The Matador

If you go back and do a little homework, youíll find thereís a strong connection between actors playing iconic figures and failing careers afterward. Look at anyone whoís played Superman. Have you seen Michael Keaton do anything good lately? How about anyone who ever played James Bond? Oh sure, Sean Connery managed to step outside the shadow after about a decade or so Ė there are always exceptions. But when the brainiacs at MGM shitcanned Pierce Brosnan as Bond and replaced him with a guy whoíd be better cast as a Nazi officer in a prequel to Schindlerís List, they pushed Brosnan off the plank to either sink or swim.

And if The Matador is any indication of Brosnanís swimming prowess, the man has no worries. He plays a hitman whoís losing his edge, and Greg Kinnear plays a businessman years into a run of bad luck. While both on business, they become friends after a few awkward conversations. What could have easily turned into yet another sorry buddy movie completely sidesteps the possibility by infusing its characters with such bizarreness and dropping them into situations so random that you canít avoid laughing.

In addition to demented humor, The Matador is also a very clever character study into what makes a psychopath tick. Brosnanís character admits to being a psychopath and the way his character unravels is also the result of good choices and a great script thatís every bit hilarious and edgy as it is witty. Greg Kinnear and Hope Davis also turn in performances that turn on a dime, going from straight to wounded to offbeat. But make no mistake, this is Mr. Brosnanís show.

For as much as I thought Brosnan was the best Bond since Connery, heís pretty much been playing the role of either a spy, a thief or some variation thereof for the last 20 years. Admittedly, a hitman isnít too far off, but at least the manís proved heís capable of more than making soccer moms wet. Heís also delivered his best role ever. Including James Bond.


Brokeback Mountain

In reading this review you may expect to read certain words. Fag may be one of them. Backyard drilling, ass banditry, butt pirates, felching, canned goods, tops & bottoms, pitcher & catcher, friends of Dorothy, down low, water sports, snow monkeys, donkey punchingByou get the idea. You may even expect me to refer to this film as Bareback Mountain or Brokeass Mountain. But Iím not going to.

For one, thereís no point. You canít turn on a talk show without hearing a Brokeback Mountain joke of some kind. Itís pretty redundant and not even that funny anymore. Although it was pretty funny when at a Q & A in Kansas someone asked George W. Bush if he saw the movie and he said no, but he could talk about ranching.

The fact of the matter is for a movie about a 20-year relationship between two cowboys, Brokeback Mountain isnít gay. Or at least not that gay. This is coming from a guy whoís been to a few drag shows, politely turned down a few propositions from men, has a few gay friends and delivers copies of this paper to the stretch of gay bars on Allen every other Thursday. The thought of two men kissing or going at it neither repulses nor does anything for me.

Maybe itís the steady diet of liberal media talking here, but what the hellís the big goddamn deal? Two guys work on a mountain herding sheep one summer. Itís a cold night, theyíre sleeping in the same tent, wake up horny in the middle of the night and go for it. Jobís done, they go their separate ways, and each gets wrangled into a subsequently miserable marriage thatís somehow bearable as long as thereís a trip to the mountain on the horizon.

But what does put me off is a movie thatís consistently depressing from beginning to end. The whole white trash ainít-never-had-me-no-education and otherwise thoroughly dismal setting didnít exactly suck me in. The forbidden love scenario didnít come off as entirely convincing either. Yeah, yeah. Forbidden love isnít supposed to be all chocolate and hookers, but if youíre going to risk getting your ass stomped by a bunch of good old boys canít you at least say I love you?

But then youíre dealing with men after all. Even though they go on Afishing trips@ where the only things they catch are trouser snakes, thereís not too much talking about their feelings. Jake Gyllenhaalís character Jack is definitely the bitch as he eventually gets prissy when Heath Ledgerís character Ennis canít make the summer uh, fishing trip some 20 since they first met.

Contrary to what you may have heard, the sex is not frequent, overbearing or graphic. You see more nudity out of Anne Hathaway and Michelle Williams than you do out of Gyllenhaal and Ledger. This is not to say that Brokeback Mountain is all depression and potential nausea. Thereís a fun and random sequence where Jack and Ennis deal with their respective Thankgivings. And Gyllenhaal grows a sweet cookie duster toward the end of the movie.

If youíre on the fence as far as whether or not to see Brokeback Mountain, donít avoid it because two men ride the hobbyhorse or because it allegedly defames the classic image of the American Cowboy. Thatís a really dumb reason to avoid a beautifully shot film by Ang Lee, one of the best directors working today. If you pass because itís drawn out, morose, and brooding, then those are valid reasons not to see it. Oh, and it doesnít end well. Iíll tell you that right now.


Underworld: Evolution

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I remember that fall day back in 2003. Sucked in by the eurotrash glamour ad campaign of the original Underworld and the excitement of my friend Amanda to see it, we decided that even if all there was to the damn thing was Kate Beckinsale in skin-tight vinyl and some cool special effects weíd be happy. Besides, the idea of vampires fighting werewolves seemed kind of intriguing.

We got one of the two that day. The special effects were indeed special Ė that is, if youíre going by the Corky Thatcher definition of special. Straight-to-video production values and the overwhelming desire to be another Matrix as blatantly phony werewolves took on the weakest representation of vampires ever depicted anywhere. Magnificently powerful creatures were reduced to candy-ass ravers who were going to party party party until Terrible Tuesday hit. And the werewolves were like badly CGIíd pro wrestlers that the producers would believe convincing given the lack of dialogue. It had no drive B no effective buildup that really had you rooting one way or the other. But letís not dwell on the negative.

Letís talk about the then-Miss Beckinsale, before she married the movieís director, Len Wiseman. She looked good, no doubt about that. So do strippers at a strip club before you realize you canít touch and get subsequently bored. She looked slimy through the whole thing and the scowling got old fast. The fuse went out pretty quickly there.

Of course, with any movie of this nature, theyíve got to leave it open for a sequel. I wasnít too scared there, because I thought Underworld a bad movie, but had the potential to be a great implement of torture. Kind of like former Creed frontman Scott Stappís solo albums, or Syd Barrett tribute shows.

But Underworld: Evolution? Ye gods, where was this script two and a half years ago? Itís a brilliant metaphor for the American government today. The vampiric Republicans trying to edge out the Democratic werewolves as their grass roots sensibilities are about to be extinguished. And Beckinsaleís conscience guiding her to do whatís right and just, as she slinks around in black vinyl, telling the vampires, Ayou used to have this. Now you canít.@ Alliances change. The line between good and evil is incredibly blurred. And if you believe a word of this crap you deserve to lose the price of admission for the most unnecessary and pointless sequel in recent history (and Iím including both Matrix sequels in that statement).

The best way I can describe watching Underworld: Evolution is like knowing that youíre going to have a very long and even more trying day ahead of you. Relatives, a 12-hour shift at work... hell, letís throw Christmas Day in there while weíre at it. And youíve got only a bottle of your preferred poison with maybe enough to keep you sane for maybe twenty minutes. Oh, and youíre in a dry county.

So if the end of the original Underworld left you wanting more of a D&D-inspired gothfest, drier than Kafka on the moon, Iím sure you and your Hot Topic wardrobe will be very happy. If youíre slowly moving away from the idea but you still want to see vampires fight werewolves, I suggest watching American Werewolf in London and throwing those Anne Rice books you havenít read in ten years at the TV. Ohhh! That werewolf looks pissed! What are you going to do now Lestat?


Glory Road

Well itís January. And in the world of the local cineplex, that means its time for an inspirational, based-on-a-true story sports tale of underdogs overcoming all obstacles and never wavering in the face of adversity. Coach Carter, Remember the Titans, Friday Night Lights. Are bells and whistles going off yet? If youíve seen them, youíve seen Glory Road. If you donít care, move along. These arenít the droids youíre looking for.

So why the hell should you bother with Glory Road? I canít give you one good reason. Of course we start with the up-and-coming coach with way too much to prove, who is put in charge of a gang of undisciplined players/students who were never given a chance. Letís not forget the team that always wins that theyíre going up against for the final game, where our heroes will prove their worth and show that they didnít come all this way for nothing.

The (only) thing that I found interesting about Glory Road was how, when a team of predominantly black players was put in for the final game, everyone went batshit like there was some kind of human sacrifice happening on the court. What? Were all the honkies upset because black people found a way out from underneath Whiteyís thumb? The movie takes place in the mid-60s and makes out like discovering that black people can play basketball is akin to the reinvention of fire. Ooh! So what can we expect now? A movie showing that blacks are better athletes?

Look. Iíve already reviewed this movie about half a dozen times. Aside from the fact that Glory Road threw in a racial aspect as well as the hard-ass coach pushing a bunch of players/students who are good kids, but just need a step in the right direction. Iíve enlisted the help of someone who may have caught something I might have missed. A different perspective, if you want to call it that. A female perspective:

I recently was required to attend a screening of Glory Road as part of a ďTeam BuildingĒ outing with 6 coworkers and my boss. Every once in awhile my boss gets a hair up his butt to try to make us in middle management ďbondĒ so we have better teamwork or something.

Imagine being forced to hang out with the people you work with. Not just the cool people, ALL of the people. The weird, skinny, quiet guy with thick glasses whose pants are too short and who no one really talks to. You know, the guy who won the vote for most likely to come in Friday morning shooting. Then thereís the fat balding dude whose belt length clearly exceeds his height, who sweats like a pig even in January and breathes too hard even when heís been sitting in a chair for two hours. And donít forget the divorced lady who laughs too loud, who has been smoking since she was like 6 years old so her voice sounds like someoneís rubbing her trachea with sandpaper and her teeth are reminiscent of baked beans. How long have you had that cough? 8 years? Eh, Iím sure itís nothing. Oh, and the kiss-ass, that guy you want to punch in the face because not only does he take the job way too seriously, but he does nothing but complain until someone in a position above you is within earshot, and then itís nothing but spineless yes-man-isms and brownnosery. Ya, those guys. You have to be seen in public with these people. As if itís your choice. Take a moment and ponder it. This was my plight the evening of Jan 18th.

The evening started out at Fuddruckerís. There was apparently no consideration given to those of us who donít eat meat. So I had that going for me. After we ate (my salad was okay) we played a game to see who knew the most about our fellow coworkers. We all had to write down a secret talent and then we all had to guess whose was whose. My secret talent? I can beat just about anyone at Tekken 3. Itís true. But no one guessed it right. Anyway, to my complete disgust and chagrin, I won the game by guessing the most correctly. How the hell that happened, I have no idea. I must have a subconscious understanding of the mildly freakish (which also explains my last three boyfriends). My prize B I got to pick out a temporary tattoo my boss had to wear on his forearm all night. I chose a dancing frog. Then I prayed for death.

We then went to the movie. We stood around for a few minutes, all looking mildly uncomfortable, trying to make non-work related small talk. Eventually a few of the guys discovered a mutual love of online computer games, and I quietly slunk into a corner and contemplated the movie I was about to see with these people, and wondered how it was possible that someone still smelled like coffee, even though we hadnít been in the office or near coffee in like 2 hours. Eventually, we went into the movie. Of the eight of us, six were guys. I watched as they all sat down, instinctively leaving the ďIím not gayĒ seat between them. They didnít even talk about it. They all just did it. Iíll never understand that about men. Then the previews started, which I donít remember, because I was heavily immersed in a text message conversation. And then the movie began.

First and foremost, Glory Road is about basketball. I despise basketball. To me, itís three hours of guys running back and forth. Every once in awhile someone falls down, and looks mad. Donít get me wrong; Iím not anti-sports, but for some reason I just canít stand basketball. The movie is based on a true story about the first all-black starting lineup in a college basketball championship game. I probably am missing some of the finer details, but frankly I donít care. The coach was white, some actor whose name I donít know, but he looked vaguely familiar and he was kinda hot. His acting abilities fall somewhere in the range of William Shatner and Bill Pullman. Apparently, in whatever year this movie was supposed to take place in (1950ish?), this all-black lineup was a big deal, and a lot of people were highly against it. This team then went on to win the national championship, and they were all very happy. Hope I didnít ruin it for you. ††††††††

I was apparently supposed to learn something about teamwork from this movie, but frankly all I got from it was how stupid people in the 1950s were, and how uncomfortable it is when youíre forced into social situations with people you could care less about and have virtually nothing in common with. How Iím supposed to use that at my job every day, Iím not sure.

-Jessica

 


Balance, Bias, & Bullshit
"Balanced" news is making you more stupider.
Allan Uthman
Come Frey with Me
Advance excerpt from James Frey's new "memoir."
Chris Riordan
Belly of the Beast
An inexplicable adventure with Al Gore.
Ian Murphy
Planet of the Apes
The promise of an animal society.
The Monkey
Ask an NSA Spook
He's always listening....
Lighting the Fuse
Stop waiting for Democrats to solve your problems.
Stan Goff
Mad Science
Corruption is threatening science, too.
Kit Smith
Stupor Bowl
Are you ready for some duuuhhh?
Paul Jones
Reader Opinion
Why only one foreign Nation Downtown?


Last Issue: #91

The BEAST 50 Most Loathsome People in America, 2005
Our disturbingly popular annual list of the foulest among us, for a particularly objectionable year.
The Year in Ephemera
Our 2005 Timeline.
Andrew Gullerstein Predicts!
Iron-clad predictions for the new year.
What's Going On
You just don't know, do you?
by A. Monkey
Buh-buh-buh-bye, Sharon-a
What you won't be hearing this week about Ariel Sharon
by Paul Jones
Mine Shaft
Undermining mine safety
by Kit Smith


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