After having fun with last week’s triple feature, I threw another movie catch-up-a-thon last night. (I should do this more often…I’ve been neglecting the joys of renting lately.) I still vividly recall one night in the summer after high school, when I was working at Blockbuster and could partake of 10 free movies a week, that I was staggered by Reservoir Dogs, Glengarry Glen Ross, One False Move, and A Midnight Clear, all seen for the first time. That’s the kind of evening you hope for, but, suffice to say, last night didn’t quite measure up.
Full Frontal: Although it shows (very)-occasional flashes of promise and gets better as it goes along, this film about film was sadly chaotic, self-indulgent, and boring. I found the first forty minutes or so to be almost unwatchable, particularly the scenes of Blair Underwood and Julia Roberts struggling with their quasi-improv Rendezvous. As the various plot strands come together, the movie finally establishes some momentum (and the film v. life message gets ever more heavy-handed), but too little too late. As far as actors go, the standouts were David Hyde Pierce as a depressed cuckold and Nicky Katt as Hitler in The Sound and the Fuhrer. In fact, the best scenes of the movie were of Hitler (a) breaking up with Eva Braun (“I’m just really into my work right now”) and (b) checking his pager (“#%$@ Goebbels again…Thinks it’s a toy. ‘Getting a haircut’…what an asshole.”) And I would have liked to see more of blonde Julia – her scene with the assistant had more life in it than the rest of her performance combined. But, all-in-all, this film is a pretentious waste of time. After Out of Sight, Traffic, and The Limey, Stephen Soderbergh took a big step backward with this bad boy.
Femme Fatale: Oh Lordy, this flick is terrible. Can’t say I’m a huge Brian DePalma fan, but I rented this ’cause I’ve heard from a number of people that it was a return to form for him. And I suppose it is, if by return-to-form you mean Mission to Mars and Snake Eyes. (Ebert gave this movie four stars, suggesting once again that the man might be on crack.) The first fifteen minutes or so, involving a Cannes jewel heist replete with illicit sex, surveillance cameras, and anorexic supermodels (De Palma clearly has a David Kelley problem when it comes to women) comes off as the type of well-made, trashy, and self-derivative suspense flick I expected from De Palma. But, almost immediately thereafter, it runs off the rails, and ends up [[Spoilers, not that it really matters] being his nonsensical version of Vanilla Sky. Rebecca Romijn-Stamos is a trooper about it all, I suppose, but there’s nothing she can really do…this film is bloody awful. To paraphrase Marcy Playground, I smell sex and cameras…but mama, it surely was a dream.
Jackass: If you’ve seen the ads, you probably already know whether or not this film will appeal to you: You’re either going to find it hilarious or repellent (or probably both). I was sickened and disgusted, and there were times I was laughing so hard that Berkeley thought there was something wrong with me. Although I generally thought the Knoxville stuff was funnier than Steve-O’s fratboyisms, Alligator Tightrope may just be the dumbest, most nightmarish and cringe-funny thing I’ve seen all year. (I also thought they made a tactical mistake going to Tokyo, since I’d assume Japanese television audiences are even more attuned to bizarre stunts than we are.) Truly sick, twisted, and depraved, but, I have to say, it redeemed the evening.
Anger Management: (I saw this this morning.) Whatever Jackass‘s many many faults, at least Knoxville & Co. go for it. Much like the equally disappointing Old School (and, I suspect, Bruce Almighty), Anger Management takes a potentially hilarious premise and completely ruins it by trying to be an all things to all people feel-good film. I still think Happy Gilmore is a truly funny movie, but at this point I’ve gotten kinda sick of Sandler’s nice-guy-in-an-angry-body (or vice versa) schtick. Jack Nicholson brings nothing to the table, most of the cameos are groan-worthy, and the prodigious comedic talents of Luis Guzman and John Turturro are completely wasted by lousy writing. And then there’s the resolution, which was so sickeningly saccharine that I thought I’d need anger management myself by the end. Yet another watered-down mainstream Hollywood comedy in what now seems like an endless string of ’em. Memo to the studio heads: When it comes to the funny business, don’t try to make me a better person. Just make me laugh.