Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Going Totally Mental

I went into the movie Flightplan with a pretty good idea of how it was going to end. I didn't actually know, but, having seen the previews and understanding movie cliches and conventions, I had a pretty good idea of where it was going. And, as it turns out, I was about 90% right.

This is one of those "psychological thrillers", where all of the plot is derived from the fact that the main character may be having a psychotic break. (I wrote a post on this subject here.) The problem inherent with these types of movies is that you have two choices as to how to resolve that plot: a) the character is actually insane, or b) forces are conspiring to make the character seem crazy. The best way to resolve these movies is with (a), but most choose to go with (b), with terrible results.

Take The Forgotten, for example, where only Julianne Moore remembers that she once had a child. It may have been interesting to have her actually be delusional, but instead, they came up with an explanation of aliens changing history. That's some real bullshit.

But, even choice (a) can get fucked up. In Hide and Seek, a character's mental illness leads to the creation of a murderous alter ego, which is fine, except that the wrong character was mentally ill. (It also doesn't help that this movie has an Idiot Plot that could be resolved with this short Q&A session:
Father: "What does Charlie look like?"
Daughter: "Like you, daddy."
Father: "Am I Charlie?"
Daughter: "Yes."
And DeNiro is supposed to be a psychiatrist in that movie. Duuuh.)
Basically, what it comes down to is how well the film is made. You can fuck it up going either way, so you need to put some thought into how it's going to play out.

Which brings us back to Flightplan. Even though I went in pretty sure of how it was going to turn out, I didn't come out feeling like I'd been tricked. I didn't have a bunch of unanswered questions like, "Well, what about...?" or "Why didn't they...?", because the movie asks them before you think of them. They cover anything that might be a loophole. The plot doesn't cheat. It ends up in the only place it could have. It's an airtight movie that does exactly what it's supposed to. And for that, I commend it. (And recommend it.)

Monday, September 26, 2005

Skeletons In The Closet

Ya know what's funny? When someone gets famous suddenly, and then some shameless son of a bitch capitalizes on that person's fame. That's the only reason I can explain why Evangeline Lilly, who plays Kate on the big hit Lost, appears in an ad for Livelinks, a phone chat service. In fact, if you go to their website, she's plastered all over it. I see her using her "Lost fame" to move up the ladder, not plummet all the way to the bottom of it.

The problem with getting famous is that, at one time, you weren't famous. Remember when Vanessa Williams showed up in Penthouse after being crowned Miss America? Or those incredibly embarrassing (and borderline gay) photos of Brad Pitt that were in last week's Us?

But, in order to become known, you have to do things like that to get your face out there. Sure, George Clooney was on the first season of Roseanne, but now he thinks he's Jesus. My advice: Don't become famous. It will keep things like that ad for K-Y Jelly that you appeared in or that sex change operation you had out of the public eye.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

What The Fuck Happened To Robert DeNiro?

This weekend, I watched the movie Heat again for about the millionth time. For those of you who have seen it, remember how cool Robert DeNiro was in that movie? Running down the street, carrying a dufflebag full of money, shooting at the cops with an AR-15? I'm sure this movie made people actually want to become bank robbers. That's how cool DeNiro is. And then, remember Ronin? Him hanging out the sunroof of a Mercedes, shooting a rocket launcher at the bad guys? How fucking awesome is that? And these were just cappers to one of the best careers in history.

And then something happened. And that something was Meet the Parents.

Suddenly, Bob is in all of these fucking comedies. And the movies that aren't comedies are still a joke. The great George Sanders killed himself shortly after making shit like Psychomania, yet Bob has managed to make it five years past playing Fearless Leader in Rocky and Bullwinkle. To quote Sam Jackson in Jackie Brown: "What happened to you, man? You used to be beautiful."

Bob: You have a career that most people only dream of. You're one of the most respected actors of your generation (if not ever). You have two Oscars, and like a million nominations. And yet, you feel the need to star in turds like Showtime. Your two Oscars exclude you from having to make movies like that. So what are you doing in them? Leave starring in 20 movies a year up to Jude Law. Don't take the first script that comes along every time, or else you'll have a career like Cuba Gooding, Jr's. (I'm sure there's a role for you in Boat Trip 2.)

Please, Bob, do it for your fans: Get in some better movies, or hang it up. It's getting embarrassing.

Monday, September 19, 2005

George Clooney: Never Been To Las Vegas

It shouldn't be any surprise to anyone now that George Clooney is working on opening a resort in Las Vegas. But, not just your typical shitty resort; he's got something special in mind.

"We have this romantic notion of a place where you put on a jacket or a dress to go to dinner," he's been quoted as saying. "We will have some sort of dress code so that it will feel like you are walking into a more formal Las Vegas of a different age or a classic Monte Carlo casino. I may be the novice of this group, but I have a good idea of what I like in Las Vegas, and it is all about class."

Maybe I'm missing something here. All of the times I've been to Vegas, I never noticed anyone worrying about "class". The last time I was there, I walked around for five days in shorts and a t-shirt, as did the other 100,000 or so people there, and no one seemed terribly offended. People don't go to Vegas to hang out at a five-star resort; they go there to see white tigers and pirate ships, and drop their second mortgage on the craps table. (You can go to Spago, which is slightly classier than the Sizzler, in jeans and a polo shirt and not feel out of place.)

My guess is that maybe George has never been to Las Vegas. (I realize that Ocean's Eleven takes place in Vegas, but that can all be faked in post-production.) If he had, he might notice that people are there to have a good time, not act like visiting dignitaries.

And this is the problem when assholes with money get some screwy idea about what people want. It's the reason why Tarantino made Kill Bill, and it's the reason Vegas is going to have a new resort that doesn't appeal to anyone but George Clooney.

So, George, you can hang out at Las Ramblas with the rest of the Ocean Gang in your tuxedos, and have a great fucking time. Me? I'll be playing blackjack in my swimtrucks at the Tropicana, and having a waaay better time.

Monday, September 12, 2005

The Second Coming Of Bush

Remember this post, where I commented on bands that break up and become other bands, and yet still sound like their former iterations? Well, it's happened yet again.

After Bush broke up in 2001, Gavin Rossdale pretty much went on to be Mr. Gwen Stefani. And, while not a bad position to be in, Gavin wanted to get the band back together. But, not Bush. What we end up with is Institute.

I've heard most of the tracks off their new record, Distort Yourself, and I can say this one thing about them: They're half Bush, and half not-Bush, which is not a bad thing.

While there's a couple of songs, like "When Animals Attack" and "Boom Box" that are very "Everything's Zen"ish, Institute mostly doesn't sound like Bush at all. I think it's got a lot to do with the fact that two leftovers from Helmet are on board: Chris Traynor on guitar, and Page Hamilton in the producer's chair. Apparently, they were the missing pieces to make Bush a good band. (It's of note that Rossdale is the only actual former member of Bush in the band.)

Hopefully, like that other great "mash up" band, Audioslave, Institute will stick around and put out more great records that sorta sound like someone else. Check it out.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Last Five Movies

Red Eye (2005)
Red Eye had an absolutely brilliant teaser trailer. It started with a scene where two people Meet Cute at an airport, only to keep bumping into each up to and onto the plane. And just when we think this is going to be a remake of Forces of Nature, the trailer goes black, except for that red eye. Great stuff. If only the actual movie had turned out to be as good as those two minutes. What starts off as a great first hour turns into a movie that literally anyone could have come up with. I don't even need to tell you what happens once they get off the plane; you already know. Yes, it's that predictable.

Ong-Bak (2003)
Remember the first time you saw a Jackie Chan movie? Not that shit he made once he defected to the States, but the stuff he made in Hong Kong. Remember that experience of "No fucking way did he just get run over by a hovercraft!"? Well, in the wake of Jackie Chan's recent lameness, Tony Jaa is trying to step into his shoes. Jaa does some things in this movie that are absolutely insane. And the fact that the fights don't appear to be fake at all (pretty hard to fake getting blasted in the face with a foot) only adds to the insanity. Unfortunately, whereas Chan's stunts, while elaborately planned and staged, actually appeared to be somewhat spontaneous, Jaa's stunts appear to be inserted into the movie just for the sake of showing some incredible stuntwork. If Jaa gets some decent producers, watch out; he may be our Next Action Hero.

Oldboy (2003)
It's nice to see South Korean cinema getting some recognition after years of being the redheaded stepchild of Southeast Asia. Oldboy was all the rage at Cannes (and, allegedly, almost won the Palm d'Or), and probably deserves to be. It's very well made and looks great. But the plot is so ridiculous that it pretty much ruins the movie. Unfortunately, it's so well made that you don't realize you've been had until the end, when the secret of the plot is revealed. A great try; check out Park's JSA instead. Much better movie.

Ravenous (1999)
I've seen lots of Cannibal Movies; maybe all of them. You start to miss them after a while, because it's been a dead genre for about 20 years. Needless to say, I was shocked and awed when Ravenous came out, because, well, it's a fucking Cannibal Movie. Who makes a Cannibal Movie in this day and age? Well, these guys, apparently. And what a movie they made! Gross and funny, with a plot that isn't just a delivery vehicle for the cannibal scenes. Probably the best Cannibal Movie ever. Seriously.

Love Ravenous, but it's hard to top on...

Lifeforce (1985)
Every so often, a movie comes along that takes everything and the kitchen sink, and crams it all into one movie. A recent example is Brotherhood of the Wolf, which was a Costume Drama, a Monster Movie, a Kung Fu Movie, and a Murder Mystery all rolled into one. That's a lot of shit to be in one movie. The same is true of Lifeforce. Tobe Hooper's second foray into big-budget filmmaking (behind Poltergeist, a movie I still believe was actually directed by Steven Spielberg) combines a Space Movie, a Vampire Movie, a Zombie Movie, and a Disaster Movie into one great flick. With all of these elements, it might sound like a trainwreck, but it's surprisingly well made; it actually appears as though they were trying to make a good movie. And the fact it stars Steve Railsback (who will always be Charles Manson in my eyes) only adds to the fun. Check it out.