August 16, 2005

Mad Hot Ballroom

madhotballroomReview ghostwritten by EKD | New York City public school kids taking a ballroom dancing class for phys ed: the premise doesn't convey the wonderfully poised, gawky, funny, honest moments the movie catches on the faces and feet of these middle schoolers. Far less heartwrenching than Hoop Dreams, and much more upbeat than Spellbound, which seems like a festival of schadenfreude by comparison. (Capitol Theater Arlington)

August 14, 2005

Wedding Crashers: Guys Movie Night

The latest Guys Movie Night feature is the funniest movie I have seen since the last Wilson/Vaughn/Ferrell movie, Anchorman: The Legend Of Ron Burgundy. Wedding Crashers is easily the funniest Vince Vaughn performance to date. Vaughn and Wilson play slightly aging bachelors who have transformed wedding crashing into an art. Vaughn is obsessed with quality appetizers and exotic sexual encounters, while Wilson starts wondering if their all sex, no substance lifestyle is meaningless. When they crash the wedding of a Cabinet member's daughter, they both get much more than they bargained for. Neck deep in WASP dysfunction, Vaughn and Wilson fall for two of the bride's sisters: Vaughn's redhead target (Isla Fisher) turns out to be even more crazy than he is, and Wilson becomes smitten with Claire (Rachel McAdams), who's stuck in an engagement with a cruel, brutish snob (Bradley Cooper). In previous Vince Vaughn comedies, his screen time (and laugh potential) is diluted by an ensemble cast (Old School, Dodgeball). In Wedding Crashers, his machine-gun delivery of brutally frank sex strategizing is undiluted and overpowering. Owen Wilson is a better counterpart for Vaughn than his brother Luke was in Old School.weddingcrashers

The sex jokes come hard and fast, with only a few totally juvenile missteps. The caricatured "crazy mean grandma" and "black sheep/gay/tortured artist son" aren't as funny as the rest of the movie. Christopher Walken, as the father of the bride and bridesmaids, strikes just the right tone without going over the top. In a piece of casting-against-type genius, Jane Seymour plays the drunken matriarch, who lures Wilson into a too-close dance, forces him to try out her newly-lifted breasts, and confesses that she has been faithful to her husband for 3 of their 30 years of marriage.

By the way, Owen Wilson, at age 37, looks a little old for the stoner-surfer shag haircut? The lines under his eyes are getting more noticeable these days...

THEATER NOTES: This was a Guys Movie Night where only two guys made it inside the theater. Angus and I arrived early enough to snag seats in the sold-out show, but our friends Phil and Sandor were shut out. Just as the movie was starting, Phil called from the lobby. I unwisely advised him to "just buy a ticket for something else and sneak into the theater- I am sure you can find a seat!" Thankfully he did not take my advice as the theater was packed. (July 29, Loews Boston Common; August 14, Showcase Cinemas Woburn)

My Ten Favorite R-Rated Comedies, 1984-2005

The release of Wedding Crashers prompted Entertainment Weekly to publish an article lamenting the demise of the R-rated comedy. In the eternal quest for wider audiences, many comedies which could or should be R-rated are toned down to PG-13 levels to hopefully draw in more ticketbuyers. But what's the point in earning a PG-13 if the quality of the movie is hurt as a result? One recent movie which should have been R-rated is Dude, Where's My Car? I found it very funny, but the sex and drug jokes were obviously toned down into PG-13 territory after shooting was completed, and it shows. When I saw Mother, Juggs, and Speed on DVD, it was obvious that all the foul language had been removed in "looping" in order to earn a PG rating.
Here then, in tribute to the R-rated comedy, is a list of my favorite R-rated comedies. To earn a spot on this list, not only does the movie have to be one of my favorite R-rated comedies, but it has to put that R certificate to good use:
  1. There's a symphony of foul language in Beverly Hills Cop (1984): Axel Foley:You know, you have a very big mouth, sir! Are you hiding something from me? Is that it? I bet you that is your Porsche that's parked front, isn't it? How would you like me to have the IRS come down here and crawl up your ass with a f***ing microscope? They'll do it! I've seen them do it! It's not a pretty sight! I want you to know something, pal! I want ALL of y'all to know something! I can have twenty five agents down here in fifteen minutes to march in here, snatch your bonds out from underneath you and you'd be out of business, PERMANENTLY, if I don't start getting some cooperation! Is that understood?
  2. Oh, the irony: Stand by Me (1986) features 11-year-olds talking the way real 11-year-olds do, yet the movie is rated R for language, so an actual 11-year old requires a parent or guardian to see the movie.
  3. A Fish Called Wanda (1988) makes the list for this exchange alone: Otto: You pompous, stuck-up, snot-nosed, English, giant, twerp, scumbag, f***-face, dickhead, ass****. Archie: How very interesting. You're a true vulgarian, aren't you? Otto: You are the vulgarian, you f***!
  4. Midnight Run (1988) is unwatchable on TV because of great lines like this:De Niro: I never took a payoff in my life and I'm not gonna start with someone like you. Grodin: Why not? De Niro: Because you're a f***ing criminal and you deserve to go where you're going and I'm gonna take you there and if hear any more s*** outta you I'm gonna f***ing bust your head and I'll put you back in that f***ing (train lavatory) and I'm gonna stick your head in the f***ing toilet bowl and I'm gonna make it stay there.
  5. Six words from Heathers (1989): "F*** me gently with a chainsaw." The Heathers could crush the whole "90210" cast with this dialog!
  6. Only an R rating grants you the artistic freedom to discuss necrophilia, snowballing, and hemaphrodite porn, as Kevin Smith & Co. do in Clerks.
  7. Let's just say that the phrase "federal pound you in the ass prison" was coined in the movie Office Space (1999)
  8. The movie South Park: Bigger Longer & Uncut (1999) is supposedly one of the most filthy movies of all time. Featuring 146 utterances of "f***" in less than 81 minutes, that's 1.8 "f***s" per minute!
  9. Wedding Crashers
  10. and
  11. The Forty-Year-Old Virgin
Update: I forgot Shaun of the Dead! Thanks to HotFix.com's more expansive list for jolting my memory.

August 3, 2005

The Island

Michael Bay (Bad Boys, The Rock, Armageddon, Pearl Harbor, and Bad Boys II) doesn't deserve his success as a big-popcorn movie director. I quite enjoy action movies with big explosions, chases, and fistfights. You Constant Browsers out there can find many examples in this diary. Michael Bay, however, directs action movies with the subtlety of a wrench to the face, the grace of a nail gun through the palm of your hand, and the needless violence of a meathook in the back. All three of these acts occur in The Island, directed without flair, intelligence, or accomplishment.
The concept is an unremarkable mishmash (melange is too sophisticated for Bay) of Logan's Run, Blade Runner, and 1984. The clones are kept docile, content, but ignorant, in a giant brutalist-designed colony (it looks like a giant mall parking lot without the flair). They're cloned duplicates, kept in stock as spare parts for their owners in the real world. When their "sponsor" needs some new skin, organs, or a surrogate mother, the "insurance policy" (clone) is used and what's leftover is disposed of. The clones' complete ignorance of sex, crime, and sin in general makes them as innocent and curious as 12-year-olds, and that's what inspires Ewan McGregor to escape, and bring Scarlett Johansson with him. McGregor's clone doesn't know what sex is, but his subconscious knows a bodacious babe when he sees one. There could have been a metaphor for Adam and Eve if Bay could find time for it amongst all the helicopters and bone saws. McGregor and Johansson, both talented actors, spend a few minutes acting and the rest running and getting brutalized by fight sequences and crashes.
Bay employs slow motion without any purpose- it seemed like half the movie was shot in slow motion? I also don't understand the product placement blanketing the sets. I have no problem with the use of product placement in the scenes on the streets of Los Angeles- brand names exist in the real world, after all. I did find it kind of weird that half the vehicles were conspicuously branded (Cadillac, Mack truck) while all the Dodge police cars had their grille logos removed. I found it distinctly odd that all the consumer items within the clone colony were paid placements- Puma sneakers, Aquafina water, XBox video games? Why would these clones, who are complete drones of the company, who have no concept of money, who will never see the outside world, merit brand-name anything? Why everyone would get brand name sneakers and bottled water is beyond me.
I think Bay is a successful movie director because he can helm giant-scale movie productions, which people will buy tickets for, if the studio spends enough money promoting them. The actual movies Bay directs are not as important as the presentation of the idea of the movie to the public. If you can sell the idea to moviegoers, and then deafen them with explosions and blind them with kinetic energy, they'll tell their friends how "good" the movie was. A combination of no big-name stars + less than astronomical promotion kept this movie from recouping its certainly astronomical budget. (Loews Boston Common, with my friend Laura)