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Val Kilmer

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Life Through Other Means.

In the trailer bin of late:

  • Whatever they may show in the trailer for Jodie Foster’s family dramedy The Beaver, I’m guessing Mel Gibson’s imaginary puppet friend says unspeakably filthy things in his downtime. Anyways, The Beaver also has Foster, Anton Yelchin, Jennifer Lawrence, and Cherry Jones. Tell me if it isn’t terrible.

  • Rome‘s Ray Stevenson gets his chance to shine as a son of Eire among the seventies Mob in the trailer for Jonathan Hensleigh’s Kill the Irishman, based on the true story of Danny Greene and co-starring Val Kilmer, Christopher Walken, Vinnie Jones, Linda Cardellini, Vincent D’Onofrio, and a whole lot of usual suspects in the mobster kingdom (Steven Schirippa, Robert Davi, Mike Starr, Paul Sorvino.) Eh, definitely maybe.
  • HUGH JACKMAN. BOXING ROBOTS. SHAWN LEVY’S REAL STEEL. 10.7.11 (Oof. Only if there’s a lot of drinking involved beforehand.)
  • There’s a distinct visual look, and a grand scope, and even of a sense of narrative (sort of). What’s hinted at here is a big-canvas movie in the best sense, one with both cosmic significance and intimate drama.” Sadly, the trailer that prompted this post doesn’t seem to be online yet. Nonetheless, in front of Black Swan last week was our first look at Terence Malick’s eagerly-awaited The Tree of Life. And it looks appropriately mystical and Malickian: May 27th, 2011. Update: It’s finally up.

A Double-Cross Summer.

In the wake of this weekend’s Clash of the Titans reboot (which, btw, is not doing so hot, review-wise), several new summer trailers with a common theme: In probably the most promising of the lot, CIA badass Angelina Jolie has to go rogue for God and Country in the second trailer for Phillip Noyce’s Salt, also with Chiwetel Ejiofor, Liev Schreiber, and Andre Braugher. (I was sorta expecting a No Way Out ending at first, but after this, ten bucks says Schreiber’s the mole.)

Elsewhere, Liam Neeson et al love it when a TV reboot comes together in trailer #2 for Joe Carnahan’s The A-Team, also with Jessica Biel, Patrick Wilson, Bradley Cooper, Sharlto Copley, Quinton “Rampage” Jackson, and Gerald McRaney. Eh, still on the fence about this one — I’ll probably end up seeing it despite myself.

And not to be confused with this squad or the equally double-crossed Losers, Sylvester Stallone leads a team of action stars and 80’s has-beens in search of an easy paycheck in the new trailer for The Expendables, with Jason Statham, Jet Li, Mickey Rourke, Steve Austin, Dolph Lundgren, Randy Couture, Terry Crews, and, briefly, Bruce Willis and Governor Schwarzenegger. Lordy, that looks all kinds of terrible.

Update: Speaking of looking terrible, a restricted trailer for Jorma Taccone’s MacGruber, i.e. Will Forte’s SNL take on MacGyver, is also making the rounds. Along for the ride are Val Kilmer, Ryan Phillippe, Powers Boothe, Maya Rudolph, and the venerable Kristen Wiig, who hopefully gets funnier material elsewhere in the film than she does here.

Fear and Loathing in New Orleans.

I was right in the middle of a f**king reptile zoo, and somebody was giving booze to these godd**n things!” For reasons that will be apparent if you see the movie, the memorable lizard sequence from both versions of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas comes to mind while watching Werner Herzog’s highly entertaining Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans last Friday. And for good reason — with both imaginary iguana and melancholy crocodile POV shots herein, not to mention sharks, dogs, fish, and sundry other of God’s creatures well-represented, the animals are basically running the compound in Herzog’s Big Easy. And the king of the animal kingdom here is a primal, animalistic, and drugged-out-of-his-gourd anti-hero, Nicholas Cage. Yes, folks, he’s been given a whole lot more than booze…Let the wild rumpus start!

Partly a Chandleresque crime movie in the key of Southern Gothic (it made for a great counterpoint to my weekend immersion into L4D2, which also takes place in the Quarter), and theoretically a remake of Abel Ferrara’s tortured Harvey Keitel vehicle of 1992, Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans is a dark acidhead comedy that’s much more freewheeling and enjoyable than I expected going in. And, rather than get bogged down and belabored by the arch-Catholic, sin-and-redemption motifs of the Ferrara version, Herzog and Cage mostly just groove along here to a trippy gonzo beat. The good Doctor‘s soul is still dancing.

After a swimming snake sets the stage for the proceedings, Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans begins with, and mostly centers around, the shady escapades of one Lt. Terence McDonagh (Cage, more on him in a bit.) Ostensibly some of the Big Easy’s, uh, finest, McDonagh and his partner (Val Kilmer, not given much to do) are surveying the mid-Katrina wreckage of their precinct when McDonagh figures out that someone is locked in the flooding underground jail. They go downstairs, find this poor, trapped prisoner, and proceed to heckle him and make sidebets on his unlikely survival. But, eventually — and for reasons that seem unclear even to himself — McDonagh jumps into the murky, fetid waters to save the guy. And since no good deed goes unpunished, he is repaid with a excruciatingly painful back injury that puts him on Vicodin for the rest of his life. Well, that and a promotion.

Cut to six months later, and now-Lieutenant McDonagh finds himself with a new lurch in his step, several high-maintenance addictions to feed, and a big case brewing — the execution-style murder of five Senegali immigrants, including two small children. The cops have a pretty good sense of who the prime suspect probably should be: the local drug kingpin, Big Fate (Xzibit). But they have nothing to pin on him, and neither his two lieutenants nor anybody else seem to be talking. And in fact, McDonagh doesn’t particularly seem to care about the case — he’s too busy with his extracurriculars, which include but are not limited to: garnering choice illegal drugs by means foul or fouler, getting in way too deep with his long-suffering bookie (Brad Dourif), and/or keeping his hooker girlfriend Frankie (Eva Mendes) in the style to which she’s accustomed. Still, amidst all the lines of coke and the freebasing, something’s nagging at him lately — is that a pang of conscience struggling to break free, or is he just fiending for another massive hit?

Y’know, it’s easy to playa-hate on Nicholas Cage, and I’ve been known to indulge in it myself. And it’s true that, on account of his well-publicized money problems, the guy will appear in just about anything, from PG-ish family-fare (National Treasure, which I actually enjoyed) to slapdash genre pics (Knowing, Ghost Rider, Bangkok Dangerous) to out-and-out crap (LaBute’s Wicker Man travesty.) Still, his wild, weirdly hypnotic performance here in Bad Lieutenant reminds us that he’s also an exceedingly rare bird, and he’s given us more than his fair share of quality turns in the past, from Raising Arizona and Wild at Heart to Adaptation and Lord of War. (Not to mention his tour de force in Werewolf Women of the S.S.) Say what you will about the man, but from Vampire’s Kiss to Leaving Las Vegas to this flick, he’s not afraid to let it all hang out.

Of course, it helps to be aided and abetted in your crazy-man schtick by none other than Werner Herzog, who knows a thing or two about certifiably nutso leading men. (See also: Grizzly Man.) A lot of reviews seem to argue that this movie has absolutely nothing to do with Abel Ferrara’s Bad Lieutenant, but that’s only half true — A lot of the plot points remain the same: the carnal appetites, the grotesque abuse of power for sexual ends, the losing gambling streak, the conscience-tugging case despite it all. Where the difference lies, and why the films seem completely distinct, is in the valence of the tale. Ferrara’s movie (and Keitel’s performance) is grim, haunted with Catholic remorse and self-loathing, and, frankly, not much fun at all. But Herzog’s film, even in the most decadent parts, abstains from judgment, or even seems vaguely bemused by all the sordidness. (Also, fwiw, Herzog has replaced all the Biblical allusions of Ferrara’s movie with Cajun voodoo and animal/nativist spirits.)

Simply put, Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans is clearly a film made by a man who’s comfortable with teh crazy. And, rather than condemn all the druggy depravities on display here, Herzog keeps a light touch, and usually just lets them unfold without much editorial comment. As our dear late Hunter Thompson put it on his own drug-inspired binge, “Buy the ticket, take the ride.

Robots, Morlocks, Coffee Table Iguanas.

“And, worst of all, they’re eating all of our sand.” A whole lot of B-movie crazy in the most recent trailer bin: Astronauts Ben Foster and Dennis Quaid awaken from hibernation to fight off what would appear to be Morlocks in the final trailer for Christian Alvart’s Pandorum. (I originally thought this was going to be more of a “madness in deep space” psychological thriller. Now, it just looks bad.) Speaking of madness, Nicholas Cage returns to full-Vampires’ Kiss mode — and tries to out-Keitel Keitel — in the trailer for Werner Herzog(!)’s Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans, also with Eva Mendes, Xzibit, and Val Kilmer. And hope of mankind John Conner (Christian Bale) tries to protect us all from a sinister invasion of robot toys in the clever mash-up trailer for Transforminators. It’s funny because it’s true.

Cogs and Grunts and Hirelings.

More trailers for your perusal: Jake Gyllenhaal, Peter Sarsgaard, Chris Cooper and Jamie Foxx brave Operation Desert Storm in the trailer for Sam Mendes’ Jarhead, Charlize Theron channels Liquid Television for Frances McDormand in MTV’s live-action version of Aeon Flux, and Robert Downey Jr., Michelle Monaghan, and Val Kilmer attempt to solve a Hollywood murder mystery in this look at Kiss, Kiss, Bang, Bang.

Team Alexander: World Police.

Alexander the Great. Seeker, despot, conqueror, legend…and who knew he anything to do with the Kennedy assassination? Ok, Oliver Stone’s Alexander doesn’t actually pin the events of November 22, 1963 on the Macedonian conqueror, but, to be honest, I kinda wish it had — it might have injected some much-needed energy into the film. Over the past two decades, Oliver Stone has made films that are stunning, controversial, wrongheaded, and unforgettable, but never before has he made one so flat-out dull.

To its credit, I guess, Alexander shows signs of being an absolute train wreck right from the first reel. After a very brief nod to Citizen Kane, which suggested we may at least be getting a gloriously over-the-top outing from Stone this time around, the film settles in to Anthony Hopkins wandering around the set of the “Losing My Religion” video and spitting out long, interminable chunks of Basil Exposition. (Speaking of which, Stone must have been watching his VH1-Classic…there’s a scene on a mountaintop later that seems lifted straight out of Depeche Mode’s “Enjoy the Silence.”) Then, we’ve got Mommy Dearest Angelina Jolie writhing around with snakes for a bit (women = serpents = temptresses = deceivers, get it? Don’t worry, in typical Stone fashion, the point will be beaten into the ground over the next three hours.) Twenty minutes in, by the time young Alexander is channeling the Horse Whisperer, it’s pretty clear we’ve got a real stinker on our hands.

From there on, it’s just a pile-up. Other than a neat camel charge or two, the battle setpieces are completely inscrutable, and not in a good “Fog of War” kinda way. For some reason, the men all speak with Irish brogues, while both women (Jolie and Rosario Dawson) sound like Brides of Dracula. Give them credit, though. Jolie, Dawson, and Val Kilmer (as Phillip of Macedon, by way of Dr. Moreau) seem to be the only three people involved with this project who saw it for what it was and racheted up the hamminess dial to 11.

Much has been made in some reviews of Stone’s decision not to shy away from Alexander’s bisexuality — namely his love affair with the doe-eyed Hephaistion (Jared Leto, who fulfilled close to the same function for Tyler Durden in Fight Club) — and I suppose he should be applauded for it, given the recent trends in Red State country. But, frankly, what with all the earnest looks and pre-established Freudian baggage, it all comes off as high camp, and not nearly as open-minded as it thinks it is. Not that heterosexual relations fare much better, mind you…when Colin Farrell and poor, lovely Rosario Dawson hiss, scratch, and wrestle naked on their wedding night (yes, you guessed it, snake flashbacks are involved), it’s just about the most ridiculous thing you’ve ever seen.

To sum up, Alexander is a flat-out disappointment and easily the worst Oliver Stone film I can think of offhand. This review notwithstanding, it’s not even fun-bad. Think of it more as Alexander And The Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Movie.

It’s All Greek to Me.

The final trailer for Oliver Stone’s Alexander hits the web. I dunno…I like Stone’s movies more than most, but I’m getting a serious Moreau-vibe from Val Kilmer, and Angelina Jolie appears to be channeling Kate Beckinsale in Van Helsing.

Irkutsk from Yakutsk…

Ok, I’ll take a card. The teaser for Oliver Stone’s Alexander hits the web and, while I generally enjoy Oliver Stone movies, this look doesn’t differentiate the film from Troy, King Arthur, or any other recent Gladiator meets RotK-CGI type flick. Uh oh.

Ballad of a Thin Man.

So I went down to the Angelika yesterday afternoon (always a strange experience – you can hear and feel the subway running under you during films) to catch Masked and Anonymous and, well, I can only recommend this film to two types of people: Hard-core Dylanologists, and those cinema completists who need to see Ed Harris in blackface. I consider myself a pretty heavy-duty Dylan fan, and even I was a bit bored at certain points. The movie is basically Dylan’s version of Waking Life, or what might happen if Bob had entered his own portal a la Being John Malkovich. All of the characters in the film speak in Dylanistic soliloquys (You actually get a very good sense of this from the website), and thus you end up with Giovanni Ribisi’s disquisition on war, Val Kilmer’s take on animals, etc. The movie takes place in a strange alternate present, where (I’m guessing) the revolutions of the Sixties went sour and ended up tearing the nation apart. Dylan’s dad seems to be the ailing leader of the Bearflag Republic or something, and…well, there’s no point in trying to explain it.

The movie is basically an extended riff on Dylan and Dylania…at (brief) moments it has the scope and absurdist grandeur of “Desolation Row,” “Idiot Wind,” or “It’s Alright Ma.” And some of the renditions of Dylan’s music, from the new “One More Cup of Coffee” to the acapella “The Times, They Are a Changin’” are truly beautiful. Most of the time, however, it fails to capture Dylan’s spark, and comes off flat and, well, embarrassing (particularly in some of the more questionable racial choices.) I think the extended monologues on life, death, and humanity are meant to have you dwell on the fundamental questions, but as the movie wore on I found myself contemplating altogether different queries: Did Chris Penn eat one of the Baldwins? Who would win in a caged deathmatch between Penelope Cruz and Audrey Tautou? Who knew it would end so badly between Walter and the Dude? When did Mickey Rourke turn into Billy Bob Thornton? So on, so on. I guess I’d recommend that Dylan fans see this film (particularly if you’ve sat through Renaldo & Clara), just to see where our man is at these days. (In fact, some Dylan fans seem to love it.) All in all, though, I can’t say I recommend the film as a film.

On another note, in the two hours I had to kill between this movie and seeing a friend’s (very good) band at the Baggot Inn, I stumbled upon a huge line at Tower Records, dutifully waiting to get Dave Gahan‘s signature. Times change, I guess. Ten years ago, I probably would have staked out this line with a handful of vinyl 12″ DM singles. Nowadays, I just skipped it in favor of Forbidden Planet and The Strand. Must be getting old.

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