August 2005

Needs More Weed Killer

by Alan Rapp on August 31, 2005

in Movie Reviews 

I’m sure there are people that are going to love this film; I’m not one of them.  Even the strong pefromances from the two leads can’t quite save The Constant Gardener from being both boring and predictable – two words you don’t want to describe a dramatic thriller.

The Constant Gardener
2 Stars

Some novels can be adapted to screen successfully and some cannot.  The Constant Gardener belongs in the second category.  The structure for the movie might work in a novel but here the story just gets bogged down.  The film is oddly spliced together with flashbacks in an attempt to try and make the obvious seem murky and mysterious.  Too bad the end result just makes it look lame.  It’s sad such great leading performances were wasted on such a bad script.

The film begins with the discovery of the body of Tessa Quayle (Rachel Weisz) who has been brutally murdered in the Kenyan countryside.  From there the film moves through flashbacks of Tessa’s life mixed with her husband Justin’s (Ralph Fiennes) attempt to discover why she was killed and what became of her companion Arnold (Hubert Kounde) who has disappeared.  Unwilling to accept the official explanation of Tessa’s death being a result of an affair between Tessa and Arnold who must have killed her in a passionate rage, Justin decides to conduct his own investigation and learns that Tessa’s death wasn’t caused by anything so simple.

Let’s start out with the perfromances which are outstanding.  Fiennes is well chosen for the bitter and remorseful character who will stop at nothing to discover the truth.  Weisz who we only see in flashbacks though is the real heart of the film.  Her character is the only one from the film that is complex and three dimensional and whose feelings and actions have consequences not just to herself but to her husband and the world around her.

Aside from the acting the films problems are numerous.  First off the flashbacks reveal too much of Tessa’s character for the audience not to realize what she really died for and the cause itself can be easily deduced very early in the film.  Second the scenes involving the meeting of the two seem to suggest a relationship of convience which would hardly justify Justin’s odyssey later in the film.  Third the scenes of Tessa’s possible infedelities don’t work because the relationship with Justin isn’t developed far enough and the film is too cavalier in giving away more information than is necessary.  And finally the choice in editing makes the film too helter skielter.  It was obviously chosen to try and hide the extremely simple answer to the “mystery” of Tessa’s death, but not only does it not succeed in covering the truth it only detaches the viewer from the film.

The movie was adapted from the novel by John le Carre and I don’t doubt that the story might make a very good novel where such information and clues can be spaced out over chapters.  In a compacted theatrical version the mystery just doesn’t work.  If Justin knew anything about his wife he would be easily able to deduce what happened to her, but the film tries to make Justin totally oblivious to who his wife was and what she was up to.  The result becomes a series of flashbacks between the two where we learn everything about Tessa while Justin stands there totally oblivous.  If he’s really that dense, how’s he suppossed to solve her murder?

The film just doesn’t work as a thriller because the structure continually takes the viewer out of the story.  The film doesn’t work as a mystery because the reasons for the death can easily be deduced just by learning a fraction of who Tessa was.  The drama doesn’t work because neither the love story nor Tessa’s murder seem enough to push the action of the film that develops into a weak Bourne Identity as Justin becomes an expert on covert tatics, surveillance, and digging for the truth (none of which are needed for this very simple plot).  The film tries every trick it can using red herrings, odd editing, and plot contivances to hide what is essentially rather obvious.

Writings of a B Movie Star

by Alan Rapp on August 29, 2005

in Uncategorized

I was lucky enough to be on a stop for the Make Love the Bruce Campbell Way book tour.  Being the naturally curious sort, I went out and grabbed both books to sneak a peek at how Bruce Campbell’s mind works.  Both are worthy of some serious, well not too serious,  readin’!

Make Love the Bruce Campbell Way / If Chins Could Kill: Confessions of a B Movie Star
4 Stars

I was lucky enough to be on a stop for the Make Love the Bruce Campbell Way book tour.  Being the naturally curious sort, I went out and grabbed both books to sneak a peek at how Bruce Campbell’s mind works.  His first book is the insightful autobiography If Chins Could Kill: Confessions of a B Movie Actor which tells the story of his childhood and his early work on films (Evil Dead) and television (Briscoe County, Jr.).  His new novel Make Love the Bruce Campbell Way effectively demonstrates why Campbell hasn’t worked on more A-list projects.  Both are worthy of some serious, well not too serious,  readin’!

Shhh…nobody tell Nichols, Gere or Zellweger!

Make Love the Bruce Campbell Way

Campbell’s new book is a self deprecating novel about his chance of getting out of B movies and moving onto the A-list.  Although many of the characters in the book are real this is a book of fiction, or as our author states, “everything in this book actually happened, except for all the stuff that didn’t.”  Our lead character Bruce Campbell is given an Oscar caliber supporting role in the new Mike Nichols film Let’s Make Love!  Problems start to arise on the project when despite his best efforts Campbell begins to slowly influence the movie, its director, and its stars with his B movie sensibilities.  He gets Richard Gere interested in doing his own stunt work, he gives some rather humorous suggestions to Rene Zellweger and the costume director, and turns Mike Nichols’ dramatic project into an overspending, cheesy, special effect nightmare of a movie.  The studio of course blames all of this on our hero infecting the project with a “B movie virus.”

Any book that makes me laugh out loud I have to endorse.  The most comical scenes involve Campbell’s preparation and research for his character Foyl Whipple.  A stint as a doorman (Foyl’s profession) is not only disastrous but gets the unwanted attention of the US Secret Service.  Learning about relationships and how to give advice leads him into Lester Shankwater’s van which produces some of the funniest lines of the book as we watch how not to pick up women.  We also get a look at the gentlemen of the South, a stint as a wedding planner, an attack on the movie studio, and some hilarious interaction between Campbell and his co-stars Richard Gere and Rene Zellweger.

Finally an autobiography worth reading!

If Chins Could Kill: Confessions of a B Movie Actor

Usually in biographies of actors you get tales of studying in college or with renowned theatrical types.  What makes If Chins Could Kill so unique is it’s about an average guy who grew up enjoying film and theater, found friends who had similar interests, and set out to make a career as a working actor and would eventually become the B movie king.  None of that method bullshit here.  Campbell gives us some terrific memories of growing up in Detroit and about his early attempts into the world of Super 8mm films such as It’s Murder and The Happy Valley Kid.  He also stops from time to time to allow others to share their remembrances about specific events, including Sam Raimi.  Not too much mind you, this is his book after all; let those other guys get their own book deals!

We get a look at the torturous process of making Evil Dead, which after you read you may wonder how it ever got finished, a look at the sequels and Campbell’s work since then on projects such as Brisco County, Jr. and The Hudsucker Proxy.  For me though the best parts of the book were the anecdotes about his experiences and friendships made through growing up and Detroit and his early filmmaking days.  My favorite of these has to be the gag Campbell plays on his old friend David Goodman that involves a lemon of a car, a mechanic, a few phone calls, and the US Department of Justice.  Folks, friendship can be torture as Campbell himself learned from the evil glee Sam Raimi gets putting him, his friend, in some very hazardous situations while filming.

 

I’d recommend both of these books to fans of Bruce Campbell and fans of movies in general.  The novel is a very funny take on the difference between the A-list and B movies.  The autobiography I would also recommend to anyone interested in how to raise money, make, and market a movie or just how to make some great looking fake blood.  If Chins Could Kill: Confessions of a B Movie Actor is available in trade paperback for $13.95 and Make Love the Bruce Campbell Way is available in Hardcover for $23.95.  So what are ya’ waiting for already?  Get your butts to the bookstore and pick them up, or I might have to get out my Boomstick!

So What’s the Name of Your Act?

by December Lambeth on August 26, 2005

in Movie Reviews 

I feel so dirty for laughing at such a perverse and morally wrong joke. There has been and will be nothing that will ever top this completely disgusting nasty 86-minute laugh off. This film tests every ounce of moral standing you may have in you. The Aristocrats pushes the envelope of dirty gross out humor and makes you want more more more, it is one filthy joke that never ends

The Aristocrats
4 Stars

I feel so dirty for laughing at such a perverse and morally wrong joke. There has been and will be nothing that will ever top this completely disgusting nasty 86-minute laugh off. This film tests every ounce of moral standing you may have in you. The Aristocrats pushes the envelope of dirty gross out humor and makes you want more more more, it is one filthy joke that never ends.

The Aristocrats documents an inside joke that has been passed down from comedian to comedian through out history, like a treasured secret. It starts the same way, “A man walks into a talent agent’s office with his family and says, have I got an act for you and the agent replies, so what do you do?” From that point on it is complete improvisation, usually soaked in shit, pee, incest, vomit, blood and any other possibly horrid thing you could imagine. Each comedian spoon-feeds his or her version of the joke and with each ending it gets funnier and funnier.

The finale, the end of the joke is the agent asking, “So what’s the name of your act?” and the comedian says, “The Aristocrats”. This film is not for the week of heart and if you have a timid demeanor then stay far away, but if you know how to take a joke, GO SEE IT, GO SEE IT NOW!

Be sure to pay close attention to a few outstanding performances by Bob Saget, Gilbert Gottfried, and Sarah Silverman.

The Grim Brothers Grimm

by December Lambeth on August 26, 2005

in Movie Reviews 

Director Terry Gilliam (Time Bandits, Fear and Loathing In Las Vegas, & The Fisher King) has lost his touch after 7 years. Fans will be amused, but a bit disappointed. Given, The Brothers Grimm, is quite eye catching and has some since of humor accompanied with some very very dark moments. When I say dark moments I mean, a little fluffy kitten in a meat grinder and the skinning of a rabbit in detail, all done with a twisted amount of humor of course. But Terry doesn’t give enough, maybe it has to do with being frustrated with corporate meddling and not having the freedom to really express himself.

The Brothers Grimm
1 & 1/2 Stars

Director Terry Gilliam (Time Bandits, Fear and Loathing In Las Vegas, & The Fisher King) has lost his touch after 7 years. Fans will be amused, but a bit disappointed. Given, The Brothers Grimm, is quite eye catching and has some since of humor accompanied with some very very dark moments. When I say dark moments I mean, a little fluffy kitten in a meat grinder and the skinning of a rabbit in detail, all done with a twisted amount of humor of course. But Terry doesn’t give enough, maybe it has to do with being frustrated with corporate meddling and not having the freedom to really express himself.

Set in early 18th century French occupied Germany, The Brothers Grimm follows the tale of 2 hoaxer brothers who go from town to town peddling their ghostbusting talents. Will Grimm (Matt Damon) and Jake Grimm (Heath Ledger) find themselves busted red handed by General Delatombe (Jonathan Pryce) and forced to solve a town’s missing children problem. The General believes that 2 conmen like the brothers are wreaking havoc on the tiny village of Marbaden and threatens Will and Jake’s life to bring this hoax to a stop. Accompanied by the General’s second in command, crazy Cavaldi (Peter Stormare) and enlisting the help of a very beautiful local peasant girl, Angelika (Lena Headey), they head into the enchanted forest. Not finding any pulleys or springboards, the brothers start to question how this is a con and start to believe that the forest has been cursed. Running for safety only to be forced back into the evil place by General Delatombe and his guards to find Little Red Riding Hood and Gretal, plus ten other girls who had been kidnapped, all used to remove the curse of the evil Mirror Queen (Monica Bellucci).

As the story takes shape, Jake spends his time jotting down notes and parts of the story always kept in check by his lady killer brother Will. Will is consistently reminding Jake that their is no such thing as magic beans and to keep his feet on the ground and his head out of the clouds. Jake has the opportunity at the end to prove to his overbearing unbelieving brother that fairy tales can end happily ever after and all it takes is one kiss from true love.

The Brothers Grimm has a set that compares closely to Tim Burton’s Sleepy Hollow, but has some very poor CGI moments. Luckily the film’s saving grace are the 2 main characters, except for their inability to keep up with their accents, Matt & Heath play off each other brilliantly. It’s sad to say that Terry Gilliam has grown a little soft over the years; I would have loved to see a little Monty Python flair. Overall it’s a fun watch and if you go in with low expectations or none at all The Brothers Grimm will work for you too.

Four Brothers

by December Lambeth on August 26, 2005

in Movie Reviews 

Four Brothers has energy, action, gunfights, street thugs, stunts, revenge and a very charismatic cast of four who get along like they may actually be blood brothers. Why the feelings of mild disappointment, the film needed just a little more girth behind it. Director John Singleton (“Boyz N the Hood) did his job, he pulled off all the gritty tension and street smarts that the audience could ever expect to see, but Four Brothers needed something else. It’s the storyline, too simpleton, not enough intrigue and true capacity for why their adopted mother, Evelyn Mercer (Fionnula Flanagon), was set up for an execution. It wasn’t convincing enough, that this sweet old woman who everybody in the neighborhood adored, would be shot over a little ego. This took accreditation away from Victor Sweet (Chiwetel Ejiofor), a pretend to be on the edge hot shot thug, that turned out to be nothing more than an ego crazed looser. However, if you are out to see some true grit old western style Detroit action, then Four Brothers is the film to see.

Four Brothers
2 & 1/2 Stars

Four Brothers has energy, action, gunfights, street thugs, stunts, revenge and a very charismatic cast of four who get along like they may actually be blood brothers. Why the feelings of mild disappointment, the film needed just a little more girth behind it. Director John Singleton (“Boyz N the Hood) did his job, he pulled off all the gritty tension and street smarts that the audience could ever expect to see, but Four Brothers needed something else. It’s the storyline, too simpleton, not enough intrigue and true capacity for why their adopted mother, Evelyn Mercer (Fionnula Flanagon), was set up for an execution. It wasn’t convincing enough, that this sweet old woman who everybody in the neighborhood adored, would be shot over a little ego. This took accreditation away from Victor Sweet (Chiwetel Ejiofor), a pretend to be on the edge hot shot thug, that turned out to be nothing more than an ego crazed looser. However, if you are out to see some true grit old western style Detroit action, then Four Brothers is the film to see.

After the death of their adopted mother, the Mercer brothers go out to seek revenge and save the memory of the tough old bird. She took in Bobby (Mark Wahlberg), Angel (Tyrese Gibson), Jeremiah (Andre Benjamin) and Jack (Garrett Hedlund) after nobody else would adopt the rough and rowdy bunch. If it weren’t for Evelyn’s ability to crack the whip and straighten out four thugs, they would have ended up dead or in jail. The commentary between her and the four boys was awesome; she would slap them in the face with words about how they ate at the table, comparing tattoos and strong hand respect for others and themselves. After her funeral, hothead Bobby took the lead to find out why their mother had been shot. Off to investigate what Detroit police officers Lt Green (Terrence Howard) and Detective Fowler (Josh Charles) wasn’t able to put together with a map and their fingers on the spot, Bobby, Angel, and Jack started by watching the grocer’s video of the incident. Noticing that the thug had money in hand and the robbery was an obvious cover up, they headed after the source of it all. Knowing the streets and getting away with gang like executions, the boys never suffered any kind of consequences for their actions besides a few slaps from a short interrogation and the loss of one of their posse.

An issue of trust came about when they found out the family man of the group, Jeremiah, may have been at fault for her death. He wouldn’t deal with Victor Sweet on starting up a business, so Victor, with a city official in his pocket, had Jeremiah shut down. To keep his family safe, he had to take out his mother’s life insurance to pay the thug off and this is where Angel caught him red handed. Finding it to be all a misunderstanding, the boys join efforts for one last show down out on a lake of ice. Let’s just say that Victor ends up swimming with the fishes, and all who were involved got their just do.

Four Brothers is an action packed adventure with old time stunts not counting on CGI and a cast that rocks. What sums this film up best is the car chase, a tense ride through a blizzard that blinds and sparks flying from the rims of the car, the boys get the guys in the end and walk away to start a new life by rebuilding mom’s house.