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Showing posts from June, 2005

News flash to Tom Cruise fans: The Li'l Emperor Has NO CLOTHES!

It's been curiously satisfying for me to see Tom Cruise flame out in public lately, mostly 'cos I've never liked his work. Sure, he's Tinseltown's ultimate Good Employee, the slick glad-hander who goes to work early, stays late, and never fails to cluck on ad nauseum to the press about how hard he works. But ever since I saw Cruise's rodent-toothed mug in 1981's Taps , something about the guy's never quite sat right with me. His disingenuous fratboy grin and his ass-kissy palm-greasing interview behavior always made me want to jab knitting needles into my skull; he always seemed to be concealing something scary, or empty, or both. So his recent psychotic episodes were damned funny, but no surprise to me. My biggest issue with Cruise isn't his current leap into Lalaland. It's his gallery of studied but patently soulless performances that makes me wanna jab knitting needles into his skull--hard--if only to see if he'd react with something

Undisputed Classic Time: Gone with the Wind

The last time I'd viewed the 1939 Best Picture Oscar winner, Gone with the Wind , I was in high school (that was long, long ago, kids). I loved it. But in the ensuing years, other, more esoteric and (yes) more intellectually substantial films entered my life. I also read a lot of revisionist film criticism dismissing (or outright deriding) GWTW as glossy, overwrought mainstream piffle. A coating of dust settled over my fond memories of the film. And by the time the missus purchased the deluxe four-disc DVD edition of Gone with the Wind last month, that coating of dust had calcified into a jaded crust. The day after the Gone with the Wind DVD arrived via mail order, I popped the movie into the player, intending to give it only a minutes' cursory glance to ascertain the discs' working condition. I had my cynical grown-up pants on, and wasn't gonna waste more than a minute of my evening on the movie. It was 8:30pm on a weeknight. Before we knew it, it was 12:30am, and

DIG: Insert your own bad pun here

Don't let the media or major labels tell you otherwise. Spinal Tap hit it spot-on; Rock and roll is, most of the time, really frickin' ridiculous. Ondi Timoner's documentary DIG (out on DVD now) acknowledges this, even as it crafts--through that documentarian's combination of sharp observation, editing, and plain old luck--something much greater than the sum of its post-modern parts. DIG follows the course of two rock bands--The Dandy Warhols and The Brian Jonestown Massacre--over seven years. One outfit rises to a level of some prominence and financial success, while the other band shoots itself in the foot repeatedly with its self-destructive tendencies. Timoner begins her film in 1995, when Anton Newcombe, the BJM's lead singer/principal songwriter, and Courtney Taylor (the Dandies' frontman and resident mastermind) meet for the first time. Newcombe and Taylor become fast friends and mutual fans. In the first few minutes Newcombe shares the lead-off track

Batman Begins: Refreshingly Un-crappy

Batman Begins opened yesterday to a big-ass overnight box office total (I think it was somewhere in the gazillions), and yours truly joined the throngs of moviegoers who contributed to the film's take. As much as any other geek worth his or her salt, I dig the Caped Crusader. Batman's human foibles (no superpowers, vengeful chip on shoulder, blah, blah) make him one of my superhero faves, and the character offers ripe and rich fodder for a really phenomenal screen treatment (Hell, the lure of Batman even ensnared cinema master Orson Welles, whose plans for a big-budget Batman feature in the mid-'40's toppled into the Realm of Unwrought Things). The big motivator for me to join the long line for the new Bat-saga was Christopher Nolan, the gifted young director who helmed one of the best films of the '90's (or maybe ever)--the modern film noir Memento . I'd hoped that Nolan's presence behind the camera on Batman Begins would remove the foul stench of

Petri Dish 101: Tom Jones, God of Pump

It's Tom Jones's birthday today, and what better way to celebrate than by giving my faithful readership (both of you are the greatest!) a Petri Dish 101 crash course on the man's work? You need to take out a mortgage to buy tickets to your average arena/big-deal venue show, and it cost me a king's ransom ($80+, each! Ay yi yi...) to score Tom Jones tickets recently. Normally I balk and rail against such obscene admission rates. But Jones (who struts into Seattle's Paramount Theatre on June 18) is one of the few artists who's a bargain at twice that price. Tom Jones is a unique pop culture alloy; old-school crooner, soul shouter, furry-chested lounge lizard/kitsch icon, and all-around sex god, all rolled up into one iron-lunged, larger-than-life package. He's old enough to qualify for Social Security benefits, but can still tear the roof off the sucka at age 65. Born in Ponty Prith, Wales on June 7, 1940, Jones came of age musically in the mid '60'

BERSERK!: More fun than a barrel of (circus) monkeys

Producer Herman Cohen bankrolled a whole tassel of extremely entertaining B flicks throughout the '50's, '60's and '70's. From I Was a Teenage Werewolf to the hilarious Thai Jaws rip-off , Crocodile , you could always count on tasty, cheesy fun when Cohen's name was attached. One of the producer's strangest creative partnerships arose at the tail end of the '60's, when screen legend Joan Crawford signed on for two Cohen productions. 1967's Berserk! (don't forget that exclamation point) and 1970's Trog ended up being two of Crawford's final features. With titles like those, you know you're not broaching Merchant-Ivory territory, friends. Trog is the most fondly remembered of the two. It features Crawford playing anthropologist/nursemaid to a Neanderthal man (sporting the sixth-most ridiculous ape mask in cinema history) who's been discovered in a subterranean English cavern. It's an absolute kick, fifty-thousan

Petri Dish 101: Hammer Films

This is for my east coast pal Jasper, who's looking for some background and recommendations on Hammer Films. Simply put, there would be no British horror cinema without Hammer Studios. This small independent movie company was formed in the early '30's, initially financing and producing budget B pictures in various genres for almost two decades before strategy and fate intersected to make Hammer a buzzword for chills, and a formative influence on the modern horror film. In 1955 the company released The Creeping Unknown , a solid science-fiction thriller based upon the popular BBC radio and TV character, Professor Quatermass . In the movie, Quatermass (played by US character actor Brian Donlevy) observes a young astronaut (Richard Wordsworth) who's returned from a space mission and is gradually mutating into, well, something creeping and unknown. This inexpensive but very effective genre exercise made considerable jack for the young studio, and an equally successful Qua