Thursday, April 30, 2009

The Thin Red Line. Ten years later it still brings tears to my eyes

With 'Crank 2' still on my to-go-and-watch list and with the 'Watchmen' review postponed indefinitely - at least until the moment I go through the comic book to decide whose fault was the abundance of hanging and dangling blue penii - I started worrying I'm running out of targets for my regular exercise in shit slinging. Then it dawned on me that I still haven't fulfilled my long treasured dream - to rip apart the 'Worst Movie I Have Ever Seen' into millions of little pieces, fuck each one piece separately, "make 'em eat our shit, then shit out our shit, then eat their shit which is made up of our shit that we made 'em eat" etc. © 2001 JSBSB, you get the picture. This is the movie whose mere mentioning always inexplicably summons the phrase 'Explosive defecation' in my mind, the most over praised, tedious, boring, pretentious heap of stinking crap ever, period - 'The Thin Red Line'. Did I mention also it was fucking long?

A little flashback... So ten years ago (give or take) there I was, clutching an invitation to a premiere and finding a way to my seat in the theater. The only thing I knew about 'The Thin Red Line' back then was that it featured literally several hundreds of stars and that it had been hailed as the long awaited come back of some obscure recluse director who had done something supposedly great a couple of centuries ago and then disappeared out of the spotlight. Being still a naive youngster, I immediately compared that to Salinger's voluntary withdrawal from the public attention. From the current perspective, the main reason Terence Malick kept himself away from directing must have been the fact he knew better than anyone else how limited his abilities were. Even a blind squirrel can find a nut every now and then, but making more movies would be pressing his luck. So he kept his past glory and shroud of mysterious charm and the audience kept their sanity until (obviously, some guesswork on my part is involved) some executive asshole decided to lure him out with a large lump of freshly printed in green portraits of assorted POTUSes. Artsy halo in one hand, the wad in the other - the result is quite predictable, artsy shit gets flushed down and twenty years of peaceful (for the rest of the world, that is) existence are over.

So... the movie started. Sort of. Twenty minutes into it I was still waiting for something to happen or some of the big stars to wander into the frame. Another twenty minutes later - still waiting. An hour deep into it I was starting to wonder whether there would be enough time for some events at all with only half an hour left (yeah, right... blessed are the believers). For a movie depicting the events of Battle of Guadalcanal this one was surprisingly uneventful, most of the three hours were spent on a bunch of soldiers walking aimlessly through some jungle. One of them (and to this day I can't tell exactly who) was having some weird flashbacks of kids playing in the water and diving somewhere - no hint where, just someplace else. Another (also unidentified) was writing a letter to his wife/fiancee/whatever in his mind and for some time I hated him with passion because of the molten cheese dripping from the mind-raping pseudo-poetic phrases that I could attribute only to a dog, if it learned some human language. The camera wanders around in random directions, sometimes taking clues from the retarded voice-over (I bet by now you can tell how much I love voice-overs) - like the voice-over going 'Is there a God in Heaven?' and the camera turning up to show us the sky, then the voice-over, faltering, 'How can He bear this on the Earth?', camera obediently turning down. Beuark! But as much as I hated the voice-over and the suffering anonymous emo poetic motherfucker, there was a recurring (recurring - like twenty fucking times) scene that drove me totally berserk - and I mean axe-wielding eyes popping out with red hot rage berserk. The scene in question was of a crocodile (caiman, alligator, whatever fucking reptile) slowly submerging into some murky water. Slowly - much more slowly than, say, speedy objects like the minute hand of a watch. I guess I'm too dumb and I can't appreciate the symbolic meaning the Great Maestro™ put in this, but if its twenty something instances had been cut off, the movie would fall into the short category. And I wish it did, because watching the same caiman or whatever dive for the umpteen fucking time, when you just want to go out and take a leak (three hours, remember), makes even the most peaceful person want to grab that crocodile and beat the director with it to first death (his or the crocodile's).

What about all the stars? Well, it turned out all the big names appeared for mere seconds in some small cameos, most of them appropriately retarded to match the level of the movie - Woody Harrelson threw the pin and kept the grenade (yep, the drill sergeant’s equivalent of urban legends), Nick Nolte gave the dumbest orders of any fictional military, 'Catch 22' included, pseudo pep speech by Travolta and pretty much that's it. 

Later I read somewhere that the original cut had been in the nine hours range... I shiver at the thought how many more times that crocodile would reappear in that version, the fucking animal would have more time on screen than Jack Nicholson in his entire career. If someday that director's cut sees the light of the day (on 48 Blu-ray disks, I bet), I'm buying a set to decorate my privy's walls, its effect on bowel movement can not be understated.
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Thursday, April 16, 2009

Mesrine: L'instinct de mort/L'ennemi public n°1. - One man show - guess whose?

Every now and then the French film makers manage to push an impressive and often a remarkably original movie through the thick barrage of low-brow Hollywood pieces of go-se. It is hardly a coincidence that quite a few of those – ‘La haine’, ‘Dobermann’, ‘Les rivières pourpres’, to name but a few - are with the participation of Vincent Cassel, an incredibly talented and versatile actor, equally able to perform in action and in dramatic roles. He is being held in high demand and regularly cast on both sides of the ocean. 

However, the downside of his popularity among movie makers and audience alike is the inevitable starring in trivial pictures as the tedious life story of Jacques Mesrine, a gangster that had been labeled Public Enemy #1 by the French press in the late 60s. That leaves us with the wrong impression that he must had been some criminal mastermind, but as presented in the movie, it’s been quite the opposite – the guy was a small fry who had just been dumb enough to keep too high of a profile with most of his attempts to commit a crime being borderline idiotic and inevitably resulting in full-out shootouts. With a story that is probably already well known to most French and therefore hard to change, the director didn’t have much of a choice and the movie in its turn didn’t have much to offer (although it also didn’t irk me) except for the acting of Monsieur Cassel, who took full advantage of the extended screen time (two full features, almost four hours in total) in a ostentatious show-off of his abilities to transform and act. From that point of view, the movie is probably something he’d like to have under his belt. However for the rest of us this long promo tape doesn't hold enough value to sit through.
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Friday, April 10, 2009

The Spirit ...pointless exercise in self-indulgence

Sometimes, when I bash the consecutive movie, it crosses my mind that there is a constant threat I'll be labeled 'cry-wolf'. True, not all movies are bad or equally bad, for that matter. And it is only natural that the most recent insult feels like the worst, gets all the accumulated bile and that doesn't allow for nuances.

Luckily for me, there are movies so undisputedly bad and so deserving all the punishment one can impose on them, that this thought starts to feel largely irrelevant. Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome 'The Spirit', the bastard child of Frank Miller's newly acquired confidence in his directing abilities. I don't know about you, but I intend to hold Robert Rodriguez personally responsible for the ego boost he gave Frank Miller by crediting him as a co-director on 'Sin City'. Next thing you know, the guy takes the courtesy literally, actually believes he's a full-fledged director and (oh, the horrors) starts directing. Wait! Do you hear that? This is what a jet of vomit sounds like.

Don't get me wrong, it's beyond doubt Miller is talented. A lot of the impression made by 'Sin City' was because of his signature black-white-red inking, white blood and negative cutout scenes. 'The Spirit' has this unmistakable made-by-Miller look and every frame is beautiful. The problem is that being a great artist isn't the same as being a great director and when put together these frames don't make a movie. He knows the tools and applies them, he just doesn't know where and why to use them, so he applies them randomly (like inverting to negative cutout used to show the cat walking - whoa, what a highlight) or because he has seen how Rodriguez did.

That alone was not so bad and 'The Spirit' might get away with it, if it wasn't for the unfuckingbelievably bad script and acting. I don't think Samuel L. Jackson has a lower point in his career (I for instance definitely never saw him act worse before), but the other actors too have nothing to be proud of. Every single line they seemed to spew with disgust had 'phoney' all over it. The only performer who wasn't fake or strained like dog balls mid-January was Arthur the cat. The worst of the cast was the lead Gabriel Macht. His long 'Under the bridge'-like effusions addressed to the city achieved only one effect worth mentioning - eye-rolling, but his (and Jackson's) attempts at slapstick comedy were even worse.

Along with all this, the movie is rated PG-13 as opposed to 'Sin City' being R. Now imagine how noir can be a movie that has no violence worth mentioning, blood - once or twice, cartoonish, and no nudity whatsoever. Neither of these makes a good movie, true, but if someone intends to make a movie that is 'dark', 'noir' and whatnot, he shouldn't be that concerned about the teenagers' buck... Now, if you specifically go for that audience, that's a whole different story. A stupid one.
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