury. It wasn't like he was retarded, just fuzzy. You could kind of see the lapses floating around inside his skull, especially when he just blurted out whatever was on his mind. "I want to see you naked. (Pause) Sorry."

I liked this movie quite a bit. Good story, good performances, nice, tight package -- just a shade over 90 minutes. Bonus points for being set in the Kansas City area. Not shot there, of course; hello, Winnipeg! But hey, any movie that drops a reference to Raytown is aces with me.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

And yet no cute kid named Fred: "The Savages"

This was the movie I would have seen at the art-house theater where "There Will Be Blood" crapped out 10 minutes before the end. The plan was to catch this, then the end of "Blood" so I could get my milkshake and whack-a-mole fix. Alas, it was not to be, and "The Savages" ended up as part of our 2008 Oscars parade from Netflix.

Our story: A grumpy old man in Arizona is left alone when his girlfriend -- who owns the house where they lived -- dies. So it's up to the guy's two adult children, each of whom has his/her own issues, to take care of him. And that's about it. Yes, this is one of those "thoughtful" movies with a lot of quiet parts, then talky parts, then quiet parts. And then the dinosaurs attack! RAWRRRRRR!!!

Need more proof that this is a "serious" movie? Consider the casting: none other than Laura Linney as the daughter and Philip Seymour Hoffman as her brother. That's five Oscar noms between them (counting one Linney got here). And guess what? They're good. I mean, these are Capital-A Actors, after all. Each strikes the right note in his/her respective role -- Hoffman as the stuffy professor, Linney as the insecure would-be nurturer. Philip Bosco also is solid as dear old dad, with bonus points for not being just a one-note lout.

So what's the problem? Nothing big. Overall, "The Savages" is a good movie. It's just not terribly unique. While I can't say I've seen this exact plot before, some of it seemed familiar. First and foremost, as good as Linney is, she's really just adapting her "You Can Count on Me" schtick here. You know, the not-all-together woman who still cares about her family and means well overall.

Hoffman is a little harder to place, but I didn't get the sense he was really stretching his wings. I'd say it was a little bit "Magnolia," a little bit "Owning Mahowny." Again, he's good; the guy will always be worth the ticket price -- primetime, not matinee! I just expected more. What can I say? "Along Came Polly" may have ruined every other performance for me. ("Raindrops!")

Still, "The Savages" is perfectly fine. You can't help but wonder how these kids are going to handle dad, each other and themselves, and there are some quirky moments along the way. Just not sure there was a big emotional kick, especially since it was never clear -- beyond Linney's play at the end of the movie -- how their dad ruined their lives (or something like that). The again, maybe I was distracted by the T-Rex. It looked so real!

Sunday, May 04, 2008

I'll admit, there was stuff here I hadn't seen before: "Grindhouse"

True, that doesn't automatically earn a movie a thumbs-up. And there's plenty to not like in Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez's double feature homage to poorly-made B-movie thrillers of the '70s. Still, any production that gives a good-looking woman a machine gun leg is worth watching. (And to think Dame Judi Dench turned down that role.)

We'll cover each movie in a bit, but first, a word about the fake trailers. Only one, for "Machete," was included when "Grindhouse" ran on HBO recently. But I tracked down the other three online. All warrant a look and can be found in various YouTube clips. Rob Zombie's "Werewolf Women of the S.S." is the weakest, while Rodriguez's "Machete" and Edgar Wright's "Don't" are the best. I could describe each trailer for you, but better you see them yourself. It's worth it.

Now ... our feature presentations.

Death Proof

Now that I think of it, I may have watched these out of order from when "Grindhouse" was in theaters. Couldn't watch both in one sitting. Dude, that's more than three hours.

Our story here centers around a former stuntman who menaces women in a car that supposedly is "death proof." (That's right ... hence the title.) We first meet Stuntman Mike (Kurt Russell) in Texas, then catch up with him later in Tennessee. Both locales also include foursomes of women who talk a lot ... and a lot ... and a lot. They also think they're pretty damn cool, too, which gets annoying pretty fast.

Tarantino includes all sorts of bad movie stuff -- not bad-plot but bad-film, i.e. random jump cuts, scratchy frames, bad camera angles. While that's interesting for a while, I found myself wondering, "When is something going to happen?" I mean, there's a lot of talking and not much else by these four women in Texas before we meet Stuntman Mike. Even then, it takes time before we see what his car is all about. And then that's over quickly, and we're in Tennessee, where another four women are blabbering.

True, there ends up being a money car chase -- actually, two chases -- to bring it all home. It's pretty impressive, and not quite like anything Tarantino has done before. But "Death Proof" unfortunately had lost steam by that point, even with QT's obligatory hipster movie references ("Zatoichi," "Vanishing Point"). Yes, we get it ... you know a lot about movies. Dork.

Planet Terror

Rodriguez's effort, on the other hand, isn't boring at all, and I'd say that even if Rose McGowan hadn't kicked things off with a go-go dance. Yowza.

We learn soon afterward bad things are afoot in this Texas town -- namely some nasty gas that will melt your face off and turn you into some kind of zombie. As we wait for this fun to spread, we meet other townspeople: a married doctor couple with marital problems (Josh Brolin and Marley Shelton), a BBQ owner (Jeff Fahey, funny), a busty woman passing through (Fergie from Black Eyed Peas), the sheriff (Reese from "The Terminator"), a scientist (Sayid from "Lost"), a military guy (David Addison from "Moonlighting") and some kind of rebel (Rico from "Six Feet Under," actually convincing as a badass). That's a lot of people, but it doesn't take long for everyone to find each other at some point.

Before he became Mr. Spy Kids, Rodriguez covered similar bloody ground in "From Dusk Till Dawn." That's not a good movie, but it's fun. Same goes here, although I'd say "Planet Terror" is actually OK. Put it this way: I was ticked when Rodriguez pulled the "missing reel" stunt, cutting out a key revelation about one of the characters. Yeah, I was paying attention! And not just to the bang-bang, blood-blood.

But yes, this is more about mayhem, and the chance to see McGowan -- whom I've dug since "The Doom Generation" back in 1995 -- shake her thing while missing a leg. No, it's not hot, but it is something to see her end up with a machine gun down there. How she fired it, especially while leaping through the air, I don't know. I mean, an AK-47, sure. But an M-16 with a grenade launcher? No way.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Excuse me while I whip this out: "Blazing Saddles"

Rare are the times I'll introduce a post with a quote from the movie at hand. But that line is ilarious, whether it's the first time you've seen that scene or the 50th.

Can't recall when I last saw this Mel Brooks classic, and I was curious to see if it still delivered the goods after all these years -- 24, to be precise. (Wow.) It's never been my favorite Brooks movie; that's "Young Frankenstein," or Frahnkensteen. But "Blazing Saddles" remains a movie that -- especially in the era of political correctness -- can win you over pretty quickly.

Our story: A devious villain wants to clear out a Western town for a new railroad. To rile up the townspeople, he names a black man sheriff. Little does he know that this sheriff is a smart fella, and the townspeople eventually learn what's afoot. All together now ... hijinks ensue.

I have to admit, "Saddles" started out a little flat for me this time. True, this line is gold: "I hired you people to try to get a little track laid, not to jump around like a bunch of Kansas City faggots!" But a lot of stuff seemed stale. Then we got to the outlaws busting up the town, and when the guy getting dragged by the horse delivered his throwaway line -- "That's the end of this suit!" -- I came around.

Soon Brooks showed up as the governor, complaining, "I didn't get a 'harumph' out of that guy!" Then came the sheriff (Cleavon Little) and his money line. Seriously, is there any occasion where you can't utter "Excuse me while I whip this out" and get a laugh (even if only from yourself)? We also get the fantastic Harvey Korman as villain Hedley Lamarr and Gene Wilder as the Waco Kid, the sheriff's buddy. Madeline Kahn got an Oscar nom as Lili von Shtupp, but I tend to think her performance is overrrated. Not bad, just not close to the funniest thing in this movie.

Yeah, "Saddles" will never be the definitive Brooks movie for me, but its still offers plenty of laughs over 90 minutes, including when the Western tale gives way to the Hollywood back lot. And when Korman tries to get a student discount on his movie ticket? Kills me every time.