Tuesday, August 08, 2006

"This Is What Happens, Larry!!"

A few hours ago I attended a screening of one of my absolute favorite films, The Big Lebowski, at the wonderful Coolidge Corner Theatre in Brookline, Massachusetts. Sometimes a movie comes along at just the right time and hits you in such a way that can truly be described as life-changing. Ghostbusters and Back To The Future served me the one-two punch that made me consider looking at Film as a career (and yeah, I'm still working on it). The first five minutes of Jackie Chan's Armour Of God introduced me to the great fun of Asian cinema. And Lebowski came along at a time in my life when I was having trouble at an important job, stressing about a non-relationship and keeping the bills and rent paid. As the film ran, the message of The Dude (Jeff Bridges) washed over me like a cathartic wave of Kahlua and milk on ice. "The Dude Abides," he said in the final scene. And doesn't that just sum it all up? Yes sir, it does. When the semi's are coming up, the nihilists are threatening your "chonson" and the Chinaman's pissing on your rug, just abide and all will work itself out. Father Lebowski gave me the wisdom to try to just relax, go with the flow, and all things in life shall come full circle and maybe even get a little better. Nowadays, you might say that I take it a little too easy. But then, that'll be a whole other blog entry altogether sometime, I'm sure.

At any rate, the movie became a great fave amongst my close friends and I. In the coming days I managed to track down a book about the making of the film, the soundtrack, the theatrical one-sheet poster and was eventually even awarded a t-shirt by one of my best friends, mister Chris Miller, who worked at a local theater at the time, himself. We'd go bowling on Wednesday nights out at the Alewife Lanes & Games at the end of the Red Line in Somerville, where he would bowl under the name "Tacos De Los Muertos" and I as "The Dude" (this, long before every Pothead Fratboy in the USA caught on to Lebowksi's greatness and considered it their flick -- those lames).

Anyway, back to tonight... A very well-known spot for film fans across the country, The Coolidge has played host to many of the cinema's best and brightest, including filmmaker Zhang Yimou, cinematographer Vittorio Storaro and most recently Meryl Streep. In addition, they often feature live performance art and music, as well as recent films and movie classics. And at tonight's celebration of the aforementioned Coen Brothers film, a min-celebration was being had. Some audience members came dressed-down in full-on Lebowski bathrobes and beards, some in the simple elegance of the bowling shirt. Various gifts were being given out for who could fare best in "Toss The Ringer" (recreating a scene from the film in which a bowling ball bag full of dirty underwear was thrown a good distance) and other such mellow competitions. Bumping into my friend Wendee while grabbing a "half Diet Coke, half Barq's Root Beer" at the concessions stand, we grabbed some seats, prepping for cinema greatness. And then, toward the end of all the pre-show shenanigans, came the Moment. The announcers asked for volunteers for the Walter Sobchak (John Goodman) Impersonation Contest...

...And then one man rose to the challenge. :)

I shuffled up there under the lights and before the microphones. The Hosts explained to the other three contestants and I that we could choose any line we wished as long as it was:(a) spoken by John Goodman in the film; and:(b) not explicit in language. That last one seemed very strange to me, seeing as how we were all sitting there waiting to watch a film we all knew had the word "fuck" in it over 250 times. (As seen here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RqtgfjkB6Pg ) But hey -- their venue, their rules. The hosts even prepared lines pre-edited to make things easier. I glanced at the sheet before the packed-to-the-back-row crowd, and gathered up my 36 years of anger and goofiness... After waiting my turn, I took a deep breath, bugged my eyes, grimaced by best angry-face and let loose my inner demons as they met with the powerful need to entertain and be recognized by an audience of an estimated six-hundred of my locals and peers, the edited-for-public screamfest...


And the crowd went apeshit. :) I have to say, there is a tremendous lift in having a huge group of people shouting and applauding their satisfaction at one's performance work. My job at the local video-store makes me fairly visible in the community already -- sometimes I can't go a block without someone waving and asking what's coming out this week -- so I'll probably be happily hearing about this particular night for quite some time. I was awarded the prize, an action figure of "The Albino Bowler," received a dozen or so compliments (though no job offers or ladies' phone numbers) and even one knowing "Dios Mio, Man" from someone out in the crowd. (Thanks, y'all!) I'm pretty much the quiet type, until my occassional need-to-get-wacky rises and I do something nutty in public like this. I'll never forget the night I blew away my roommates at a local pub Karaoke Night as I belted out "You And Me And The Bottle Makes Three, Tonight" by Big Bad Voodoo Daddy (as featured in the film, Swingers -- yes, even my musical choices are from movies). Tonight's Lebowskifest was easily just as good.

And with that, and these new reviews, I'll catch ya'll further on down the trail...

My Super Ex-Girlfriend **1/2
Talladega Nights: The Ballad Of Ricky Bobby ***
The Big Lebowski (1998) ****
DVD/Home Video
Election 2 (Hong Kong) ***1/2
The Mission (1999, Hong Kong) ***
An Evening With Kevin Smith ***
The Bodyguard From Beijing (1994, Hong Kong) **1/2

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

"The List... Is Life..."

Then again, "The List... is Lack Of A Social Life..." might be closer to the truth. One of the issues I continually battle with would seem to be my inability to reconcile my dislike of movie reviews with my absolute and occassionally sad need to talk about movies pretty much all day long. While I don't read movie reviews -- having gotten tired of poorly written "criticism" and pieces of info that might unintenionally spoil the dramatic flow of my filmgoing experiences -- I understand that they often serve their purpose with many filmgoers out there looking for guidance in the Multiplex Jungles.

I was once something of a film critic on local cable access television and in newsprint, and I occassionally do the same on-line in various spots. The way I see it, there are two kinds of people that take the time to read such items. The first type wants the inside dope on the "how and why" a film succeeds or fails and is keen to discuss a given film in the larger context of an actor's or filmmaker's general oevure and how the motion picture relates to society as a whole. The Second Type just wants to know if the movie is any freakin' good... and quickly.

There will be entries on this blog that delve deeply into why a film might or might not work, using an almost mechanical-engineering method of cause-and-effect relations and how they combine to make or break the perfect motion picture. But for today, you get... "The List."

The following is a fast, efficient "star based review" catalogue that will let you know if you should spend your dollars and time with the films therein. If anyone wants or needs elaboration on a given film on the list, feel free to ask. But in the meantime, grab a nice frosty-mug drink, maybe a sandwich (or possibly a three-course meal, as the case may be) and please enjoy glossing over...


**** = "excellent"
*** = "very good, indeed"
** = "fair"
* = "bad"
None = "a complete waste of time"

Theatrical Release
Miami Vice (2006) ***
Clerks II ***
A Scanner Darkly ***
Mission: Impossible III ***1/2
X-Men: The Last Stand ***
Superman Returns ***
Memoirs Of A Geisha ***1/2
V For Vendetta ***1/2
The Three Burials of Melquiades Rivera ***
Harry Potter and the Goblet Of Fire ***
Syriana ***
Aeon Flux **
The Pink Panther (2005) *1/2
Doom **1/2
Friday The 13th in 3D (1983) * (as a film)
Friday The 13th in 3D (1983) *** (a Midnight Screening Experience)
Good Night and Good Luck ***1/2
The Baxter ***
Flightplan **1/2
Lord Of War ***
Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of The Were-Rabbit ***1/2
A History Of Violence ***

DVD/VHS Home Video
MTV's The Maxx (1995) ****
Repo Man (1984) ****
Pretty As A Picture: The Art Of David Lynch ***1/2
The Stairway To The Distant Past (Japan) ***1/2
The World's Fastest Indian ***1/2
Scrap Heaven (Jaoan) ***1/2
The In-Laws (1979) ***1/2
Easy Rider (1969) ***1/2
Rent (2005) ***1/2
Takashi Miike's "Imprint" (Japan/USA) ***
Shinobi: Heart Under Blade (Japan) ***
The President's Last Bang (Korea) ***
Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang ***
Fearless (Hong Kong) ***
Princess Aurora (Korea) ***
Dragon Fight (HK) ***
Takeshis' (Japan) ***
The Trap (Japan) ***
The Cruise (1998) ***
16 Blocks ***
Munich (2005) ***
Alien 3 (2003, Special Edition Cut) ***
Alien 3 (1992, Theatrical Cut) **1/2
Yaji and Kita: The Midnight Pilgrims (Japan) **1/2
Sengoku Jieitai (Time Slip) 1549 (Japan) **1/2
Bewitching Attraction (Korea) **1/2
Born To Fight (Thai, 1978) **1/2
District #13 (France) **1/2
Toni Takitani (Japan) **1/2
Fist Of Legend (Jet Li; HK) **1/2
Match Point **1/2
The Long Kiss Goodnight **
Chelsea Walls (2001) **
Who Are You? (Korea) **
The Bodyguard (Thai) **
Ultraviolet *1/2
BloodRayne *
Date Movie 1/2 star
Riding Alone For Thousands Of Miles (China) ****
Dinner For Five: Season One ***1/2
The Promise (China) ***1/2
Being There (1979) ***1/2
Capote (2005) ***1/2
Mission: Impossible (1996) ***1/2
Mission: Impossible 2 (2000) ***
Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children (Japan) ***
Akira Kurosawa: Beautiful Movies (Japan) ***
Mr. Arkadin: The Criterion Collection ***
The Great Yokai War (Japan) ***
The Night Watch (Russia) ***
Chushingura 1/47 (Japan) ***
The Passenger (1975) ***
SPL: Sha Po Lang (HK) ***
Public Enemy (Korea) ***
Tom Yum Goong (Thai) ***
Green Chair (Korea) ***
Dragon Squad (HK) ***
Perhaps Love (HK) ***
Thunderbolt (HK) ***
Three Times (HK) ***
Failan (Korea) ***
Crash (2005) ***
Keane (2005) ***
King Kong (2005) ***
A Man Watching Video: AKA Rewind (Korea) **1/2
The Life And Death Of Peter Sellers **1/2
The Guard From Underground (Japan) **1/2
My Left Eye Sees Ghosts (HK) **1/2
Another Public Enemy (Korea) **1/2
Everlasting Regret (HK) **1/2
Sharky's Machine (1981) **1/2
Marebito (Japan) **1/2
The Duelist (Korea) **1/2
Action Jackson (1987) **1/2
Shutter (Korea) **1/2
They Came Back (France) **
Red Eye (Korea) **
Calamari Wrestler (Japan) **
A Chinese Tall Story (HK) **
Blood Rain (Korea) **
The Fiendish Plot of Dr. Fu Manchu (1980) *1/2
Land Of The Dead *1/2
Rated X (Documentary) *1/2
Undead (Australia) *
Sympathy For Lady Vengeance (Korea) ****
Ran: Criterion Collection ****
Sin City (Expanded Cut) ****
The Blues Brothers: 25th Anniversary Edition ****
Homestar Runner: Everything Else, Vol. 1 ***1/2
The 40-Year-Old Virgin (Unrated) ***1/2
Dr. Strangelove (1964) ***1/2
Election (HK) ***1/2
Serentiy ***1/2
Aqua Teen Hunger Force: Season Four ***
I Don't Know Jack (Documentary) ***
Drink, Drank, Drunk (HK) ***
Bad Lieutenant (1992) ***
Quick Change (1990) ***
A Bronx Tale (1993) ***
The Brothers Grimm ***
24: Season Four ***
Scrooged (1988) ***
The Baxter ***
Unleashed ***
Broken Lizard's Puddle Cruiser **1/2
The Dukes Of Hazzard **1/2
The Island (2005) **1/2
Mr. & Mrs. Smith **1/2
Fantastic Four **1/2
The Myth (HK) **1/2
Cafe Lumiere (Taiwan/Japan) **
The Fog (2005) **
The Wig (Korea) **
Walker (UK) **
Revengers Tragedy (UK) *1/2
Frivolous Lola (1998, Italy) *
Dirty Love *
Havoc *
The Pink Panther (1963) ***
A Shot in the Dark (1964) ***
The Return of the Pink Panther (1975) ***1/2
The Pink Panther Strikes Again (1976) ***
Revenge of the Pink Panther (1978) **1/2
Trail of the Pink Panther (1982) **
Curse of the Pink Panther (1983) **1/2
Son of the Pink Panther (1993) **1/2
Spaced: The Complete Series (UK) ****
Naked: Criterion Collection (UK) ****
Stella Shorts: 1998-2002 ****
Stella: Season One (Comedy Central) ***1/2
Star Wars: Episode III Revenge Of The Sith ***1/2
Batman Begins ***1/2
Seven Swords (HK) ***1/2
Buck Rogers in the 25th Century (TV Pilot, 1979) ***
The Warriors (1979, Theatrical Cut) ***
Herbie: Fully Loaded **1/2
Vital (Japan) **1/2
House Of Wax (2005) **1/2
Dominion: Prequel To The Exorcist **1/2
Exorcist: The Beginning **
Wild Life (Japan) **1/2
She's On Duty (Korea) *1/2
Synthetic Pleasures (1996; Documentary) *
Saturday Night Live: The Best Of John Belushi ****
Saturday Night Live: The Best Of Dan Aykroyd ***1/2
The Usual Suspects (1995) ***1/2
Kagemusha: Criterion Collection ***1/2
Eros (HK/USA/Italy) ***1/2
Point Blank (1969) ***1/2
Payback (1999) ***
Infection (Japan) ***1/2
The Man With One Red Shoe (1985) ***1/2
Wise Guys (1986) ***1/2
Le Fils Du Fent/Yamakasi 2/The Great Challenge (French/Thai) ***
Ong Bak (Thai Uncut Version) ***
Layer Cake (UK) ***
Kontroll (Budapest) ***
Ultraman: The Next (2004) **1/2
D.E.B.S. **1/2
Premonition (Japan) **1/2
I'll Sleep When I'm Dead (UK) **1/2
Initial D (HK) **1/2
A Dirty Shame **
Cursed (USA) **
Kung-Fu Mahjong (HK) **
The Deer Hunter (1978) ****
The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy ***
The Grudge: Unrated Extended Director's Cut **1/2
The Way To Fight (Japan) **1/2
Evolution (2001) **1/2
Bad Guy (Korea) **
Carlito's Way (1993) ***1/2
Kairo (aka: Circuit, Pulse) ***
Born To Fight (Thai) ***
Joy Ride (2001) **1/2
Zhou Yu's Train (China) **1/2
The Girl Next Door (Documentary) **1/2
The Adventures Of Sharkboy and Lavagirl in 3D **
The Shining (1981) ****
Firefly: The Series ***1/2
A Bittersweet Life (Korea) ***1/2
Overnight ***1/2
Vibrator (Japan) ***
Silmido (Korea) ***
Saw ***
Tae Guk Gi: The Brotherhood Of War (Korea) **1/2
Crying Fist (Korea) **1/2
The Serpent's Path (Japan) **1/2
Eyes Of The Spider (Japan) **
The Interpreter *1/2
Hellovator: The Bottled Fools (Japan) *
The Man With The Screaming Brain *
Alien Apocalypse *
Panic Room 3-DVD Special Edition ****
Sky High: Face (Japan) ***
Three Extremes (HK) ***
Three Extremes: Dumplings (Expanded) (HK) ***
Red Trousers: The Life Of The Hong Kong Stuntman (HK) ***
R-Point (Korea) **1/2
Longinus (Japan) *1/2

...What? You made it all the way down here?! Damn! You deserve a trophy or something. :)