Saturday, December 30, 2006

Film Babble Blog's Year-End Blogtastic Festivus!

Now, I ain't claiming to be a fancy pants seen-it-all babbler - I'm just a writer who works at a movie theater and blogs about what I'm interested in so no big summation of the year's offerings here. 

I mean it's pointless to make a top ten list of the year's best at this point - many lauded big-time studio features (like LAST KING OF SCOTLAND, CHILDREN OF MEN, THE GOOD SHEPHERD, etc.) aren't gonna be in my area 'til January or later so I'm just gonna blab some blurbs 'bout a bunch o' flicks I have seen since my last post. 

THE QUEEN (Dir. Stephen Frears)

Definitely one of the year's best and most likely the definitive 'walking on eggshells' movie. Helen Mirren's dead-on portrayal of her Majesty's reaction (or at first non-reaction) to former Princess Diana's death and Tony Blair's (Michael Sheen) touching and funny attempts to smooth it all over with the peeved-off public all plays perfectly. Not a wasted moment - this deserves every Oscar it will get.  

SHUT UP & SING (Dir. Barbara Kopple, Cecilia Peck) 

Like THE QUEEN this is very much about public relations. As I'm fairly sure my readers know The Dixie Chicks made history when Natalie Maines made a fiercely anti-Bush comment between songs at a London concert at the dawn of the Iraq war. The snowballing firestorm (I don't care if that's a glaring contradiction) that ensued makes up the bulk of this documentary. Less a cinematic statement on the state of free speech in America than truly a sharp music doc 'bout a band dealing with backlash from a controversial quote and how that affects their touring and recording - the bit that has Bush's response from a Tom Brokow interview - "They shouldn't have their feelings hurt just because some people don't want to buy their records when they speak out... Freedom is a two-way street." Maines' reply: "what a dumbfuck. He's a dumbfuck," That bit alone makes this whole deal essential viewing.  

BLOOD DIAMOND (Dir. Edward Zwick) 

This thriller about the blood diamond trade in West Africa is way too long with awfully written dialogue throughout ("In America, it's bling bling. But out here it's bling bang"). The scenes between Leonardo DiCaprio and Jennifer Connelly are TV-movie bad. Still there's some great photography and intriguing story elements - it's just unfortunate that when the dust settles it is just a big noisy empty piece of bling bang.  

Next time out - DVD reviews and more when filmbabble enters a brand new year! This post is dedicated to the Godfather of Soul, James Brown, who passed away on Christmas day.

RIP JB 1933-2006  

More later...

Friday, December 15, 2006

"Holy Crap!" -10 Great Peter Boyle Roles

"Be Adequite" - Lindsay Lohan (from her self-penned statement of condolences to Robert Altman's family) "Holy crap!" - Frank Barone (Peter Boyle) - his repeated reaction * on countless episodes of Everybody Loves Raymond (1996-2005) * catchphrase if you will. Hey! Welcome to this special Holiday Edition of Film Babble Blog. More Adventures in Altman Appraisal are coming shortly as requested but first lets pay tribute to the recently departed Peter Boyle (10/18/35-12/12/2006) . Since this is a blog 'bout movies lets forget the Romano sitcom and his other TV work (X-Files, NYPD Blue, Cosby, Cagney & Lacey, etc.) as fine as it was and do one of them there old timey movie lists : 10 GREAT PETER BOYLE MOVIE ROLES 1. JOE (Dir. John G. Avildsen, 1970) Michael Richards's (you know, Kramer from Seinfeld!) recent racist rant has nuthin' on Boyle's bar hound N-word fueled monologue of hate - "Why work, tell me, why the fuck work, when you can screw, have babies, an' get paid for it?" Joe's twisted viewpoint goads a straight corporate-type (Dennis Patrick) pushed over the edge to kill some hippies in a vain attempt to rescue his daughter (Susan Sarandon) from a life of degenerecy in this unbelieveably under-rated counter-culture classic. 2. YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN (Dir. Mel Brooks, 1974) Billed as "the Monster" Boyle lays waste all notions of working class tough guy type casting with this nuanced but still hilariously broad characterisation of Frankenstein's creation complete with bolt-in-neck whimpers. Key scene - the show-stopping duet with Frederick Frankenstein (Gene Wilder) on "Puttin' On the Ritz". 3. THE CANDIDATE (Dir. Michael Ritchie, 1972) As one of Bill McCay's (Robert Redford) handlers in his bid to run for Senate, Boyle is the voice of cynical reason. 4. MALCOLM X (Dir. Spike Lee, 1992) Okay, sure he's only on screen for a couple of minutes but it is in such a pivotal scene (for those DVD saavy it is Scene Selection #28 "Turnout For Brother Johnson") in which Malcolm X (Denzel Washington) has his troops march to the hospital while held at bay by horse mounted New York police. To survey the scene comes Captain Green (Boyle) who gets out of his squad car and walks with authority up to the real man in charge : Green - "Let's disperse this mob!" After being satisfied with the news from the doctor Malcolm X makes a raised hand pointing motion which immedaitely gets the crowd moving in the direction indicated. On the commentary Spike Lee says "Peter Boyle right here! Fellow New York Knicks fan...who delivers one of the most memorable lines in this film." - Green - "That's too much power for one man to have." 5. THE DREAM TEAM (Dir. Howard Zieff, 1989) - Another under-rated movie that was lost in the shuffle of lame pre-BATMAN Michael Keaton comedies at the time. Boyle's performance as former advertising executive Jack McDermott who believes he is a vessel through which Jesus talks is the most memorable of the group of mental patients let on the loose in NYC (the others being Keaton, Stephen Dorff, Christopher Lloyd). Pure Boyle atitude abounds with lines like : McDermott - "I am the Lord they God. Thou shalt not have strange gods before Me. Out of my way, asshole." 6. WHERE THE BUFFALO ROAM (Dir. Art Linson, 1980) As Lazlo - Hunter S. Thompson's attorney in this rambling mess of an adaptation of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (Terry Gilliam did a more faithful to the book version in 1998) Boyle almost stole the show from Bill Murray. Almost. 7. MONSTER'S BALL (Dir. Mark Forster, 2001) Buck Grotowski, father to the stoic Hank (Billy Bob Thornton) could be considered an older version of JOE - still spitting out racism and masking quiet desperation with gruff acidity. One of Boyle's sharpest and most piercing portrayals. 8. TAXI DRIVER (Dir. Martin Scorsese, 1976) Boyle plays one of Travis Bickle's (Robert De Niro) 'peers' - Limo driver Wizard. Again adding his unique crusty gift of gab: Wizard - You get the job. You become the job. 9. YELLOWBEARD (Dir. Mel Damski, 1983) - It's been ages (I was 13) since I've seen this unholy mix of Cheech & Chong, Monty Python and Mel Brooks but I do recall Boyle as had his moments as Pirate Moon (who writer and star Graham Chapman based on fellow drinking partner Who drummer Keith Moon and his pirate-like antics). 10.THE SANTA CLAUSE 3 - THE ESCAPE CLAUSE (Dir. Michael Lembeck, 2006) - I haven't seen it but it was has last movie * and hey - he played Father Time. Wanna argue with that? * Actually his last movie is the yet to be released SHADOWS OF ATTICUS (Dir. Dennis Fallon, 2007) More later...

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

"Yippie-kye-ay, Mister Falcon!" And Other EDITED FOR TV favorites

"This town is like a great big chicken just waitin' to get plucked.” - Tony Montana (Al Pacino) from the edited for television edit of SCARFACE (1983) * (If you need to know the original line email the address below)

Usually I avoid when movies are shown on broadcast television because they're edited-for-time full-screen versions - I mean it's almost like they don't count. But sometimes when I come upon a movie I like when changing channels I've found they are sometimes worth watching for the re-dubbing of profane lines.

SCARFACE above, and THE EXORCIST are famous for their creative hilarious for-all-audiences re-toolings. Not content to just use 'freak' or 'freaking' the censors picked every other f-word (frozen, fruitful, foolish, etc.) in the dictionary to cover all the 'fucks' in a recent airing of FARGO. It's quite a different movie when you see Steve Buscemi yelling "you foolish people!" after being shot in the face you know? These are some other funny examples:

THE BIG LEBOWSKI (1998) Original line : "You see what happens Larry, when you fuck a stranger in the ass?" - Walter (John Goodman) Edited line : “You see what happens Larry when you find a stranger in the Alps?”
Also : "This is what happens when you pump a stranger's gas!" and “What the frog?” – Barry (Jack Black)   HIGH FIDELITY (2000)

THERE’S SOMETHING ABOUT MARY (1998) “Froggin’ ashpole” - Ted (Ben Stiller) to Pat (Matt Dillon)

PLATOON (1986) “Come on maggot farmer, move!” - Pvt. Chris Taylor (Charlie Sheen)

SCARFACE (1983) Original Line: "How'd you get that scar? Eating pussy?" - Immigration Officer (Garnett Smith) Edited Line: “how’d you get that scar? Eating Pineapple?” (also “pudding”)

THE USUAL SUSPECTS (1995) Original Line: : "Hand me the keys you fucking cock sucker" - spoken by all 5 suspects (Kevin Pollack, Stephen Baldwin, Benicio Del Toro, Gabriel Byrne, and Kevin Spacey) in the police line up. Edited Line: "Hand me the keys you fairy godmother."

DIE HARD (1988) Original Line: "Yippee-ki-yay, motherfucker!" - John McClane (Bruce Willis) Edited Line: "Yippie-kye-ay, Mister Falcon!"

LETHAL WEAPON (1987) 2 lines both spoken by one of the candidates for MAN OF THE YEAR 2006 - Mel Gibson as lovable suicidal cop Martin Riggs : "We bury the funsters!” and "I'm a real cop, this is a real badge and this is a real firing gun!"

GOODFELLAS (1990) Original Line : "You're a fuckin' mumblin', stutterin' little fuck" Tommy (Joe Pesci) Edited Line : "You're a friggin' mumblin', stutterin' little fink."

THE EXORCIST (1973) Original Line: "Your mother sucks cocks in Hell!"- Regan (Linda Blair) possessed by Pazuzu (voice - Mercedes MacCambridge) Edited Line: "Your mother sews socks that smell!"

PULP FICTION (1994) Original Line : "I got my eyes wide fuckin' open!" - Jules (Samuel L. Jackson) Edited Line: "I got my eyes wide focused open!"

ROBOCOP (1987) "You're gonna be a real mothercrasher!" - Bob Morton (Miguel Ferrer)

Send your favorite 'edited for TV' lines to:

So if Peter O'Toole was pulled over and arrested for drunk driving would his mug shot look an better or worse than the poster for his latest film?

And all I want to know about this movie is - does it have a montage?

More later...

Friday, November 24, 2006

FOR YOUR CONSIDERATION: The Film Babble Blog Review

"It's obviously inherently funnier to have in a comedy someone who isn't doing something very well. That is the basis of most comedy. If you're showing people where it's smooth sailing, where is the joke? If you go back to any movie, even a conventional movie, with any comedians, they're either not terribly intelligent or they're not doing something well." - Christopher Guest (Interviewed by Scott Dikkers, Onion AV Club 2/26/97) FOR YOUR CONSIDERATION (Dir. Christopher Guest) While I agreed with many folk that the ensemble Christopher Guest comedy revue film peaked with BEST IN SHOW, I have to say that I really adored A MIGHTY WIND. The formula in that folk music re-union show premise was transparent but the songs were catchy as Hell, the back stories convincing, and there were many genuine laugh out loud moments throughout. I hate to report that Guest's newest FOR YOUR CONSIDERATION is plainly one too many trips to the well. Though the mocumentary angle is discarded the same large cast is here with Ricky Gervais (The Office, Extras) thankfully being among the few new additions to the cast. This time out these folks are the actors, makers, and producers of a small indie movie "Home For Purim" who are given delusions of grandeur when the word of a few internet pundits speak of Oscar buzz. This really goes to the heads of the lead actors - Catherine Ohara particularly (unfortunately and way too obviously she's named Marilyn Hack). Her co-stars Harry Shearer and Parker Posey also freak out at the prospect of the lure of the award while the hilarity that was promised to ensue hides like a murder suspect. It's not just that the plot revolves around such predictably desperate for fame fools - it actually hurts that the jokes (and I know the cast improvised most of them) are all over 5 years out of date - "the internet, that's the one with email -right?" All the talk of hype online and never does the word 'blogger' come up. The publicity junket stuff that makes up the last third of the movie - which includes parodies of Access Hollywood, The Charlie Rose Show and D-list informercial appearances (infomercials? Make that over 10 years out of date) is in this age of reality shows, round the clock docs, and endless coverage of every miniscule media moment is tediously tired turf here already done to death nightly on any number of Comedy Central, VH1, E! or Adult Swim projects. The characters in THIS IS SPINAL TAP, WAITING FOR GUFFMAN, BEST IN SHOW, and A MIGHTY WIND had an undeniable sadness about them but as satirical statements they were as funny as movie personas can get. In FOR YOUR CONSIDERATION these people are just sad. It's just sad that Guest and his reperatory company are such terribly intelligent funny people who this time out are not doing something well. Please let this be the swan song of these movies! Or at the very least spare us another wacky Fred Willard hair-do! More later...

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

R.I.P. Robert Altman (1925-2006)

"Retirement? You're talking about death, right?" - Robert Altman (1925-2006) I just filled up my Netflix queue with Robert Altman movies I haven't seen yet. I figured out that I've seen 15 of his 40 something films plus that Tanner '88 Showtime series. Surprising to find that a number of notable movies of his are not available on DVD at the current time - BREWSTER MCCLOUD (1970) (which he often said was his favorite) , HealtH (1980) ,THIEVES LIKE US (1974) ,COME BACK TO THE 5 AND DIME JIMMY DEAN JIMMY DEAN (1982), Hell even his film debut THE DELINQUENTS (1957) is missing in action. Pretty shabby treatment for movies that are constantly being referred to in various online cinema forums as cult movies. "What is a cult? It just means not enough people to make a minority." - Robert Altman The first Altman movie that I remember seeing was POPEYE (1980). It was at the same theater that I work at part-time now - the Varsity. I was 10 and of course had no idea who Altman was. I learned as I grew older and saw his classic work (M*A*S*H, THE LONG GOODBYE, NASHVILLE among others) how uncharacteristic POPEYE was - Altman didn't "sell out" by signing on to the ill-fated Robert Evans project but his trademark vision barely surfaced in the murk of that cartoon adaptation. Images from it clash greatly with memories of films from the same period - compare POPEYE to the sublimely confusing 3 WOMEN (1977) and it is almost impossible to process that it is the work of the same director.

Sometime in the last year I bought the Criterion Collection special edition of SHORT CUTS (1993) (my personal Altman favorite) but only in the last week did I sample the bonus material. In addition to the bonus disc of docs, deleted scenes and typical bells and whistle whatnot it came with a reprint of the 160 page book of the Raymond Carver short stories that the film was based on and was published when the film was first released. I had been saving the book for...I don't know what but I actually read it and rewatched the movie now being able to pinpoint the sources and enjoyed it more than ever.

"Movies Now More Than Ever" - Slogan for Griffin Mill's (Tim Robbins) Studio in THE PLAYER (1992) After watching the rest of the various extras - docs, deleted scenes, etc I lent the disc and the book to a literary-minded friend who works with me at the theater at the end of last week. No great cosmic significance here, just interesting to me that I had absorbed and passed on one of Altman's greatest works just days before his passing. It's sad but fitting that PRAIRIE HOME COMPANION was Altman's last movie. Its sad obviously because there will be no more films - seasons will come and go without his large cast revues and the circling cameras, overlapping dialogue, and insightful interplay. It's fitting because he said in interviews that PRAIRIE HOME COMPANION was a film about death - the end of an era. Many other directors have adopted some of his techniques (though his stuff is in a satirically sillier vein Christopher Guest has been often compared to Altman - more on that and his new movie FOR YOUR CONSIDERATION in a future post) but nobody has really come close to what he did. So the man has retired but the extensive body of work he has left us with that I for one know will be discovering and re-discovering the rest of my days. He was right on the money when he once said : "Filmmaking is a chance to live many lifetimes." More later...

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

I Think I Smell A BORAT...

"We support your war of terror!" - BORAT (Sacha Baron Cohen)  

The #1 movie-film in America right now with an approval rating of 96% on the Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer (you know, the site that tallies up all the major reviews) BORAT: CULTURAL LEARNINGS OF AMERICA FOR MAKE BENEFIT GLORIOUS NATION OF KAZAKHSTAN is really burning it up this season.

It does has a lot of funny moments though I personally feel much of the material would be better seen in individual YouTube clips, because even at just 84 minutes the guys routine wears a bit.

Peering in on the sold out shows at my local hometown theater where I work part-time, a drop-off in riotous laughter is strongly evident in the last third of the movie. One sequence in particular I could have done without, a nude wrestling match between BORAT (Sacha Baron Cohen) and his morbidly obese manager (Ken Davitian) that starts over a squabble in a fancy-pants hotel room and spills out into the lobby, so that the shocked public can witness of course. 

Thankfully black bars were inserted to cover the naughty bits. That's definitely he scene where my laughter dropped off. 

Being the second most hyped movie of the year (the first being SNAKES ON A PLANE) I was surprised at the critical reaction.

It's getting a lot of incredibly favorable notices remarking on the supposed sharpness of the satire and the telling socio-political statements it makes. Some examples:

"The brilliance of BORAT is that its comedy is as pitiless as its social satire and just as brainy" - Manohla Dargis (New York Times) 

"He makes us squirm until we laugh and laugh until we squirm, holding a mirror to our darkest fears and prejudices." - Bob Townsend (Alanta Journal-Constitution) 

"Evil comedy, a new genre, has arrived. The bar has been raised and is flying over everyone's head." - Victoria Alexander (FILMSINREVIEW.COM

This is a bit much. 

I mean, it does live up to the hype much more than SNAKES and it does have plenty of genuine laughs, but come on! It says more about how lame comedies have become in the last several years if this is being lauded so highly. As for all the variations on the labeling of BORAT as an "equal opportunity offender" that critics have been tirelessly making, I was offended like Jerry Seinfeld would be "as a comedian" at how easy cheap and obvious some of the lines were - for example:

Borat Sagdiyev: This is Natalya. (He Kisses her passionately) She is my sister. She is number-four prostitute in whole of Kazakhstan. (Natalya holds up a trophy and smiles) Niiice!

Yep, now that's top-line-state-of-the-art-grade-A comedy!

More later...

Monday, October 23, 2006

Exile On Mean Street - Or Scorsese & The Stones Together Again

“He could stay up for days on end talking about movies and music, more about music than movies. He had this rock 'n roll head, knew every lyric and every title. He understood that the music was really a critical aspect of the zeitgeist of the times.” - Don Simpson (Warner Bros. Producer) on Martin Scorsese *

Okay, so I loved THE DEPARTED as did the majority of the critics, but I didn’t want to write a formal review for it so I decided to do a piece on the notable reappearance of the Rolling Stones on the soundtrack of a Martin Scorsese film.

I know, it’s far from surprising. Scorsese has made many movies that are chock full of ‘60s and ‘70s classic rock. I mean he got one of his first movie gigs editing the movie WOODSTOCK (arguably the sunny flipside to the Altamont Hell of GIMME SHELTER). And, of course, Scorsese made the seminal concert film THE LAST WALTZ and the definitive pre-motorcycle crash Dylan bio NO DIRECTION HOME, sure, but it’s his telling cinematic relationship with the music of the Stones, one song in particular, that is the theme of this post that I call:

EXILE ON MEAN STREET: Scorsese and the Stones Together Again

Martin Scorsese’s THE DEPARTED opens with a gruff Jack Nicholson voice-over monologue taking us through archival news film of violence during Boston’s anti-busing protests in 1974.

Eerily winding its way through the grainy footage comes Keith Richard’s stinging guitar intro to “Gimme Shelter,” the all-too familiar but still potent 1969 Rolling Stones classic.

The film shifts to the present with shots of Nicholson’s character, Irish mob boss Frank Costello, shrouded in a darkness that remains even when he enters a fully lit store-front. The piercing familiar strains of Richard’s guitar fade as the scene is set. The song has done its job of setting the ominous tone and spooky feel and can exit.

Thing is, Scorsese has played this tune before, twice before as a matter of fact. Several Scorsese soundtracks have been peppered with Stones tracks, always from the ‘60s, and early ‘70s era, and always as scene carrying tone-setters.

MEAN STREETS, Scorcese’s 1973 breakthrough, has an early scene in which the 2 main protagonists each respectively get stamped with their own Stones songs. A barroom jukebox blares the soulful “Tell Me” to present a cool, calm and collected Charlie (Harvey Keitel) as he glides half-dancing through the smoky red-lit tavern.

A few minutes later wild rough unpredictable Johnny Boy (Robert De Niro) gets the jarring rollicking “Jumping Jack Flash” to greet him at the door. We assume back stories, identify the moods, and form some sort of a connection to these guys just from these songs doing their thing.

The Stones don’t show up in a Scorsese film again until GOODFELLAS (1990). Rightfully considered a return to form and probably his most popular film, the soundtrack was an amazing mesmerizing ride. It’s mix-tape moviemaking at its finest with three Stones songs (or bits of) in the mix.

When the era defining icons (Tony Bennett, the Moonglows, Johnny Mathis, Bobby Vinton) of Henry Hill’s (Ray Liotta) ‘50s childhood fade into a crime-filled adulthood which dissolves into an unglamorous ‘70s downfall, we have “Gimme Shelter” make its Scorsese film debut.

Only a minute of it appears and it’s from the song’s second half when Jagger and guest vocalist Merry Clayton’s wailing is at its peak. It defines the shot of Henry cutting cocaine at his girlfriend on the side Sandy’s (Debi Mazar) apartment. The jump-cut montage masterpiece finale sequence features bits of the Stones “Monkey Man” and “Memo From Turner” mixed in with snatches of the Who (“Magic Bus”), Muddy Waters (“Mannish Boy”), Harry Nilsson (“Jump Into The Fire”), and George Harrison (“What is Life”).

These jarring song excerpts give a frantic jagged heartbeat to that one fateful day when Henry is on the run trading guns, setting up a major coke deal, hiding from helicopters, and trying to get a proper meal made at home (“keep stirring the sauce!” he yells on the phone to his wheelchair bound brother).

Scorsese’s CASINO (1995) presents the same tone, tension, and some of the same cast (Robert Deniro, Joe Pesci, Frank Vincent, Scorsese’s Mother Catherine) as GOODFELLAS, with this time four Stones songs on the soundtrack, “Gimme Shelter” among them.

CASINO does offer some good film making and an involving narrative drive, but even for this hardcore Marty fan it has too much of ‘been there, done that’ feel. “Sweet Virginia,” “Can’t You Hear Me Knockin’” and “Heart of Stone” make their brief snatch cameos, and its five Stones songs if we count Devo’s cover of “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction.” Which I have to admit is an inspired choice here considering.

With the intro to “Gimme Shelter” setting off THE DEPARTED it’s almost as if Scorsese could argue that he’s never used the same part of the song in a film.

Not sure if that’s true. I didn’t want to watch CASINO again but maybe someone will edit together a version of it from all three films and Youtube it. The new Stones addition to the Scorsese canon is “Let It Loose” from the 1971 album Exile on Main Street, possibly the most obscure Jagger/Richards composition to be chosen for his soundtracks. Appearing in a crucial scene it underscores the fear and intensity of boss Costello (Nicholson) roughly intimidating undercover cop Billy Castigan (Leonardo DiCaprio) in a barroom backroom.

The Stones sound best playing on some sleazy jukebox in a run-down dive you understand. The scene is timed to "Let It Loose" - the entire song plays never dropping out or fading away. An searing effect that lingers comes off this standout scene. It makes the case for Marty to continue digging up, polishing off, and setting to visceral action whatever Stones song he wants (‘60s to early ‘70s era only, mind you).

So why has Martin Scorsese used the Rolling Stones “Gimme Shelter” in three different films? Probably the same reason Woody Allen has used Benny Goodman’s “Sing Sing Sing” (more than once: it’s an effective, exciting and historic piece of music.

“Gimme Shelter” was born out of the same era that Scorsese was being born as a filmmaker. No other song captures the darkness that came when the ‘60s Utopian dream went deadly wrong with such wicked passion. It is a depiction of a floodgate of war, rape, and murder threatening to break violently open and drown us all.

The song seemed to be talking about Vietnam, reacting to race riots, and somehow foreshadowing Altamont (the documentary concert film of which was named GIMME SHELTER), all at the same time, illustrating everyday life in that scary era.

While writing this I learned that one of Scorsese’s next projects may be a concert film of the Rolling Stones current tour. According to the info circulating Scorsese will be following the aging rockers between two shows at New York’s Beacon Theatre on October 29 and 31. The shows will be part of former US President Bill Clinton’s birthday celebrations.

Ah, well it all makes sense now. Very good chance we’ll have “Gimme Shelter” in a fourth Scorsese film. Maybe this time he’ll really nail it. I mean, in our current scary era, a live in-the-moment performance of this dark scorching song (with a former President in attendance no less) might get the real cinematic treatment that the previous appearances of the songs were mere auditions for.

Scorsese might just yet capture the true force and nature of that rock classic beast and tame it with his camera and later master editing. I mean as the song says “it’s just a shot away.”

* This quote was taken from Peter Biskind's excellent book Easy Riders, Raging Bulls (Simon & Schuster 1999)

More later...

Wednesday, October 11, 2006


Okay, I promised some music reviews last week and didn't post any so here goes: 

You could not come up with 2 concert films that are more different from each other than NEIL YOUNG : HEART OF GOLD and AWESOME! I FUCKIN' SHOT THAT! 

Jonathan Demme's work documenting Young's 2005 Ryman Auditorium performance is straight-forward and polished much like the music it presents. I'm far from a hardcore Young fan - I have I guess what you'd call the essential discs ("Harvest", "Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere", "After The Gold Rush", "Rust Never Sleeps", etc.). have seen him live a few times, but over the years have drifted away from his newer releases because of too many same-sounding songs. 

A few songs into the show - that complaint melts away. 

With a large band of ace players (including Emmyloo Harris, Dan Penn, Spooner Oldham, and wife Pegi Young) Neil plays the Prairie Wind album in its entirety then a smattering of crowd pleasing hits (like the title song especially) and it all sounds sweet to these ears. The DVD has some cool extras most notably a clip of Young on The Johnny Cash Show in 1970. Man, they need to release that show in full!

AWESOME! I FUCKIN' SHOT THAT! throws out the traditional approach and goes for the jugular - 50 fans are given Hi-8 and digital-video cameras to a Madison Square Garden Beastie Boys show and Adam Yauch's alter ego Nathaniel Hornblower edits together all their footage into one of the most rowdy, renograde, in your face concert films ever. One of the camera people even films his trip to the bathroom! 

Whatever your opinion of the Beasties' music this film is a lot of fun to watch - the split screens, the fast cutting, the wide range of angles, and the sense that the whole arena was pumping and pounding. It does drag a bit at times - the trance instrumental set wasn't as exciting as other bits, but this inventive and punchy concert flick definitely deserves the right to, you

The best music documentary since Scorcese's NO DIRECTION HOME : BOB DYLAN in my book (or more accurately on my blog) is definitely THE DEVIL AND DANIEL JOHNSTON. Funny, disturbing, and never dull - the story of bipolar Beatles-obsessed quirky songwriting Devil-fearing Johnston is told by his extensive archive of home made films, audio-cassette diaries, magic marker drawings, and interviews with family and friends. 

The overwhelming amount available of Johnston's self documentation pours out of the movie and into the bonus features on the DVD - it takes quite a bit to get through all of it but it is worth every second.

More later...

Thursday, October 05, 2006

The Failure Of The ALL THE KING'S MEN Remake

The IMDB reported this the other day - "Oscar-winning screenwriter and director Steve Zaillian was clearly stunned by the critical and box-office failure of his latest film, ALL THE KING'S MEN, which opened with only $3.8 million in its debut and fell out of the top-ten in its second weekend. Zaillian told the Los Angeles Times that it was "like getting hit by a truck. ... I don't know what to make of it. Maybe down the road I'll figure it out". Well maybe I can help figure it out - Since it is leaving my home town theater after a barely attended 2 ween run I decided to see the movie last night and it is one of the most boring movies I've ever seen!! Not since I almost went into a coma watching HOFFA has my time in the theater been so deadly dull. Hard to say exactly where Zaillian and crew went wrong - it is well photographed, the screenplay hits the right points, and the cast is A-list (Sean Penn, Anthony Hopkins, Jude Law, Kate Winslet, Patricia Clarkson, etc.) - it just doesn't work. Most critics have blamed Sean Penn's overwrought performance and yes it is true he does deserve to be one of the patients in Monty Python's Hospital For The Over-Acting sketch but the blame lies elsewhere I believe. I got the original 1949 version of ALL THE KING'S MEN (Dir. Robert Rossen) from Netflix and watched it this morning. It had won the best picture Oscar and for good reason - it is a good well crafted interesting exercise in good taste and restraint. Everything the re-make tries in vain for the original accomplishes with much more class. I'll take Broderick Crawford's believably flawed Willie Stark over Sean Penn's wretched over-the-top spastic Willie Stark any day. So it was just another unnecessary remake. I can't think of one worthwhile remake that has been produced lately. Can you? More later...

Saturday, September 30, 2006


"So many social engagements, so little time." - Gale (John Goodman) RAISING ARIZONA (Dir. Joel Coen 1987) Yeah - lots going on. Recent theatrical releases, new releases on video, and some notable music DVDs need to be blogged 'bout but this time out I'll just deal with the last few movies I saw at the theater : THE SCIENCE OF SLEEP (Dir. Michael Gondry) Many many movies have been about earnest yet clumsily romantic young artists who live fuller in their dreams than in reality. Gael Garcia Bernal fills the part with wide eyed likeability though unfortunately the flimsy sitcom premise doesn't sustain the big picture. The wonderfully fluid dream sequences will no doubt make this a cult favorite in years to come but it feels like a rough draft. The relationship between Stephane (Bernal) and Stephanie (Charlotte Gainsburg) doesn't sparkle and the uneven narrative doesn't help - I feel like a good 20-30 minutes could be edited out and the flow would improve greatly. Still, with the amount of unadventurous crap out there, THE SCIENCE OF SLEEP shouldn't be ignored or dismissed by film babblers like me - visually it is a beautiful film, so I'll conclude : flawed but worthwhile. THE ILLUSIONIST (Dir. Neil Burger) Based on the short story Eisenheim the Illusionist. However, I heard Eisenheim (played by Edward Norton) through the accents sound like 'Asinine' as if thats what the characters name would be in a crude Mad magazine satire. Not that this flick is asinine - no its a fairly entertaining period piece mildly marred from unecessary and purposely unexplained special effects and a twist ending right out of THE USUAL SUSPECTS. Norton puts in a stoic and strangely unenergetic performance and Paul Giamatti chews scenery as a Chief Inspector intent on figuring out Eisenheim's tricks while Jessica Biel provides the elusive love interest. Maybe the real illusion the movie pulls off is that it is better than mediocre - it's not but at times you'll think it is. HOLLYWOODLAND (Dir. Allen Coulter) If I were still in quick quotable blurb mode like in my last post I might be tempted to just write "Hollywoodbland!" but that, like the Asinine the Illusionist in the review above is just silly non-criticism and definitively inaccurate. While I agree with the Onion AV Club that this feels like an HBO original movie and concur with the New York Times that it "tells several stories, one of them reasonably well", I enjoyed the performances and bought into the boulevard of broken dreams pathos. Having watched the reruns of '50's TV Superman starring George Reeves as a kid I appreciated that they nailed the look and style in the recreations. Adrian Brody does solid work as the gumshoe hired to solve the mystery of Reeves headline making suicide and we switch back and forth in time from him to Ben Affleck's surprisingly note-perfect portrayal of Reeves in the events leading up to his death. If not remarkable HOLLYWOODLAND is a decent pointed period piece, I'm not sure if I'm on board with the film's implications in it's conclusion - involving mistress Diane Lane and her jealous studio boss husband Bob Hoskins but that doesn't make it ring hollow. Hmmm, I'm sensing a trend here - I mean I just babbled 'bout 3 movies that were neither great nor awful just decent. I hope we're just in summer to fall transition and the movies will get much better or at least more interesting. We've got some possibilities coming with THE DEPARTED, FOR YOUR CONSIDERATION, STRANGER THAN FICTION, and RUNNING WITH SCISSORS, but no breath holding here. Some more babble 'bout some concert films and a notable documentary when film babble returns... More later...

Monday, September 04, 2006

If I Was A Flashy Quotable Critic...

Sean Jones (Nathan Phillips) : "It's getting hot in here..." Nelville Flynn (Samuel L. Jackson) : "I'm from Tennessee, I didn't notice!" - SNAKES ON A PLANE (Dir. David R. Ellis) Well now that the country has gotten over SNAKES ON A PLANE (pretty much on its opening weekend a few weeks back) and the summer movie season is over we can do a little summing up. I sure don't want to work up a full review post of SOAP so I thought I'd pretend to be a flashy quotable critic and go with a 2 word review : "Entertaining Crap!" says Daniel C. Johnson from FILM BABBLE BLOG (Chapel Hill, NC) Hey I like that - I'll try that brief snappy approach with a few other summer flicks : WORLD TRADE CENTER (Dir. Oliver Stone) "Earnest effort but unabashedly undercooked" - DANIEL COOK JOHNSON of the #1 internet site for aimless movie chit-chat - FILM BABBLE BLOG August 30th, 2006 LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE (Directed by Jonathan Dayton & Valerie Faris) - "Finely tuned fun for lovers of the predictably quirky" - so sez the most trusted influential babblin' blogger on the web today - Danny J of FILM BABBLE BLOG August 25th, 2006 More later...

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

A Couple Of Comedies For The Summer Home Stretch

"When will this rotten summer end? In a film, it'd already be over. Fade-out, cut to storm. Wouldn't that be great?" - Salvatore (Marco Leonard) CINEMA PARADISO 1989 Dog days indeed. Lame ass movie season to cover - I mean I saw PIRATES OF THE CARRIBEAN : DEAD MAN'S CHEST weeks ago and had no inclination to write about it. I mean I would just be repeating what so many others have said - its too long, a series of action pieces in search of a story, just a set-up for a third movie, etc. Damn I went and repeated that crap anyway. Sigh. Anyway - what else have I seen? Hmmm... CLERKS 2 (Dir. Kevin Smith) Things start off promising - a great Talking Heads song ("Nothing But Flowers") accompanies Dante (Brian O'Halloran) on his drive to his new place of employment after the infamous Quick Stop burns down. Once we settle with him and obnoxious side-kick Randal (Jeff Anderson) into Mooby's, a bad parody of a McDonalds-style fast food joint, we get stale dialogue and half assed acting with no semblance of artistic justification. Smith fans will think I'm being a prude but I was seriously bored by this material. In particular the Jay and Silent Bob (Jason Mewes and Kevin Smith respectively) characters have been done to death - they were fine as first time out creations by a talented novice filmmaker but after 6 movies, a series of comic books, and a cartoon show for Christ sakes they have long ago jumped the shark *. This time however Kevin Smith doesn't just jump the shark - he fucks the shark and gives it ass to mouth. A new addition to the worse sequels of all time for sure. * For those who don't understand the "jumping the shark" reference please consult this amusing Wikipedia entry. SCOOP (Dir. Woody Allen) Much more enjoyable than MATCH POINT and definitely funnier than his last few flicks - too bad that's not saying much. Continuing his supposed simultaneous cinematic love affair with both Scarlet Johansen and London we're in fluffy territory here - think MANHATTAN MURDER MYSTERY crossed with the jokey supernatural ALICE and the supremely underrated NEW YORK STORIES segment and you've got SCOOP. Hugh Jackman plays the would be murderer while Ian McShane guides the action from beyond the grave - from a boat captained by the grim reaper - yeah that bit doesn't really work but it doesn't get in the way of this fairly decent, fairly funny, just plain fair Woody Allen film. More later...