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Archive for September, 2003

Return of the King.

Well, I really wish I could report that Bubba Ho-Tep, in which Elvis Presley [Bruce Campbell (!)] and JFK [Ossie Davis (?!)] team up to save their East Texas retirement home from an ancient soul-sucking mummy, is as hilarious as the premise. But, sadly, once you get past the high-concept comedy, you’re left with a bunch of low-brow buffoonery and a stalled story that moves slower than even these aging convalescents. For his part, Campbell swings for the fences, and does a surprisingly wistful turn on the King, but unfortunately he has very little to work with here. It seems the writers never got very far past the founding conceit of having these two icons team up, so neither do we.

As a comedy, Bubba Ho-Tep is only intermittently funny. The best two scenes both involve Reservoir Dogs-style slo-mo hero shots – you’ll know ’em when you see ’em. The rest of the jokes are scattershot and many, particularly the ones involving the two undertakers, are just D.O.A. As a horror movie…well, this isn’t scary at all. Ho-tep and his flock of giant scarabs are played for laughs. (So, of course, was all of Evil Dead 2, — Campbell’s finest hour — but I’ll submit that the mother-zombie singing the Mockingbird song at the basement door is genuinely creepy.) Surprisingly, Bubba Ho-Tep probably works best as a meditation on aging. Entirely too much of the narrative is propelled by an Elvis/Campbell voiceover, but his twilight ruminations do occasionally add a touch of poignancy to this story of legends laid low by the ravages of time. Not enough, sadly, to recommend the film, though. Campbell is good, but Bubba Ho-Tep is all set-up and no follow-through.

Space Cadet.

General Wesley Clark stumps for faster-than-light travel in New Hampshire. “I still believe in e=mc², but I can’t believe that in all of human history, we’ll never ever be able to go beyond the speed of light to reach where we want to go. I happen to believe that mankind can do it…It’s my only faith-based initiative.” Well, I guess he’s up on Dubya, who’s still trying to work out evolution. At the same rally, Clark introduced Professor John Frink as his potential National Science Advisor. “Suppose we extend the square beyond the two dimensions of our universe… along the hypothetical Z axis, there…”

War Chests.

In other campaign news, Bush outtpaced Dean — the leading Democratic fund-raiser — by a factor of three in the past three months, and has now raised $82.5 million for his 2004 campaign. No money for jobs, no money for rebuilding Iraq…but plenty to go around for Dubya’s re-election. Go figure.

Journey’s End.

The RotK trailer is officially up! [Take it frame by frame.] I originally had some issues with Shelob’s size, but the official print — much brighter and clearer than the boot I was watching all weekend — suggests there’s more to Her than meets the eye. Enjoy!

Immigrant Song.

So, in my abortive attempt to catch the RotK trailer Friday night — Sony Lincoln Square wisely put Secondhand Lions in the basement theater to stop people like me from sneaking in for the previews…well played, y’all — I ended up seeing Stephen Frears’s Dirty Pretty Things, starring Chiwetel Ejiofor and Audrey Tautou. Worth seeing (although I preferred Lost in Translation), DPT is a tale of immigrant woe that starts very strong and gets weaker as it goes along. Holding down a number of dead-end jobs and chewing qat to stay awake at all hours of the day, a Nigerian-born doctor in London (Ejiofor, in a captivating, star-making performance) finds a hotel toilet clogged by a human heart. While this grisly discovery is never satisfactorily explained, it nevertheless propels him into an underworld organ-selling network that thrives on London’s most desperate new arrivals.

Ejiofor is great throughout the film, and DPT strikingly portrays how his character Okwe can get pretty much anywhere just by acting like the help. That being said, I thought the narrative lost its considerable momentum when the denouement becomes obvious, and when Frears made the implicit “invisible immigrant” theme too explicit. (He gives Ejiofor some pithy bon mots near the end about the plight of the unseen, just in case you’ve somehow missed the point thus far.) Plus, once you get past Okwe and arguably Tautou’s Senay, you basically end up with a lot of stereotyped characters straight out of Central Casting — the drunk and fun-loving Russian, the hooker with the heart of gold, the Asian morgue-worker who plays chess and ruminates on the Afterlife, the two INS guys who inexplicably take an interest in Tautou (and equally inexplicably follow her from job to job – How exactly did they find her at the sweatshop, and why did they care so much? Just a sentence or two of explanation would’ve satisfied me.) Still, while the film may never deliver on its early promise, it is enjoyable and thought-provoking throughout, and Ejiofor is very, very good – I hope to see more from him in the future.

Gallifreyan Comeback.

In the wake of Blake’s 7‘s return, the BBC announces it’s finally bringing back the Doctor (and hopefully the Tardis, the Master, the Daleks, the Cybermen, Davros, K-9, Sarah and Harry, the Brigadier, etc. etc.) No word yet on what form he’ll take for his ninth incarnation.

Goldwater Country Drops Dubya.

In another dismal poll for the Bushies, only a third of Arizonans want to keep Dubya in 2004. (Bush won the state by 6 in 2000.) Would the land of McCain go instead for a Clark or Dean?

The Life of Grass.

Jonathan Rauch of The Atlantic Monthly examines the environmental promise of genetically modified crops – and the sadly reflexive distaste for said crops in several environmentalist corners.

Destination Moon.

As Europe goes to the moon (alas, without Tintin), China prepares to choose the first Taikonaut.

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