Friday, November 12, 2004

DiG!: The Film Babble Blog Review

Now in limited release at a art house near you:

DiG! (Dir. Ondi Timoner, 2004)

This is the story of two bands, The Brian Jonestown Massacre and The Dandy Warhols.

Both came to the LA scene in the mid '90s offering a retro '60s alternative to the grunge and manufactured pop of the day. Both flirted with major record label deals and came dangerously close to getting the “next big thing” title. Neither achieved more than modest cult success.

So, why the movie you ask? Because Director Timoner was there from the beginning filming both these bands from being friends jamming on stage together to backstage humiliations to personal disses and questionable behavior of all kinds.

If any roc doc can make a claim to be considered the “real-life Spinal Tap” it’s this one. BJM front-man Anton Newcombe is the source of much of the tension and exaggerated rivalry. Newcombe dominates the footage with paranoid rants and pretentious pontificating about his “revolutionary” songwriting.

Meanwhile, Courtney Taylor of the Dandy Warhols has exalted praise for Newcombe yet more than a little concern about the competitive stalking of sorts.

Taylor can also comes across a bit big-headed: “I sneeze, and out come hits” he tells a record company executive when being told their album was being shelved. “Well, if that's the case I'm sure Capitol will finance your handkerchiefs” was their response.

That Taylor narrates this movie works fine for me, but others (including Newcombe) have criticized this for being a biased tactic. I’m sure most people reading this are not familiar with these bands, Brian Jonestown or the Warhols, and I myself knew precious little going in so the good news is that you don't need to know anything beforehand.

It’ll inform you enough to have a good tuneful time at the movies that’s as funny and involving as most dramas. I dug DiG! I bet folks who are into rockumentaries at all will too.

More later...

Thursday, October 28, 2004

10 Election Year Poli-Docs That Are Just About To Become Irrelevant

For no other reason than that election day is five days away, and these movies will lose their relevance almost immediately afterwards here's a list of 10 anti-George W. Bush/anti-Iraq War documentaries that are just about to lose their luster.

I'm hoping they had, or will have, an impact on voters, but, from from the polls I'm seeing it's not looking so good. Regardless, watch 'em while they still have some meaning:

1. FAHRENHEIT 9/11 (Dir. Michael Moore, 2004)

The leader of the pack. Newly released on DVD, this powerful if wildly uneven call for the ousting of George W. Bush from the White House sure makes a convincing case. But, yes, it's a strong case of preaching to the choir. 

2. GOING UPRIVER: THE LONG WAR OF JOHN KERRY (Dir. George Butler, 2004) 

This is being considered a last ditch effort to clarify how Kerry's Naval tour of duty in Vietnam and his activism to ending that war really went down, but it's a solid well-made and moving documentary that ideally should help get out the vote. Yeah, I know, dream on.

3. OUTFOXED: RUPERT MURDOCH’S WAR ON JOURNALISM (Dir. Robert Greenwald, 2004) Compelling and funny but in an unnerving way. Part of Greenwald’s series of "UN" poli-docs (either as Director or Producer), the others being:



6. UNPRECEDENTED: THE 2000 PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION (Dir. Richard Ray Perez & Joan Sekler, 2002)

7. BUSH’S BRAIN (Dir. Joseph Mealey & Michael Shoob, 2004)

9. HORNS AND HALOS (Dir. Michael Galinsky & Suki Hawley, 2002)

10. BREAKING THE SILENCE: TRUTH AND LIES IN THE WAR ON TERROR (Dir. Steve Connelly & John Pilger, 2003)

More later...

Friday, October 22, 2004


Now playing at an art house near you:

(Dir. David O. Russell, 2004)

This is the ultimate WTF? movie. It's been a few days since I've seen it and I'm still trying to process. Many critics don't even try to describe the plot or premise, but I'd just say it's about a poet activist (Jason Schartzman) who hires a married couple played by Dustin Hoffman and Lily Tomlin who bill themselves as existential detectives to sort out problems with his soul.

Oh yeah, there's an overly slick spokesperson (Jude Law) for a Target/Wall Mart type chain and his flighty model wife (Naomi Watts), as well as Mark Wahlberg as a fireman who hates petroleum so much that he rides his bike to fight fires. That's as good as I can do.

The characters all run around spouting lines like "There's no such thing as nothing," and "Nobody sits like this rock sits. You rock rock. The rock just sits and is. You show us how to just sit here and that's what we need."

Some of this is fun, some of it is strained, some of it is just purely baffling. I mean at the end I was more confused than I was by the MATRIX sequels. I mean, now what am I see supposed to be reality and what isn't?

It also doesn't help that HUCKABEES seems stitched together from other movie's styles. The soundtrack by Jon Brion and the color scheme recall the work of Paul Thomas Anderson (MAGNOLIA, PUNCH DRUNK LOVE). The other Anderson, Wes Anderson, comes to mind of course from the casting of Schwartzman (RUSHMORE) and the eccentrically quirky tone.

Also, the screenplay appears to be heavily suggested by the work of Charlie Kaufman (ADAPTATION, ETERNAL SUNSHINE OF THE SPOTLESS MIND). So did I like it? I didn't hate it. That's the best I can do.

More later...

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

5 Cult Classics That Roger Ebert Didn't Get

Here at Film Babble Blog, film critic Roger Ebert is a well respected legend with his wealth of writings referred to often. 

Even when I’ve disagreed with Ebert, his well thought out and cleverly crafted reviews still make powerful points. However, there a number of times that I’ve felt that Mr. Ebert tragically missed the point so here are:

The Top 5 Cult Classics That Roger Ebert Didn't Get:

1. HAROLD AND MAUDE (Dir. Hal Ashby, 1971) Can this be right? Can Ebert truly be among the out-of-it straight laced critics that horribly misjudged this undeniably influential beyond words cult classic? Yep, he only rewards a movie that many friends, collegues, and family have considered one of the best movies ever with one and a half stars. For shame.

2. FIGHT CLUB (Dir. Peter Fincher, 1999) Two stars. Roger loves the first couple of acts but hates the concluding act. This is from a guy who wouldn't know the Pixies if they were stuck on the same elevator. Whatever Ebert, watch it again and tell me how what is set up in the first third would work better done another way and you and me will be square. 

(Dir. Tim Burton, 1988) 

Again 2 stars. Where's the love for Tim Burton's maniacal masterpiece? It’s times like this that you just have to remember this is the guy who gave COP AND A HALF and HOLLYWOOD HOMICIDE rave reviews.

4. HEATHERS (Dir. Michael Lehmann, 1989) Two and a half stars. I mean COME ON! This is a bonafide classic and Ebert's baffled review is painful to read. He writes "Is this a black comedy about murder or just a cynical morality play?" Jesus, Roger - if you have to ask... 

(Dir. D.A. Pennebaker, 1967) 

Okay, so he gave this rock doc three stars, but don't let that fool you. He disses Bob Dylan to such a degree in his review that it's hard to take. I mean, read this sample: “What a jerk Bob Dylan was in 1965. What an immature, self-important, inflated, cruel, shallow little creature, lacking in empathy and contemptuous of anyone who was not himself or his lackey. Did we actually once take this twirp as our folk god?”

Can you believe that? Is Ebert, who wrote two separate reviews of this flick (first in '68 on the movie's original run and then again in '98 on its re-release) that out of touch? I thought it was pretty much accepted that Dylan was putting on those who were asking him square questions and having fun with the media juggernaut. I mean just a couple years before DON’T LOOK BACK was filmed (yes, I’m looking back) Newsweek wrongly accused him of plagiarizing his classic song “Blowing In The Wind,” and countless bandwagon jumpers had co-opted Bob's simple plaintive messages for their own cynical purposes. 

I can't imagine Dylan at that age and time reacting any other way, but to Ebert he's a self serving twirp. I can't quite process this judgement (or lack of). To Ebert's credit he nailed Bob's self indulgent MASKED AND ANONYMOUS monstrosity last year in a scathing review, but that doesn't make right his insulting remarks about one of the most influential film portraits of an artist at his prime in existence.

More later...

Wednesday, September 29, 2004

New Movies On Both Big & Small Screens

Time for some reviews of recent release movies, both on the big and small screens that I can't wait to babble about.

Now showing at a theater near you:

NAPOLEON DYNAMITE (Dir. Jared Hess, 2004)

Funny or just funny looking? Hard to decide about a movie made by Mormons about a high school geek oddball (Jon Herder) in Idaho and his quirky misadventures. Quirky humor seems to be the rage in recent independent comedies so much so that one critic (Sean Burns from the Philadelphia Weekly) said that this felt like the work of "a lousy Wes Anderson cover band." I'm not sure I'd quite say that, but it's an amusing line. It's at least a good-hearted flick that a lot of displaced kids will take to, but it's also like a smirking breeze that just blows by. 

SHAUN OF THE DEAD (Dir. Edgar Wright, 2004) 

A British romantic comedy/killer zombie thriller that's like a spirited mixture of  28 DAYS LATER and HIGH FIDELITY (both the Nick Hornby book and the Stephen Frears/John Cusack movie), especially in the scene where slacker Shaun (Simon Pegg) and his deadbeat flatmate Ed (Nick Frost) throw old vinyl records at the blood thirsty undead. Ed: "Stone Roses?" Shaun: "Definitely not." Ed: "The Batman soundtrack?" Shaun: "Throw it." 

More hilarity than horror, with an infectious amount of energy and wit by the cast (mostly from the BBC sitcom Spaced), and Wright's inventive camera work all make this a comic blast. Some critics are predicting this may become a cult classic in years to come. They might be onto something. It's nice to see Lucy Davis and Martin Freeman from the brilliant BBC program The Office make appearances too.

(Dir. Kerry Conran, 2004)

More a cinematic display of the world that yesterday thought tomorrow would look like, Kerry Conran's debut feature film positions itself as the ultimate in retro cinema. Or maybe it's what Harry Shearer called "nowtro" in A MIGHTY WIND. 

Old school sci-fi ideals mingle with new school computer generated imagery to make a 2004 movie look like it could have come from the '30s or '40s. Jude Law and Gwyneth Paltrow star as the hero and heroine who go through a narrative as cribbed from old Flash Gordon and Dick Tracy as it is from James Bond and STAR WARS. 

For a number of amped-up sequences, SKY CAPTAIN works and is a fascinating experiment, but unfortunately it drags horribly in places and the sense of innocence it tries to evoke is so long gone that it may leave viewers puzzled. Still though such an ernest while overblown concept movie is hard to dismiss. Long live Nowtro!

Now out on DVD:

BADASSSSS! (Dir. Mario Van Peeples) 

Movies that are about making movies hold a certain interest but the claim that some critics have made that finally blaxploitation has it's DAY FOR NIGHT seems to miss the point.

This is about the making of a real movie, SWEET SWEETBACK'S BAADASSSSS SONG (Dir. Melvin Van Peeples, 1971), so the whole 'movie within a movie' cliche doesn't really ring true. This is more interestingly about the struggle and satisfaction of the film making process as told by the son of the original film maker (and based on Melvin Van Peeples' book: "Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song: A Guerilla Filmmaking Manifesto"). This completes a circle of sorts as Mario Van Peeples as a child had a small part in his father's film.

Funny, intense, and emotionally endearing in its last half hour this is exactly what it what it claims to be, that is, BAADASSSSS. It's also without a doubt the best project that Mario Van Peeples has ever been involved in.

(Dir. Michel Gondry)

A nearly flawless existential comedy with a Philip K. Dickensian kick! I don't need to recount the plot as just about everybody reading this has surely surely seen this flick. So now what's maybe the best movie of the year gets a splendid DVD release.

Commentaries, deleted scenes, and featurettes augment this disc, and they're all worthwhile, but the movie by itself would make a splendid DVD. Charlie Kaufman, while working with well trodden egghead memory erase concepts, wrings an imaginative free form story out of every day truths and it gets better with every viewing.

A thinking man's rom com, ETERNAL SUNSHINE is a delight in every way. Jim Carrey puts in the restrained every-guy performance that comes off as more impressive than his 'in-your-face' persona of the past while Kate Winslet gives a greatly confident spin to her impulsive artsy book store slave gal with her ever changing hair colors. 

Gondry's inventive visual style along with a wonderfully chosen cast supports Carrey and Winslet, that includes Kristen Dunst, Mark Ruffalo, Tom Wilkinson, David Cross and Elijah Wood. So check it out, and consider giving your own existence a jump start, why doncha?!!?

More later...

Thursday, September 16, 2004

Listomania: Richard Linklater Edition

To celebrate that a spiffy brand new DVD of Linklater’s 1991 cult classic debut film SLACKER is now available as part of the Criterion collection, DAZED AND CONFUSED has just been re-released on DVD with some new special features as the “Flashback Edition,” and Linklater’s most recent film BEFORE SUNSET is also new out on DVD, I’ve decided to give the man his Film Babble Blog due.

So here it is, starting with:

Richard Linklater Filmography (and mini-guide to this post):

S: SLACKER (1991)
T: TAPE (2001) 

The Richard Linklater Repertory Company Role Call:

Julie Delpy: BS, WL, BSII 
Ethan Hawke: BS, NB, WL, T, BSII Adam Goldberg: DAC, BS, WL 
Charles Gunning: S, NB, & WL 
Nicky Katt: DAC, SUB 
Kim Krizan: S, DAC 
Richard Linklater: S, WL 
Michael McConaughey: DAC, NB 
Parker Posey: DAC, SUB 
Willie Wiggins: DAC, WL 

5 Great Lines From The Mouths Of Richard Linklater Characters:

1. “Withdrawing in disgust is not the same as apathy.” - This was written on a card handed to somebody in S (This line was quoted in R.E.M.’s “What's The Frequency Kenneth?” from their 1995 album “Monster.”

2. “George Washington was in a cult, and the cult was into aliens, man.” - Slater (Rory Cochrane, DAC)

3. “Your kids have all really touched me, and I'm pretty sure that I've touched them.” - Dewey Finn (Jack Black, SOR) (written by Mike White)

4. “Idealism is guilty middle-class bullshit.” - Jeff (Giovanni Ribisi, SUB)

5. “Did you ever have a job that you hated and worked real hard at? A long hard day of work. Finally you get to go home, get in bed, close your eyes. And immediately you wake up and realize that the whole day at work had been a dream. It's bad enough that you sell your life for minimum wage but now they get your dreams for free.” (Guy Forsyth, WL)

For the record: Film Babble Blog's Top 5 Richard Linklater Films:


More later...

Sunday, August 08, 2004

The 1998 Mini-Doc INDEPENDENT'S DAY Now Out On DVD

This documentary about the booming world of independent film in the late '90s is currently available on the popular DVD format:

(Dir. Marina Zenovich, 1998)

"It's like taking the worst part of LA and the worst part of New York and just jamming it into Park City." - Tressa Von Bargen (Park City Resident) 

This fascinating albeit brief (54 min) doc, sporting the subtitle "The Ultimate Insider's Look at the Crazy World of Sundance," gives us an inside glimpse into the fun of film and the stress of competition that goes on in the most notable of American film festivals, Sundance.

Indeed, filmmaker Jay Chandrasekhar laments "everyone I talked to said Sundance is a blast unless you have a film in it." 

Unfortunately the lack of background info, and absence of Robert Redford (Sundance founder) make it to be not as intensely deep a documentary as I wanted, but still an intriguing walk through.

Worth watching alone for an amusing set-up sequence involving Parker Posey, this film is begging for a sequel. So much has happened in the years since 1997 in independent film, and in digital video that I hope Zenovich returns to Park City some day with camera in tow.

More later...

Friday, July 23, 2004

20 Over-Used Pop Songs In Modern Movies


Film Babble Blog is back! Not to piss on AFI'S 100 YEARS...100 SONGS - I mean they have a fine list of songs that enhanced many a classic film - but I wanted to draw attention to the tunes that have cheapened many movies. 

Not to say these are all bad songs, no, many are classics, it's just how they've been used over and over to manipulate the viewer to a certain mood. As you look it over I think you'll recall not just the movie or song you'll also recall the emotion, era, or spirit they're trying to evoke. So here's:

20 Over-Used Pop Song In Modern Movies

“I Got You” - James Brown: It seems to have started with its use in Barry Levinson's Robin Williams vehicle GOOD MORNING VIETNAM. Since then, the JB standard has popped up in such films as WHO'S HARRY CRUMB, WHITE MEN CAN'T JUMP, THE NUTTY PROFESSOR, DOCTOR DOOLITTLE, MY FAVORITE MARTIAN, JULIEN DONKEY BOY, RIDING IN THE CAR WITH BOYS, DODGEBALL, and GARFIELD. Also dozens of TV shows.

2.“Walking On Sunshine” - Katrina & The Waves: I won't list all the times this been to go-to for feel good movie magic, but I'll just say that I can't hear it without thinking of Michael J. Fox maneuvering through a primo '80s montage in SECRET OF MY SUCCESS.

3.“Bad To The Bone”
George Thorogood: Most folks think it was TERMINATOR 2 in 1991, but this song made its film debut in Oliver Stone's TALK RADIO (1988). Since TERMINATOR 2 it's mainly been used ironically (See: PROBLEM CHILD 2, THE PARENT TRAP, 3000 MILES TO GRACELANED, or, rather, don't see them).

4. “Born To Be Wild” - Steppenwolf: Way too many to list, but many of the movies obviously pick the track to recall its first and best use in Dennis Hopper's 1969 counter culture classic EASY RIDER. My favorite is when Albert Brooks blares it when driving his RV out of Los Angeles in his hilarious 1985 comedy LOST IN AMERICA. Brooks gives a biker a "thumbs up" and gets flipped the bird in response. Gets a laugh out of me every time.

5. “Over the Rainbow”/”What a Wonderful World” – Various versions of both of these songs have been in countless movies, but the extreme overuse of Israel Kamakawiwo`ole’s medley of them together is getting unbearable. I wish that its last use, in the lame Adam Sandler/Drew Barrymore rom com 50 FIRST DATES, was its last use, but I have a feeling it’ll be around for a long time.

6. “Oh, Yeah” - Yello

7. “Let My Love Open The Door” - Pete Townshend

8. “Suspicious Minds” - Elvis Presley

9. “Melt With You” - Modern English

10. “Let's Get It On” - Marvin Gaye

11. “Time Of The Season” - The Zombies: This is one of many songs on this list that film-makers use to immediately evoke the ‘60's. Notable uses: AWAKENINGS, 1969, AUSTIN POWERS: THE SPY WHO SHAGGED ME, SHANGHAI NIGHTS, and too many more to mention.

12. “All Star” - Smash Mouth: MYSTERY MEN, SHREK, INPECTOR GADGET, CONTACT, and a bunch of other movies utilized this piece of pop culture plastic. Shame really.

13. “Dream Weaver” - Gary Wright: Two of the titles that used or mis-used this tune were DADDY DAY CARE and WAYNE'S WORLD. 'Nuff said. 

“Staying Alive” - The Bee Gees: Of course, SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER and its sequel (of course called STAYING ALIVE) but also AIRPLANE!, and many other disco-era sequences that came about in the ‘70s resurgence of popularity of the dance music genre in the ‘90s. 

15. “Tracks Of My Tears” - Smokey Robinson and the Miracles: PLATOON and THE BIG CHILL are the most notable films but the song also appears on the soundtracks for the TV shows The Wonder Years and ER.

16. “Surrender” - Cheap Trick: Matt Dillon's first film OVER THE EDGE used Cheap Trick, the Cars, and even Little Feat to make it's track housing teen rebellion point. It's use in DETROIT CITY ROCKS and FAST TIMES AT RIDGEMONT HIGH hammers home that same point but its appearance in SMALL SOLDIERS AND DADDY DAY CARE does not.

17. “White Rabbit” - Jefferson Airplane


19. Spirit in the Sky- Norman Greenbaum

20. Sweet Home Alabama” - Lynyrd Skynyrd: When the song title becomes a movie title, like it did two years back for a Resse Witherspoon rom com, it really should be retired. Yep, again I dream.

More later...

Monday, July 05, 2004

10 Major Marlon Brando Movie Moments

At the end of last week, the legendary Marlon Brando died of pulmonary fibrosis in a Los Angeles hospital. In tribute here are 10 major moments that feature the method acting icon at his most memorable in the movies:

1. “You don't understand. I coulda had class. I coulda been a contender. I coulda been somebody, instead of a bum, which is what I am, let's face it. It was you, Charley.” - Terry Malloy as written by Elia Kazan. ON THE WATERFRONT (1954)

2. “I never wanted this for you. I work my whole life - I don't apologize - to take care of my family, and I refused to be a fool, dancing on the string held by all those big shots. I don't apologize, that's my life, but I thought that, that when it was your time, that you would be the one to hold the string. Senator Corleone; Governor Corleone. Well, it wasn't enough time, Michael.” - Don Vito Corleone, written by Mario Puzo, in THE GODFATHER (1972).

3. "What're you rebelling against, Johnny?” - Girl “Whaddya got?” - Johnny Strabler, written by John Paxton, in THE WILD ONE (1953).

4. “I have seen the devil in my microscope, and I have chained him.” - Dr. Moreau, written by Richard Stanley (based on H.G.Wells' novel), in THE ISLAND OF DR. MOREAU (1996).

5. “It is forbidden for you to interfere in human destiny” - Jor El written by Mario Puz. SUPERMAN: THE MOVIE (1979).

6. “Hey STELLA!!!! STELLA !!!!” - Stanley Kowalski written by Tennessee Williams in A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE (1951).

7. “I believe I did what honour dictated and that belief sustains me, except for a slight desire to be dead which I'm sure will pass.” - 1st Lt. Fletcher Christian (Brando) in MUTINY ON THE BOUNTY (1962).

8. “You're an errand boy, sent by grocery clerks, to collect a bill.” - Colonel Walter E. Kurtz written by John Milius and Francis Ford Coppola - APOCALYPSE NOW (1979).

9. “Even if a husband lives 200 hundred fucking years, he'll never discover his wife's true nature. I may be able to understand the secrets of the universe, but... I'll never understand the truth about you. Never.” - Paul in LAST TANGO IN PARIS (1972).

10. “My God! Let me get a look at you. You know, you look like shit. What's your secret?” - Max in THE SCORE (2001).

R.I.P. Marlon Brando (1924-2004)

More later...


Now out on DVD:

(Dir. Eric Bress & J. Mackye Gruber, 2004)

First let me get this out of the way, it's not that I find Ashton Kutcher to be an untalented actor. It's that I find him to be an obnoxiously untalented actor.

But that’s the least of our worries with this contrived derivative nonsense from the fellows who brought us the FINAL DESTINATION films. The plot is too ridiculous to go into at any length, so simply it's a story about a guy who travels back and forth through time to try and fix the circumstances surrounding a traumatic childhood incident so that the present day outcome is A-okay.

Kutcher, as a college student who suffers from migraine-like seizures, achieves this amazing feat somehow by concentration on reading old journals (I guess like Christopher Reeve used his mind to go back in time in SOMEWHERE IN TIME), and that’s just one of the hundreds of elements that don't work at all here. 

What really makes this so laughingly bad is how drastically this flick overshoots; it wants to be a cool cerebral movie like DONNIE DARKO, it wants to be a ‘love conquers all’ movie like WHEN DREAMS MAY COME, Hell, it even wants to be an episode of Oz at one point too!

The title refers to the standard chaos theory (also quoted by Jeff Goldblum in JURASSIC PARK) with the example of a butterfly gently flapping its wings in one part of the world, creating the potential for a monsoon somewhere else in the world, but that really has nothing to do with this story.

I mean, nothing in the world changes after the time warps except the lives of the microcosm of the handful of Kutcher’s friends. If he returned to the present to find that America had been taken over by some vast skinhead regime after a cold war attack in the ‘80s or some other world changing effect we might have something here. As such we've got nothing but yet another exercise in sci-fi stupidity.

Wish I could concentrate on my journal intensely enough to go back in time to not watch it.

Special Features: Longer Director's cut with deleted scenes and alternate ending incorporated, the featurettes “The Science and Psychology of the Chaos Theory” and “The History and Allure of Time Travel,” trailers, and Fact Track viewing option. 

More later…

Friday, July 02, 2004

R.I.P. Marlon Brando (1924-2004)

“The horror. The horror.” - The last words of Colonel Walter E. Kurtz (Marlon Brando, APOCALYPSE NOW, 1979) 

I’ve just learned the sad news that the great Marlon Brando has just passed away at age 80. Causes are unknown at this moment, but rumors of heart trouble are all over the internets. 

The legendary actor, well regarded as one of the finest of the 20th Century, last acted in Frank Oz’s crime thriller THE SCORE in 2001.

Brando, a master of method acting, became a star for ruling the screen in Elia Kazan’s ‘50s classics STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE, and ON THE WATERFRONT, for which he won his first Academy Award. His comeback in the ‘70s with Francis Ford Coppola’s THE GODFATHER (2nd Oscar , boom!), and Bernardo Bertolucci’s LAST TANGO IN PARIS presented the public with an older fatter Brando much parodied by the likes of Saturday Night Live and Mad Magazine.

It goes to show how much of an influential icon Brando was by the mid '70s that a now classic episode of SNL had host Peter Boyle and cast member John Belushi trading off their best Brando impressions in the sketch “Dueling Brandos” to the accompaniment of the plucking banjo from DELIVERENCE.

Brando's extremely expensive glorified cameos in Richard Donner’s SUPERMAN and Coppola’s APOCALYPSE NOW made headlines about the man making millions for just minutes of work. The comic consensus was that he was walking through these roles with no prior research or care. It seemed like he wanted to just go live on an island somewhere. So that's just what he did.

The cartoonish image of a morbidly obese Brando going crazy living on a tropical island somewhere is one that sadly stuck. Even after he started doing movies again (THE FRESHMAN, A DRY WHITE SEASON, DON JUAN DEMARKO) he seemed to be phoning it in.

Acting did appear to be a serious craft to the man anymore. His half-assed screen presence broadcasted to even the cheap seats that his appearance was just for an occasional payday. 

Brando’s role in John Frankenheimer’s THE ISLAND OF DR. MOREAU (1996) at least seemed more sincere because of course it was about going crazy living on an island somewhere! Still, the role won Brando a Razzie Award for Worst Supporting Actor so it was yet another indicator of how far the mighty one had fallen.

This glib blog is no place to go into the darker areas of Mr. Brando's life - this is a scribbling about the silver screen site not a tabloid trash forum - so for Marlon's sake we'll stick to babbling about just his movies. Coming soon: 10 Kick-Ass Brando Movie Moments.

R.I.P. Marlon Brando (1924-2004)

More later…

Sunday, June 27, 2004


Now out on DVD:

(Dir. David Koepp, 2004)

Johnny Depp plays a tortured suspense novelist named Mort Rainey (credit there for having a protagonist named Mort) accused of plagiarism in this adaptation of a Stephen King short story. 

A strange hillbilly character (John Turturro) shows up at Depp's door claiming that Mort stole his story and threatens Mort's and his love one's lives if he doesn't change the ending and give him proper credit. Mort (sorry I just love typing that name) is tortured because his wife of 10 years (Maria Bello) left him for a straight laced never smiling Timothy Hutton who himself played a tortured writer in King's THE DARK HALF but I digress.

So Mort's dog is found dead and he goes to the local police who of course are ineffective and he wanders around his cabin in the woods overreacting and over-acting to every startling sound. I'm not going to give anything away but the resolution of this is so contrived and ridiculous that it brought back memories of IDENTITY or as I like to call it, A NIGHT AT THE RED HERRING MOTEL.

It's getting harder and harder to accept movie premises in which any given character may be a figment of someone's imagination and that certain incidents may never have occured at all. "The ending is the most important part" Mort says at one point and he's he right - it surely was important to me when this piece of derivative doggerel was going to end.

Special Features: Commentary by Director Koepp, trailers, deleted scenes, a few featurettes, and storyboards.

(Dir. Terry Zwigoff, 2003)

Director Zwigoff and star Billy Bob Thornton are slumming it here, but, oh, what a glorious slum it is. 

Thornton plays a boozing foul-mouthed department store Santa who with his little person partner in crime (Tony Cox) have a consistent seasonal scam going in which they break into the safes of the stores that employ them. When Thornton befriends a chubby brain-dead rich kid (Brett Kelly out credited as "The Kid") who believes he's the real Kris Kringle, our perpetually pissed-off title character finds that his heart grows a half a size bigger.

John Ritter, Bernie Mac, Lauren Graham, and an un-credited Cloris Leachman provide ample comic support, in this funny film that shows that Twigoff's  first foray into more commercial territory has just as much edge as his earlier artsier efforts (CRUMB, GHOST WORLD). No doubt the Coen brothers, who executive produced and reportedly did some script doctoring, helped with that transition.

BAD SANTA is good crude stuff that brings to mind other enjoyable lowbrow fare like SHAKES THE CLOWN and RUTHLESS PEOPLE. It's a future cult movie if there ever was one.

The bonus material on the DVD is basic but welcome: a behind-the-scenes feature, deleted & alternate scenes, and outtakes. An "Unrated Edition" is also available.

(Dir. Peter Segel, 2003)

Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore try to work their WEDDING SINGER-style magic in this tropical romantic comedy about a guy having to re-win the heart of his love every day as her memory is erased every night while she sleeps. It's a convoluted premise with very little imagination and the usual cheap humor (sloppy scatalogical gags, strained physical antics, Rob Schneider, etc.) found in a Sandler flick. It does have some genuine heart to it so there are people who may like it but to most film buff folks it will be erased from memory while they sleep.

Special features: Gag reel, deleted scenes, "Making of" featurette, music videos, and Talkin' Pidgin featurette (whatever that is).

More later...

Friday, June 11, 2004

SUPER SIZE ME: The Film Babble Blog Review

Now playing at a theater near you:

SUPER SIZE ME (Dir. Morgan Spurlock, 2004)

“Michael Moore Kicking Self For Not Filming Last 600 Trips To McDonald's” - The Onion 6/04

I went to McDonald's several days ago. It was around 9:30 AM and I was getting breakfast before I went in to work. I had an egg and cheese biscuit. It was satisfying and filling at the time and I thought it would propel me through my retail duties. A day later waking up to go in the same time to work the same shift I could still taste it. It didn't sit well with me, and I opted not to go back for breakfast there again.

You see the 3-4 block radius in which I work doesn't have many cheap options for working class food. There's a Panera Bread across the street, but a meal there runs like 5-7 bucks. So what can ya do? Morgan Spurlock decided what he was gonna do is do a Michael Moore on McDonald's ass.

So to speak, he was going to make a documentary with quick cuts, a bunch of sarcasm, and lots of graphic statistic info to catch a lot of people off guard with his damning exposé. Spurlock’s premise: eat every meal at McDonald's for one month, going for the super size option only when they offered it.

This caused unsurprising weight gain and liver troubles. Spurlock consulted three different doctors and numerous dieticians both before and during the experiment. One doctor even advised him 21 days in to stop the regiment for his own good. Spurlock wisecracked around the evidence and seemed proud to stick it out.

That's all well and good and at the time I viewed this film I found it amusing but like that before mentioned biscuit later it didn't sit well with me.

Spurlock never comes off as funny as he thinks he is, there was a preview for Michael Moore's upcoming FAHRENHEIR 911 that had the audience laughing like mad while SUPER SIZE ME in full only coaxed occasional chuckles.

Really what the film proves more than anything else is that apparently you can make a documentary about anything these days. I mean is it really that revealing that fast food is unhealthy? For years and years we've seen calorie and fat break-downs in magazines and newspapers.

Spurlock’s simple premise has merit, but a lot of the filler around it seemed like magazine news show blather.

And like many critics point out, one of the key questions Spurlock asks in the first 10 minutes "Where does personal responsibility end and corporate responsibility begin?" he never answers!

That said, it’s always interesting to see somebody follow through on an extreme physical regimen over a self imposed time period whatever his agenda.

To question a corporation's power of a large portion of the populace is a noble cause even through these crude methods (so didn’t need to see a shot of Spurlock’s vomit I have to say).

So overall with a creative use of paintings, old Ronald McDonald footage targeting toddlers, and a good ear for his choice of punctuating music (Curtis Mayfield's “Pusherman,” Ohio Express's “Yummy Yummy Yummy,” and even Queen’s “Fat Bottom Girls”) this is a filling piece of film food. It just might upset your stomach and mind later.

More later…

Tuesday, June 08, 2004


Now out on DVD:

(Dir. John Hamburg, 2004) 

Along comes another stupid Ben Stiller-as-punching bag rom com. 

They seem to appear every few months. This time he's a risk management analyst who falls for a flaky artsy Salsa loving Jennifer Aniston and, of course, wackiness ensues. Not exactly high concept. 

At least there's a above par supporting cast: Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Alec Baldwin, Bob Dishy, and Bryan Brown make this at least a notch above DUPLEX. Hoffman provides one of the only reasons this movie is not a complete waste of time playing a washed-up brat pack era actor. To make memorable the weak material he's given in a routine best-friend part in a routine formula comedy is quite a feat for Hoffman. He'll get better words to work with next time out, I bet.

(Dir. Danny Boyle, 1996)
(Miramax Collector's Series, 2004) 

"Small time wasters with an accidental big deal" This British cult classic from the mid 90's is now done right by a domestic DVD release that contains extras long available on overseas formats. The commentary recorded upon the film's original release has Ewan McGregor, director Danny Boyle, screenwriter John Hodge, and producer Andrew MacDonald waxing wise and witty. 

Yet again, it's a stone cold blast to see McGregor's Renton and his scraggly crew (including Ewen Bremner, Jonny Lee Miller, Kevin McKidd, and Robert Carlyle) slum through heroin-infested episodes of petty theft, nasty squalor, and refusal to take part in any part of normal society. A few then and now retrospectives, scratchy deleted scenes, and Cannes film festival interviews round out this essential package. Essential, that is, if you don't have an import version that has this stuff on it already.

(Dir. John Dower, 2003) 

Mostly covering Oasis, Blur, and Pulp this loose documentary also touches on the Verve, Stone Roses, and Radiohead. Oasis makes their TV debut just weeks after the death of Kurt Cobain heralding the end of the grunge ara and start of the Brit pop period. Just as new Prime Minister Tony Blair represented a new way of government these shiny updated slices of Beatlemania re-ignited English culture if only for a moment. 

A well sequenced thesis marred by a lack of more on-screen identifications of the interviewees. Is that a member of a Oasis tribute band or is it an actual member of Oasis? I'm not sure. But the humor and pretensions of the key players especially during the Blur Vs. Oasis chapter make this a must for '90s music fans.

More later...