Friday, December 14, 2007

I'm Not There

I knew it was a bad omen when, on buying the tickets to I'm Not There, we were given this little pamphlet for the movie, where it sort of explained what we were about to see. Weird, to get Cliff's Notes for a movie that's supposed to be a video version of Cliff's Notes to Bob Dylan's songs, which (if you believe the hype) are supposed to be Cliff's Notes to Bob Dylan himself.


Yeah, exactly.

If you're one of those geeks that has every single Bob album, has seen every documentary on him and read every book about him, you might get some fleeting sense of satisfaction during the 800 hours this movie seems to last. Maybe.

If, like me, you're a fan that has the pivotal albums and some minor works, and is somewhat familiar with his legend, then this'll happen… You'll spend one minute of this movie smirking slightly at the stuff you do get (ha ha, the chick feels she can't breathe, you're an idiot babe, it's a wonder that you still know how to breathe… oh, and ha ha, there's a tarantula walking around the screen, that's the title of his book, Tarantula, etc, etc.). The other 799 hours and 59 minutes you'll spend guessing you might have had some fleeting sense of satisfaction if you'd been one of those geeks that has every single Bob album, has seen every doc on him and read every book about him. Maybe.

If you're new to Bob, then you'll probably never want to hear of Bob Dylan again.


In a nutshell, this movie is a bad never-ending version of The Beatles' Free As A Bird video.

Don't get me wrong, I loved the Free As A Bird video, with its clever use of reference. I got a lot of it, and what I didn't get didn't matter anyway, because the visuals and the song were great. And I LOVE Bob Dylan. The man is THE modern day poet, right up there with all the historical greats. He's fun, too. For all the heaviness in his writing, the man comes across as a mystery, someone who's never quite there.

But if you're gonna go out of your way to make a movie about Bob Dylan, shouldn't he be there?

Actually, the idea behind this mess was actually pretty fresh and interesting. I mean, I absolutely hate movie versions of bios. Stuff like Ray and Walk the Line should have been on Lifetime, right? So with Dylan, who is such a legendary contradiction, it made total sense to not go the traditional Behind the Music route, and break his character down into his different personas. And I loved the addition of his fake roots, the Woody Guthrie character that the folkie Bob invented for himself when people asked him about his past.

But this mess never made it past its interesting concept.

First of all, it's unbearably glib. Somewhere between masturbating to Dylan memorabilia, Todd Haynes forgot this was supposed to be a movie, not some sort of Jeopardy- The Bob Dylan Edition. Somewhere in the not so distant future I see Mr. Haynes pausing this DVD every 2 seconds as he waits for his friends to answer, in question format, how the images correspond to some obscure liner note. He's no doubt practicing his best Alex Trebek impression as I write. Ugh.

There was nothing exactly wrong with the actors playing the parts or anything. They all (with the exception of Richard Gere, who was so pointless I chose his screen time to go to the bathroom) were OK, especially Ben Whishaw and Cate Blanchett, who at least got to say some of Bob's legendary good lines. But really, they were all caricatures, at best. At worst, they were BORING. There was nothing for them to do but be little puzzle pieces to a big picture that never came together.

What's weird was that of all the little parts, it was the story line between Heath Ledger and that actress that played Jane Eyre that was at all interesting. Could it be because that was the only part that was actually fiction? Although supposedly the Blood on the Tracks album was all about Bob's bitterness concerning his divorce, Bob himself has never confirmed this. In his typical fashion, he has always both denied and agreed with this theory. So here Haynes actually had to speculate and write a damned script. Too bad he didn't think to do the same for the rest of this mess.

But anyways. Because I spent 24 bucks and what seemed like 800 hours of my life, I feel the need to salvage some of this waste. So I will say that I liked the part where Cate's version of Bob shoots into the folkie crowd with a machine gun (oh… if only!). I thought Julianne Moore did a spot-on impersonation of that glib bitch Joan Baez. I liked the colors Todd used to film Christian Bale's version playing to the Christian crowd at the Christian center (it has the look of an old VHS video... ever notice how old video turns every color into cafeteria food shades?) And I liked it when Lyndon Johnson said "the sun is not yellow, it's chicken!" Oh, yeah, and I thought Cate Blanchett playing Bob was pretty hot (but that has nothing to do with the merits of this movie as much as with my little perversions, like the way Tim Curry only turns me on when he's wearing fishnets and a leather jacket… but anyway, I digress).

Bottom line, this movie SUCKS.

Please don't watch it. If you love Bob, listen to his music and watch his docs. He managed to make a fictional legend of himself without any help from this crap.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Unhappy Feat

Oh Boy, where do I start?

Honestly, Happy Feet is like 4 different movies all put together, none of which is very good.

Ok, so there was the animated version of Moulin Rouge (1), the cutesy Disney-ish little outcast baby animal flick (2), the save the environment cautionary "let's appeal to the hippies" deal (3), and the creepy Twilight Zone part that just threw everything off completely (4). Add in the long, LONG video-game tie ins where the penguins just slide and slide and slide and you have a complete mess.

All I want to know is WHERE THE HELL WAS THE EDITOR?!!!

And not to be a total dick, but I thought the penguin was too fat to pull off any fancy footwork. Yeah yeah, I know, what a hater, but it's TRUE. The way the cartoon was drawn, that whole tap dancing thing just had no visual or audio flair. You know, watching this thing reminded me of that damned documentary "March of the Penguins". I remember sitting in the theatre bitterly realizing I had just spent good money to see a big screen version of TV static. Here, where the thing is ANIMATED, they still couldn't make a bunch of penguins standing in a blizzard any more interesting.

What happened here?

Oh yeah, and what was the point of the narration? Was this supposed to be the cartoon version of Morgan Freeman sitting around on his fat ass again? I mean, the story didn't even bother to tie in the whole Lovelace-becomes-a-real-preacher-by-telling-the-legend-of-Happy-Feet thing.


This was awful. Just Godawful.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Meet the Robinsons

Well, I vowed to review all movies I see in the theatre, so (sigh) I'll have to own up to having gone to see this one. In my defense, it was only because I took a little kid with me, and HE picked it, honest.

Speaking of kids, wow, what a great audience! No bullshit with them. When they like something that's going on onscreen, they LIKE it. They laugh their little asses off, and then one of them will scream out "Hey, I LIKED that!!!" Pretty badass.

Oh, but when they don't... first, there's this dangerous squirming sound, like ants getting ready for an attack. Then one or two of the bolder tykes will escape into the aisle murmuring "ahhh..." as he/she runs off to the exit. Once that happens, someone starts to cry. Man, they don't make movie critics like kids, seriously.

Well, with this movie, it didn't get to that point, but it got dangerously close. There was a lot of running around in the aisles, and some sniffles, but we all got through the movie able to more or less listen to the dialogue.

Actually, I'll admit it wasn't that bad. I mean, it had a heart, something I didn't expect, considering the previews. Deep down in that mess, there was a story there somewhere.

That was kind of the problem, though. I mean, the movie LOOKS like it was made for little, LITTLE kids, and those were the types in the theatre. We're talking kindergarten little, and those folks can't handle anything too intricate, I don't think (the squirming all took place over the more convoluted aspects of the story.) The movie only worked for them when it was all frenetic and kid funny, as in characters making silly faces and that sort of thing. There was a lot of that in there, and that carried over well for the younger ones in the crowd.

But what about us not so young ones? Well, like I said, the movie had heart. I'm a sucker for orphans, first of all, and the beginning of the film had a sort of Roald Dahl-esque feel to it that I thought was promising. I loved the idea of this genius orphan that was just ahead of his time and misunderstood, and I was totally into the addition of his bitter little roommate. How clever is that?!!! I thought that character in particular hit a nerve that should be explored a bit further in kid films, because I think there are a lot of Jan Brady-type kids out there that can sort of bond with a character that is not only overshadowed by an older and more talented child, but is actually hurt by that child in some way. It was cool that in the end of the film, Lewis realizes how his actions unintentionally hurt poor little Goob, and then went out of his way to help him out.

I wish then, that the film had been made a bit more linear so that that storyline could be clearer. The introduction of Lewis's child from the future was really confusing and messy. I mean, what? When he first appeared, I thought he was just some annoying asshole out to destroy Lewis's science project or something. It didn't help, either, that he was the sort of character that I absolutely despise in modern kid movies. You know, the type that's specifically put there for the older, "cooler" kids' benefit, complete with annoying looking clothes and hairstyle, spewing stale "cowabunga man!" type crap. HATE that.

To be fair, Lewis's kid from the future wasn't exactly like that, but his appearance and the way he was introduced didn't quite work. I'm sure there could have been a way for the older Goob to sabotage Lewis 's project, and then for Lewis to somehow figure things out and then follow Goob into the future (he was a genius after all, wasn't he?). Then, in the future, he could have made a cool friend (his son) and go about discovering his wonderfully strange family (the Robinsons were quite fun I must admit).

The movie had a solid theme: "keep moving forward". It went very nicely with the idea of Lewis getting over the fact that he was abandoned by his mother (in a sense, him not approaching his mother was a way of letting HER keep moving forward too) and with Goob getting over messing up that baseball game, and his bullied childhood (yeah, I loved the way that subject was very carefully touched upon, too).

You know, looking over what I've written so far, I think I actually liked Meet the Robinsons more than I thought. OK, maybe I did. But I think I fell in love with the POSSIBILITIES of it more than the actual movie.

Cuz like I said, the audience squirmed a lot. There were some really annoying "let's put this scene in so we could sell the video game/ride/dolls. Ugh. And though I'm not the type to ever suggest a movie should be dumbed down for a kid, I did think the plot was pretty convoluted, and having all the future characters revealed only at the very end did a disservice to the little ones. I think they would have understood the villain better if they knew it was Goob from the get-go. Same goes for the Lewis-meets-his future-son thing. Sure, time travel is pretty heavy stuff anyway, but why make it even harder for them to get it? And I mean, they've all heard of that stuff, and may have even seen Back to the Future. I just think the story would have worked better if the characters were clear from the very beginning, although the element of surprise actually did work for the minor characters, like Lewis's future wife and parents. That was actually very nice, sort of Wizard of Oz in that, when he goes back to the past, you see all these familiar faces and you're like, "Oh, YEAH, cool!"

Well like I said, the movie wasn't bad, but definitely works better as a could have been than what actually was. And by the way, I asked my nephew what he thought of the film, and his review was "I really liked the dog!" There you go.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Julio Iglesias, Mike Tyson and Blades of Glory

We bought tickets to "Blades of Glory" with plenty of time to kill, so Daniel and I headed on down to Amoeba Records to buy some tunes. As usual, I marched straight to the Easy Listening LP's, hoping against hope to find the elusive "Hey!" album by Julio Iglesias. And this time, it was there!

I've been looking for that LP for YEARS. Finally, it is mine, to be framed and displayed in some prominent place in my home.

Why on earth would I do that, you ask? Because the cover is PRICELESS. If you haven't seen it, I'll describe:
Picture a full-on headshot of the marvelous Julio in all his sunburned glory, complete with Neil Diamond-ish hair and perfect white blocky teeth peeking from a come-hither smile. Then, right next to his mouth, is the word "Hey!" as if he's sittin right next to you at the Electic Q in Juarez.


It's wonderful, trust me. As a true cheese connoisseur, I know of what I speak.
So anyway, as we headed back to the theatre, Julio safely wrapped up in a bag under my arm, I figured the day couldn't get any better than this.

Oh, but I was wrong!

Seated just in front of us and to the right was none other than Mike Tyson, tattoo faced and all!

As the lights dimmed and the film began, I took the movie in with a different perspective. I couldn't help but think that I was watching it with Mike.

I mean, to all of us, this was a comedy. To him, it must have been a sort of inspiration. Was he thinking, in that little brain of his, such thoughts as "maybe I should get in the ring with a girl!"

I dunno. But the Chaz character became a symbol of Mike Tyson for me. You know, this kid from the wrong side of the tracks that makes it against all odds, then eventually loses it due to bad behavior in the ring (or... uh, RINK).

On that end, although the movie was pure joy, I thought it could have explored this angle a little more. Like..
1. I would have liked more of a father-son bond between the coach and Chaz. It was obvious they connected. It would have been sweet to see some man hugs between those two. He'd never had a coach, and the coach had never been appreciated. Both had dreams of glory... they were a perfect match. The love was THERE.

2. Same for Jimmy and his rich dad. Some of their backstory, including the other Drago-like athletes he had adopted would have worked. I'd love to have seen their little family reunion. It would have been a good opportunity to make fun of those trendy Mia Farrow-Angelina Jolie bullshit "families" (I mean, COME ON, do you REALLY believe they'll all get along when they get older, and they'll spend their days sitting around all U.N.-style, holding hands and singing Kumbaya or whatever?). It would have been fun to see them all together.

3. WHERE THE HELL WAS TONYA HARDING?!!! I kinda thought that when Chaz was explaining all his tattoos, he would point to the biggest one and say something about how that represented his true love, "the one that got away", and there would be some flashback to the torrid love affair he'd had with Tonya, and how they split up because she didn't skate fair or something. Then, in the end when the blond chick throws her pearls on the rink, Tonya could appear and kick her ass, then go flying into Chaz's arms. Somehow, I got the sense the writer's had thought of this, but for whatever reason they were unable to find her or something.

Oh well. The movie was pretty good, on the whole. Coulda been better, though.

I wonder what Mike thought?

Good ole Mike Tyson. Whenever I see "Blades of Glory" on its endless future TNT re-runs, I'll always think of him...
And Julio Iglesias.


Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Borat- Cultural Learnings of America to Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan

Yeah, I'm a hype-whore, so of course I went to see Borat- Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan. Actually, I remember seeing a preview months ago, before I knew anything about it, and thinking I'd see it just for the title (it's perfect, isn't it?) That and the thong.

The movie was really fun. Squeamy, uncomfortable fun. I felt, while watching it, much the way I feel when I'm in Vegas and I see people way more drunk than I am. You know, like suddenly someone is naked peeing on the carpet or something, and you laugh cuz that shit is FUNNY, but it also makes you feel kinda bad. Like, you KNOW some poor maid is gonna have to clean up the piss later, and SHE won't think it's anything to smile about.

But anyway, I guess now that some of the people in the movie are embarrassed or suing or whatever, I can kinda feel for them. They're not movie stars or anything, and I'm sure whatever they signed off on wasn't like the reality show people's contracts. They're the maids that have to clean up the piss. Not exactly a cool position to be in. And all because they didn't know how to deal with a caricature. Know what I mean?

I guess my take on the movie is how odd manners are, and how polite Americans are, for the most part. I think one of the major reasons the people in that movie come off so strange is that they're trying, you know, TO BE NICE. In our crazy multi-cultural society, we're all taught to not judge other cultures. So OK, yeah, the people in the movie come off as pretty stupid for actually thinking that someone like Borat would be acceptible in some other country. Condescending, even. I can see that. But I still felt kinda good about that chick that tried to teach him how to use the toilet. I don't know, I just did. And I had to grin when I saw the car salesman brush off the "how many gypsies can I kill with this car?" type questions. I mean, we've all been in sales, at one time or another. We've all pretended to smile at some jerk's lame "jokes" just to make a sale.
Come on, man, we're capitalists. You don't have to agree with someone, let alone like someone, to do business with them. It's why we all get to live together the way we do. Otherwise, we'd be back to "Whites Only" or "No Girls Allowed!" or some other crap like that. If anything, I think the movie proved Americans are pretty tolerant, overall. Most of them, anyway.
But I'm getting too political, and that wasn't my point. What I thought was interesting was the whole manners deal. I mean, really, what would YOU do if you had to deal with someone like Borat, like at work or something? I must sheepishly admit I'd probably just nod half-assed to whatever he was saying and then get the hell away, like much of the people in the movie. And yeah, if I was on the subway and he tried to kiss me on the cheek, I'd probably push him away and run off too.

Wouldn't you?

Tuesday, March 13, 2007


Now, as you know, I'm totally into 70's movies. So in a way, it's like this movie cheated by looking EXACTLY like all the movies I love.

It was pretty uncanny. The film got the feel and the mood DOWN. I mean they even got the lighting and the colors right. And the long, dragging moments when nothing seems to happen except this general blah sort of deal. And not to be all un-PC or whatever, but I like the fact that it was all sort of sexist, without any major female characters or women with any kind of authority walking around the office. I don't know, it just seems like movies now a days go out of their way to make things all PC regardless of the time or event the movie is supposed to be covering, and it sort of makes everything fake (I mean, did you notice how in Pearl Harbor no one was smoking? What the fuck? Have you SEEN movies of that time? Or rather, could you even see anything through that thick cloud of smoke? Give me a BREAK...) Bottom line, a major female character would have added all that romantic tension crap, and sometimes that's just not where you want to go.

(On that note, though, Chloe was amazing. In one little move of her eyebrow, that girl said all that needed to be said on how the females in that story were feeling. So there!)

But anyway, back to the review. In a way, I thought this was a true horror film. There's this shady monster that you never quite see, and he does these unspeakably evil things (the stabbing scene, there in broad daylight without the camera once moving away was one of the ugliest, if not THE ugliest murder scene I've ever had to sit through) and he never gets caught. And it was also a classic vampire movie, because Zodiac manages to suck the life out of all the major characters.

I really wish more directors approached horror in this angle. I mean, in literature, it's done all the time. If you read short horror stories, you'll notice what's scary about them is what you'd least expect. I mean, "scary" doesn't have to be some hairy monster running around amidst out of tune violin scratches. Sometimes the scariest thing could be something as simple as looking in the mirror and not recognizing the thing that's staring back at you.

I think that was the point of Zodiac. Not bad, all in all.