Wednesday, May 14, 2008 

Greed Is Good

Glengarry Glen Ross (1992) "I'd wish you good luck but you wouldn't know what to do with it if you got it."

Alec Baldwin

Boiler Room (2000) "Anybody who tells you money is the root of all evil doesn't fucking have any!"

Ben Affleck

Monday, May 12, 2008 

Break Up To Make Up

As WILD THINGS in my previous post showed us, sometimes the most passionate lovemaking on film starts out with a good tussle...

The Postman Always Rings Twice (1981), "Wait a minute! Wait! Get off. All right, come on. Come on! COME ON!!!"

Jack Nicholson and Jessica Lange

I didn’t see THE POSTMAN ALWAYS RINGS TWICE until 1997, after trading a stack of porn on VHS for some classics on DVD (back then, a brand spankin' new format and VHS, in my eyes, was on its final legs) that a friend had fraudulently acquired but had little use for since he hadn't yet purchased a DVD player (I also got COOL HAND LUKE, DOG DAY AFTERNOON, CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF, ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO'S NEST and a few others). I had heard lots about it, however, and I remember not being able to wait to see this infamous spur-of-the-moment sex scene between Jack and Jessica (somewhat off-topic, one of my best friends from high school went on to marry one of Lange's neices) on the kitchen table of Cora’s diner that was so hot that people often wondered if it wasn’t genuine (and fans of film just loooove those “did they or didn’t they?” moments in cinema). Real or not, you’ll see for yourself that it’s every bit as good as advertised; I wasn’t disappointed. Also, should you ever want to see the movie in its entirety, keep an eye out for a young Boy Scout who, at the time, no one knew would grow up to become a man with a history of violence, future MMA champ Chuck Liddell.

A History of Violence (2005), "Get off of me. Fuck you, 'JOEY'!!! Get off!"

Viggo Mortensen and Maria Bello

Little known fact: A HISTORY OF VIOLENCE is actually a comic book adaptation. That’s right. Written by John Wagner and illustrated by Vince Locke, A History of Violence was a graphic novel released the same year I first saw THE POSTMAN ALWAYS RINGS TWICE, 1997. So when I heard David Cronenberg was set to direct a motion picture based on it starring Viggo Mortensen (and who hasn’t had at least a slight man-crush on LOTR’s Aragorn since this fine example of inhuman Middle-Earth bad-assery?) and Maria Bello (who, since THE COOLER, has always reminded me of a slightly sluttier version of MULHOLLAND DR’s Naomi Watts), I was psyched. I missed it in theaters so I had to wait for the DVD (this movie, ironically, was the final Hollywood motion picture released on VHS...only eight long years after I "predicted" the death of tapes). Of all the reviews I read of this movie before I saw it, I don't recall a single critic mentioning the busted-lip, body-bruising “love” scene between “Tom” and “Edie” that spontaneously jumps off in their stairwell after Viggo's character reveals a long-kept secret to his betrayed wife. It’s certainly worth mentioning. And remembering, as you’ll soon see.

Sunday, May 11, 2008 


BOUND (1996), "Isn't it obvious? I'm trying to seduce you."

Jennifer Tilly and Gina Gershon

WILD THINGS (1998), "You are scared, aren't you?"

Denis Richards and Neve Campbell

MULHOLLAND DR. (2001), "And you don't have to sleep on that couch. This is a huge bed. Come on, just get in and get a good night's sleep."

Naomi Watts and Laura Harring

Saturday, May 10, 2008 

Nowhere Fast? Think Again!

THE MATRIX Trilogy is the Wachowski’s best-known and crowning achievement for a reason. Borrowing liberally from science fiction of all sorts, cyberpunk culture, hacker subculture, video games, comic books, anime, philosophy and religion, The Matrix was a heady, mind-bending amalgam that changed not only the way such stories were told but the way they were shot technically and presented visually. Ever since BOUND, The Wachowki’s have always been cinematic innovators. Well…they’ve done it again.

SPEED RACER is as big and loud as it is bright and shiny. And eye candy? If by some miraculous in vitro abnormality I happened to be born with retinas that were covered in taste buds rather than tiny veins, I’d have gone into sugar shock from the opening sequence alone. The races, which seamlessly blend and blur the lines between live-action and animation but never feel poorly conceived or a case of CGI being overused, will instantly recall an LSD-infused version of the racing game F-ZERO combined with Disney’s TRON and the pod races from THE PHANTOM MENACE, humanly-impossible to navigate twisting neon-lit tracks littered with futuristically-modified Hot Wheels cars being driven by an eclectic bunch of “headhunters, jackals and thugs” better suited for a pro wrestling ring competing for belts and busty valets than trophies and checkered flags. All of this with the most wacked-out “visualization” option you can imagine on your Media Player of choice as the backdrop. The cityscapes are part AKIRA, part Besson’s THE FIFTH ELEMENT and more than anything else, very reminiscent of George Lucas’ STAR WARS prequels. In short, SPEED RACER, with costume design that is almost DICK TRACY-like in its eye-popping-ness and primary colors, is absolutely fuckin’ gorgeous and during its races, you’ll often find yourself with your mouth hanging open, fingertips digging into your arm rest and leaning back in your seat trying to remind yourself to breathe.

Literally chasing his brother’s ghost when the movie opens, “Speed” is the latest driver in the Racer family, which includes his father Pops (John Goodman), his mother Mom (Susan Sarandon), his younger brother Spritle (Paulie Litt) and Spritle’s pet chimp, Chim Chim. So close to the Racers that they are practically family are mechanic Sparky (Kick Gurry) and Speed’s girlfriend, Trixie (Christina Ricci). Throughout this first race a series of flashbacks show how single-minded young Speed was about racing, how he met Trixie and most importantly how his much-admired older brother Rex died doing the very thing Speed loves so much. Impressed by Speed Racer’s uncanny driving skill is the head of Royalton Industries, Royalton (Roger Allam, who you will recognize from V FOR VENDETTA where he played Lewis Prothero “The Voice of London”, a movie rumored to have actually been directed by the Wachowski’s) who sets about wooing Speed to join his team via expensive gifts and a WILLY WONKA-like tour of his factory. When Speed (part neckchiefed Elvis Presley with his oil slick-black pompadour and part James Bond with his tricked-out Mach V car) rejects his offer things turn ugly and Royalton uses his corrupt racing connections in the form of gangster Cruncher Block (John Benfield) to give Speed an eye-opening and difficult lesson in who really controls what happens on the track and the “unassailable might of money.” Desperate to prove Royalton wrong, Speed along with the help of his dark guardian angel “The Harbinger of Boom” Racer X (Matthew Fox) embark on a series of hard-fought, heart-stopping races that will hopefully make Royalton eat his words.

With a voice that effortlessly switches back and forth from booming and authoritative to calm and firm, John Goodman has been America’s dad since he was “Dan Conner” and made being married to obnoxious and overweight loudmouth Roseanne Barr, even fictitiously, look like a do-able task. Playing “Pops” isn’t a tremendous stretch. Susan Sarandon, for her part, also embodies all the qualities of your typical housewife as “Mom” and she puts it all behind the warm and caring face of everyone’s mother or the face everyone’s mother should have; the face that seems to look deeper than just the surface and conveys that she knows you inside out without her uttering a single word of motherly reassurance. Round-faced and saucer-eyed Christina Ricci’s face is practically an anime caricature as is; she appears right at home here saying things like “Cool beans” and “Hubba hubba,” openly doting on her beau. LOST’s Matthew Fox as Racer X was very Aaron Eckhart-ish – handsome and mysterious – behind his black leather, identity-shielding digs. Which brings us lastly to Emile Hirsch (THE GIRL NEXT DOOR, ALPHA DOG) who as the lead and “Speed” Racer isn’t really required to do a ton of heavy-lifting acting-wise, still seems to have learned everything he knows about his craft from watching lots of early Leonardo DiCaprio.

The running time is long, the language was, at times, surprisingly coarse and the story’s a bit heavy for children to handle (talk of corporate sponsorship, the stock market, fixers and villains straight out of the British underworld of a Guy Ritchie movie will likely go over most youngsters’ heads) but the Wachowski’s have done their job in providing the summer its first fun and campy thrill-ride and a visually entertaining spectacle, to boot.

Just like they always have.

Monday, May 05, 2008 

Cast-Iron Casting

Any comic book/movie buff worth his or her salt likely got very excited whenever they first heard that Robert Downey, Jr. would be cast as Tony Stark in this summer’s first legitimate blockbuster, IRON MAN. The idea was a perfect one and it made perfect sense but only to those who know the Tony Stark character AND have followed Downey’s tumultuous career (sadly, the movie version of Tony Stark doesn’t battle his demons of alcoholism in this installment). His talent so prodigious and the parallels in his own life so similar to Stark’s, it was a natural match. But if you had no idea about any of this you could only be excited about that metal CGI warrior flying through the clear blue sky in the trailers and Downey, growing a sculpted goatee like Stark’s, cracking wise as his pretty red and gold suit made things go boom.

Finally, this weekend the world got to see what longtime IRON MAN and Robert Downey, Jr. fans alike have known all along. As Tony Stark, Downey couldn’t more closely resemble the fictitious character in appearance and playboy swagger and now given a grand stage on which to perform, everyone can see his considerable talent, not-so-subtle wit and underappreciated comedic timing on full display, as well. As Ben Stiller (who directed Downey in the upcoming TROPIC THUNDER) said recently, “Finally this summer [Robert] gets to have his cake and let us eat him up all the way to the multiplex.”

By now everyone should be familiar with the story: weapons manufacturer and technological genius Tony Stark, while visiting Afghanistan demonstrating new weaponry for the US military, has his convoy ambushed and in the ensuing fracas is wounded and captured. His captors, in particular a menacing bald baddie with Ghengis Khan-like ambitions, demand that Stark duplicate his technology for him or be killed. Instead, Stark fashions a one-man, weapons-laden scrap-metal calamity (a hulking, iron homage to the Golden Age Mark I suit) and escapes, decimating the lion's share of his tormentors and their entire camp in the process. Once back in the US, having seen the effects his death-dealing has had on the rest of the world, Stark immediately halts Stark Industries' production on any and all military weaponry. However, there are still bad guys out there in the world using his weapons to their own evil ends. But with all the right materials at his disposal at home, Tony can easily fashion a better suit and put an end to that...

Director Jon Favreau (who cameos as one of Tony’s handlers/bodyguards, Hogan) surrounds Downey with an impressive supporting cast (maybe not nearly as impressive as Christopher Nolan’s BATMAN franchise but pretty darn close) that includes HUSTLE & FLOW’s Terrance Howard as Stark’s best friend and Air Force pilot, James Rhodes. Howard, as anyone who has seen the aforementioned HUSTLE & FLOW, CRASH or PRIDE knows, can convey intense and real emotion with the best of them and just through the sheer power and wavering tone of his voice, despite his limited screen time, makes you believe that he and Stark have known and genuinely cared for each other for years (in a nod to Marvel comics continuity, Rhodes slyly glances at a single-color Iron Man suit prototype in Stark’s garage for a moment, teasing perhaps putting it on and joining his best friend on his mission. He smirks: “Next time.” For those who haven’t followed the mythos over the years, Rhodes does in fact don an Iron Man suit of his own and dubs himself War Machine when Stark fakes his own death).

Joining Downey and Howard are Gwyneth Paltrow and Jeff Bridges, Paltrow as Stark’s loyal assistant and sweet near-love interest, Virginia "Pepper" Potts. I’m always impressed when a star as big as Paltrow (her Oscar isn't exactly of the 'Marissa Tomei' variety) is able to put aside whatever reservations they might have to take a smaller role that another actor might consider beneath them (Michael Caine as Alfred, anyone?) and then nail it so pitch-perfectly you can hardly see anyone else in their place. As much as Downey was Stark, Gwyneth was Pepper. People who only know Jeff Bridges as “The Dude” in the Coen’s cult-classic THE BIG LEBOWSKI will hardly recognize him as the bald and bearded Obadiah Stane, the man who ran Stark Industries after Tony’s parents were killed in an automobile accident but had to relinquish control when Tony was old enough to run the business himself. He may smile widely in Tony’s face, dress sharp and accept awards on Tony’s behalf while Tony gambles, drinks and womanizes but beneath all his cigar-chomping “I’m only looking out for your best interest” speeches lies a dangerous nemesis with a whole lot of resentment towards our hero, especially when Tony changes the company’s direction after escaping captivity.

Favreau, shockingly, manages to almost effortlessly put it all together into an immensely entertaining and cohesive package that, while running well over two hours, never feels overly long and certainly never drags. Hell, I felt it ended too soon and I can’t recall the last time I felt that way about a movie of this type with this sort of running time. Thankfully and in a surprise to virtually no one, the door is left wide open for a sequel at the movie’s conclusion, of course. Given this one’s tremendous and various successes, IRON MAN will be hard to top. But in watching the final few minutes I took a long hard look at Paltrow and Downey onscreen together and wondered to myself, “Would I rather see these two again in a few summers or Tobey Maguire and Kirsten Dunst? After suffering through Spider-Man 3?” Please...

Bring on IRON MAN II.

Sunday, May 04, 2008 

"It's Complicated..."

A Messiah complex is a state in which the individual believes him/herself to be, or is destined to become, the saviour of the particular field, a group, an event, a time period, or in an extreme scenario, the world.

I happen to have a Mariah complex. Mariah Milano has, in recent times, proven herself to be, if she chose to, a standout talent in the latina genre. With the help of her model-gorgeous face, her smooth bronze complexion and unmistakable tanlines, not to mention her perpetually-erect and puffy nipples, her scenes have been transcendent and powerful; if no one else’s, she saves MY world from time to time. Based strictly on physical appearance, she's totally my type: it's almost as if it were fate.

The Cassandra complex is a term applied in situations in which valid warnings, predictions or concerns are dismissed or disbelieved.

For months now I’ve lived with the pain of the foreknowledge that Cassandra Calogera is the “future” while having my opinion dismissed as the insane ramblings of a sick porn-addled mind. But in the large natural breast arena I’ve known since I first laid eyes on her, her trademark pout and hypnotizing gaze that Cassandra is The Redeemer and all lesser performers will one day kneel at her feet.