the holiday double assault of The Family Stone and
Rumor Has It didn’t finish you off or at least have
you stabbing your eyes out with a straw a few months back,
you were one of the lucky ones—at least if you were aware
of the pain you avoided. One of my friends intentionally boxed
his own ears and sprayed his wife’s perfume in his eyes to
blind himself an hour into The Family Stone. He held
out as long as he could, but Sarah Jessica Parker was just
too much for him. He was a tough bastard, but he choked on
his own tongue ten seconds into the trailer for Failure
Sarah Jessica Parker’s science-experiment-gone-wrong face
doesn’t raise a red flag that you should hit the bricks or
get on a sign-up list for a mass suicide then you deserve
what comes to you. Of course with Matthew McConaughey’s scummy
appeal in the mix it’s sure to be a crowd pleaser. He plays
a guy who still lives with his parents and Parker plays the
dingbat wackadoo who thinks she’s going to be the one to change
him. Yeah, yeah—a laugh riot in the purest sense of the words.
to Launch is the kind of movie that single girls who work
in offices go to see together after shopping at the mall and
they’re too stuffed after eating at Friday’s—even though they
got salads for starters. They go apeshit when they hear “My
Humps” by the Black-Eyed Peas and are searching for
the Holy Grail better known as that perfect pair of jeans.
You know—the ones that minimize the dick rest/pooch/puffy
underbelly right above the fine china, if you know what I
mean. If Hillary runs for president, they’re definitely voting
for her and in their eyes Sleepless in Seattle is the
best movie of all time. The newest issue of Cosmo is always
on the nightstand next to that Danielle Steele book their
mothers lent them.
never shave above the knee for a first date and whenever their
sister has a kid, they talk about it as if they were the ones
squeezing it out. Near their entertainment center you can
always find a stack of underutilized workout videos. The red,
ladybug Volkswagens they drive all have the flowerpot on the
dashboard and if they get a chain e-mail that promises they’ll
find true love by midnight, they always send it out to everyone
in their address book. And there’s always at least two cats.
if you can find one reason to see Failure to Launch,
you’ll have that kind of madness to wade through. This is
in addition to a total lack of comic timing and attractive
co-stars. We’ve got sassy parents and the Time-Life book of
clichés working overtime to compensate for a dull story that
has to resort to animal bites (dick jokes for chick flicks)
for laughs. And the standard 90-minute romantic comedy running
time of your life you will never get back.
Hills Have Eyes
biggest problem I have with remakes of classic horror movies
is that they always feel the need to explain everything. A
few years back when The Texas Chainsaw Massacre was
remade, the filmmakers couldn’t merely accept that a 7-foot
lunatic was chasing a girl around with a chainsaw. Nooooooooo—we
had to explain why he was doing it. Maybe I’m alone
on this one, but if someone’s wearing a mask of human flesh
and dressed like a Mormon, chasing me down to kill me, I’m
not stopping to wonder why.
scares me about The Hills Have Eyes is not its characters,
its bizarre situations, the convenient if not unimpressive
explanations for said situations, its poorly-written characters,
or even the fact that it’s a remake. Hell, seeing a classic
horror film remade this point is like having your dipshit
older brother jumping at your from around a corner with a
grotesque rubber mask every five minutes on his breaks from
his masturbation marathon on a Saturday night. If the rhythm
and redundancy of his actions never tipped you off, the smell
of Jergen’s and cheap rubber did.
we’re watching a remake of a film whose main novelties were
its shoestring budget, B-movie sensibility, and bizarre cast.
Not to mention a budding director named Wes Craven. And it
offered no explanation whatsoever as to why this family of
screwheads were tormenting the picture-perfect American family.
Aside from that, the original Hills Have Eyes really
had nothing going for it. Oh, and Michael Berryman. The tall,
freaky bald-headed fellow that you can see on the cover of
Hills Have Eyes was never meant to be a slick movie. It’s
supposed to be a wrinkled t-shirt as opposed to a well-pressed
dress shirt. Like a talented designer, working for and laying
out a nutrag of a paper where 99% of its staff haven’t realized
they’re not as interesting as they think they are, getting
let go when the weight of her talent and general smoothness
threatens to collapse said publication. A week later, the
paper spunks out.
Got lost there for a minute. Grieving for weasels and M-80s
in purple plastic boxes throws your reality off considerably.
you’re writing a thesis on the old vs. new versions of The
Hills Have Eyes, I can’t think of a reason to see the
new version. At least not voluntarily.
say you get an idea and, all good intentions aside, it turns
out to be a really bad one. An idea for a derivative action
movie so bad that not even the svelte and well-chiseled carcass
of your leading lady/star can save the day. It’s always an
action movie. Sometimes the actress in question claims she’s
doing it for fun, but in the case of Ultraviolet’s star
Milla Jovovich it’s turning into a life sentence of sci-fi/action
presuming you’ve had it up to here with tales of hot kung-fu
mutants and corporate cover-ups. Charlize Theron did it a
few months back with Aeon Flux and she was present
at the Oscars with a look of denial on her face that gave
every indication that she didn’t star in that war crime, let
alone ever hear of it. If the only reason you see movies of
this nature is to see hot chicks in tight or skimpy outfits
and a few asses kicked, you got what you came for. You dropped
a few shots of baby batter before you fell asleep that night
and you got what you wanted. You weren’t expecting the world.
there are those of us who were burned before, and if we don’t
wise up will get burned again. There’s a faint glimmer of
hope that this rusty rollercoaster we’re about to hop on will
actually be enjoyable. Maybe that’s a fatal mistake on our
part. The smart ones know to steer clear of turkeys such as
Ultraviolet and Aeon Flux—and Cat Woman and
Tomb Raider and Electra and Resident Evil—
if they’re not looking for entertainment that should be packaged
in grease-repellent wax paper. But there are those who just
can’t stay away from crap, especially if it flows to a stock
reminds me of a trip I recently made to Taco Bell with Tom
Maccio. He was hungry, we were low on funds, and it was conveniently
nearby. We filled up for a reasonably meager sum, but were
both overcome with a persistent loaginess that actually made
us call the establishment and ask what opiate additives they’re
seasoning the refried beans with these days. As a result,
we shared maybe two or three minutes worth of conversation
for the rest of the day. That’s the same feeling that Ultraviolet
left me with. After all its empty calories and two-dimensional
characters, Ultraviolet didn’t leave me with the overwhelming
urge for self-familiarity, but rather a libido-killing self-loathing
that could potentially win me a lawsuit.
Chappelle’s Block Party
going to start off by mentioning that I am a huge fan
of “Chappelle’s Show.” I love how he’ll take shots at every
race, color, and creed—even his own. The comedy’s edgy in
that oh no he di’nt kind of way and doesn’t give you
too little or too much of a good thing. Unless Comedy Central
decides to rerun the same twenty some-odd episodes ad nauseum,
leaving you with the ability to recite them verbatim in your
a surefire sign that we’re going to have to wait even longer
for the third season of “Chappelle’s Show,” we
are offered Dave Chappelle’s Block Party—a mishmash
of Chappelle’s stand-up and numerous musical performances
by artists such as Mos Def, Kanye West, Talib Kweli, The Roots,
Erykah Badu, Jill Scott, Dead Prez, Bilal and the reunited
Fugees. With a lineup like that combined with a roughly 90-minute
running time, you can tell that Chappelle isn’t doing this
gig in the name of selfish self promotion.
Block Party is is exactly that—a block party. Or more
to the point, a documentary about a block party. Director
Michel Gondry (who is definitely a better visual storyteller
than a documentarian) takes us through every stage of the
party. There’s laughing, music and drunk people. I think I
saw a dice game happening at one point.
you love Chappelle, all the artists previously mentioned,
and a disorganized manner of telling the story of a reasonably
disorganized party, you’re going to love Dave Chappelle’s
Block Party. However, if you’re used to a more linear
documentary, couldn’t care less about the lineup and only
want to see the comedy, then skip it. The comedy’s definitely
funny, but if you’re going to hold your breath through some
great musical performances for it, you’re probably going to
be disappointed. Otherwise, go for it. Bitches.
as much fun as being a film critic is, it’s just like any
other job. There are those days that you just absolutely
do not under any circumstances want to get out of bed
and do it. It’s an abhorrent prospect that can sully the whole
thing for you quicker than you can say drunken cop with
a sinister porn star moustache. Which brings us to 16
Blocks. I saw the preview a couple months back and after
watching the feature length film, I felt like I was moving
in slow motion. I wasn’t under the influence in any way, shape
or form (well, not really)—the decision to see this movie
was a bad one because I saw the proverbial fire, headed toward
it and immersed myself in it face first.
the story of yet another burned out cop played yet again by
the burned out Bruce Willis. He’s a lush, of course. And of
course he decides to take a moral high ground by fighting
a bunch of dirty cops who want to kill the speed freak chatterbox
of a prisoner played by Mos Def. After seeing the whole movie,
it’s probably because he was sloshed. And he’s got 2 hours
to get the detainee… 16 Blocks. Wow. Wowee, indeed.
And don’t even think of leaving out the twist ending that
makes the formula all come together so typically.
I emerged unscathed. Not because I was saved by low expectations
or free passes, even. Probably because I took advantage of
one of the few perks this gig offers—every day can be Bring
Your Friend To Work Day. And why not? Why should I have to
suffer through this daunting mediocrity alone? Share the blame,
delegate the suffering. Even Atlas shrugged for crissakes.
Charlie pops into my life unexpectedly every ten years and
disappears just as oddly as she appeared. The last I heard
of The Dear Captain, she vanished after placing a stiletto
heel into the temple of a Nine West manager who wouldn’t let
her return a pair Manolo Blahniks. That one’s got a temper.
Captain Charlie is what Gwen Stefani would look like if she
didn’t dress like a mentally disabled thirteen year-old and
sound like Kenny G scraping his nails against a blackboard
and playing his entire catalog while suffering from amnesia.
She acts like a mellow Tony Soprano—not in the traditional
goomba way but because she can get kind of scary and she’s
got a touch of sociopath to her. She’s got an energy to her
that can suck you in against all better judgment, for good
or evil. And if you’re not smart, you could wind up hitchhiking
home from three states away. Don’t ask why she’s called Captain;
it’s better not to. I have no idea anyway.
whipped up dogs woke me up when she rang the bell that March
afternoon and Captain Charlie said she’d been reading what
I’ve been doing. She wanted to know if half the crazy shit
I’d written about actually happened and wanted to come along
for a ride. We got into her Escalade. She cracked open a bottle
of Grey Goose and took a swig, passing me the bottle when
she was done.
what are we gonna see anyway?” The Captain asked.
Blocks. That Bruce Willis one,” I answered as I brought
the bottle to my lips.
that,” she said as she grabbed the bottle before I could even
smell its contents. She swigged for a good ten seconds before
assertively placed the bottle to my chest and reached into
the glove box. She grabbed two Cubans and handed me one.
Christ,” she mildly exclaimed. “Nothing else up?”
Charlie explained that she had a stop to make and asked if
I ever drove anything “like this” before. I told her no, but
I used to drive so recklessly that my former insurance company
once set a tail on me after receiving several complaints.
That was good enough for her.
drove to a part of town I’d never been to and couldn’t ever
hope to find again. There were a lot of industrial buildings
with barbed wire fences and security gates we had no problems
getting past. When we got to the… stop, she explained to me
that I need to keep it running and not to touch the presets
on her radio. She wasn’t gone more than five minutes and when
she returned she had a leather backpack slung over her shoulder
and an upset look on her face. She looked down at her hand
as she rubbed her fingers together in concern. She got back
in the truck, threw the satchel in the back and quickly dumped
what I could have sworn were crimson-stained brass knuckles
in the glove box as she told me that it would be in our best
interest if we got the hell out of there Now.
knew better than to ask Captain Charlie too many questions
on the way to the show. Especially when she came back to a
$60,000 vehicle and ditched a solid steel uglymaker under
the dash. Because I drive like an asshole in vehicles that
don’t belong to me, we got to the theater a little too early
for my taste. And hers.
admired Captain Charlie because she had the balls to do at
theaters and in social situations what so many of us don’t.
For instance, the kids who sat in front of us with the baseball
hats and liked to swear because their parents weren’t around.
She let it go for a little while until they started throwing
bitch and the dreaded c-word around. She stood
up and rested her hands on their headrests.
this isn’t the locker room. Lose the hats and watch the language,
please. There’s a lady present and you’re blocking our view,”
don’t see no lady,” the one said before turning around and
looking over at me. “Oh! Your girlfriend doesn’t like the
word bitch?” he asked her. “Is your bitch gonna cry?”
Captain quickly jabbed him lightly at the bottom of his throat
with her index and middle finger, then slamming his head into
the headrest in front of him. Then she crammed her knuckles
behind his jaw, just beneath his ear. Little bastard actually
started crying. She held his head and asked who was the bitch
now. If he wasn’t gagging, he was squealing that he was, he
was. She grabbed the hat off the injured one’s head and flung
it into the garbage can at the bottom of the stairs.
could tell Captain Charlie was getting agitated throughout
the film, even though she managed to scare off the ushers.
Maybe it was Mos Def’s jerky performance. Maybe it was seeing
Bruce Willis take the same shit in the same phone book and
calling it a pizza for the hundredth time in a row. I gave
up on paying attention to the movie. I could tell by the cues
the plot was taking that it would all be over soon and I asked
for just 15 free and clear minutes.
came about eight seconds later. She grabbed my hand (it hurt)
and stood up, whisking me down the stairs and out the door.
I followed like forced prom date to the back of a dirty VW
van—scared look and all. She stomped briskly, her head scanning
the scene for the navy blue blazer and gold name tag that
said manager. I felt sorry for the poor bastard that
ran this joint, and had nothing whatsoever to do with the
making of 16 Blocks. Charlie spotted the authoritative
garb and bee-lined right at him.
you doing?” she asked.
the middle-aged man smiled, taken off-guard. He noticed the
look of violation on my face that had either already taken
place or was about to. “Enjoy the show?”
enjoyed it the first time I saw it. But that was about twenty
years ago and it had a different name,” she smiled diplomatically.
sorry to hear that,” the theater manager offered. He was at
a loss as to what to say. Movie theater management training
school had in no way prepared him for Captain Charlie.
look,” The Captain began. “We didn’t stick around for the
whole thing, we gave it a fair shot and this clearly was not
Mr. Willis’ shining hour. Richard Donner is a better producer
at this point in his career than a director. No offense to
you personally, but we just want the money back. It was a
sorry,” the manager began after collecting his thoughts for
a few moments. “But I can’t just refund your money because
you didn’t like the movie. If the projector went down or—”
I jumped in on the verge of a nervous breakdown. “Just do
as she asks. She doesn’t respond well to defiance.”
manager looked at me. I couldn’t tell if it was a look of
fear or pity on his face and I don’t know if it was for me
or himself. Charlie was still on the edge.
me,” the manager said with feigned composure after a brief
deliberation with himself.
The Captain got her money back, she made the wise choice to
drive the mammoth SUV. She asked how I was doing and said
I looked a little pale. I shrugged it off to rock gut nachos
and lackluster performances. She dropped me off and said she
was leaving town that night. There was a fear that was equally
mixed with exhilaration in my day with Captain Charlie. As
I laid on the couch upon returning home, I wondered when she’d
strike again with impromptu visit/assault on my nerves and
blood pressure. She’s a rare and maniacal bird that Charlie