Film Review

Ape and Essence

King KongKing Kong. The critics are loony for it, audiences love it, and it’s certain to make the kind of money most often seen these days by the top shelf superhero franchises. No wonder, really, since there’s a double barrel branding at work, Kong, the big ape, himself, and the other 8000-lb. gorilla, director Peter Jackson.

The fact is, Kong is an astonishing achievement and authentically spectacular—no CGI creation has ever seemed this real—and the film cries out for huge screens and state-of-the-art sound systems. This is not a movie for the DVD footdraggers.

But those imagining this might be a revisionist look at the original Kong are going to miss the fact that while the 1933 version was a simple story, the new version is equally simple, with a similar amount of clunky undertow.

Nowhere Men

JarheadJarhead is many things, but a war picture is pretty far down the list. First things first: Sam Mendes, the director, is a subversive, anxious for some reason to tell Americans about America, which is really not such a terrible thing as some of our best reflections come from overseas, whether via Nabokov or the Rolling Stones, aping and reshaping our sense of ourselves. American Beauty, his first picture, had some delightful moments, but was still nothing more than a Zap Comix view of suburbia--it could have been scored by ’60s-era Zappa.

Whiz Show

Good NightGood Luck, and Good Night, George Clooney’s grab-bag paean to the glory days of monochromatic news broadcasting, when men were men and they had the lung cancer and cardboard livers to prove it, is something more than it appears to be.

The critical reception has been good to excellent, and the general opinion is that Clooney does a terrific job of recreating that atmosphere, when CBS News represented a degree of dignity in news reporting that they brought back from WWII.

First We Take Manhattan!

WarriorsThe Warriors - Ultimate Director's Cut Directed by Walter Hill (Paramount Home Video) Ask your average American male in his late thirties about Walter Hill's 1979 film The Warriors and in all likelihood, he'll reply with either a robustly barked "CAN YOU DIG IT?" or a strenuously whined "WARRIOOOORRSS....COME OUT TO PLAAAA-YAAAAAAYYY!" I was a paltry twelve years old when The Warriors hit theatres in 1979, but even being too young to get in, I can vividly remember the sensation it caused. The movie poster alone was enough to capture my rapt, wide-eyed attention.

Punk Redux

punkPunk: Attitude
Directed by Don Letts (Capital Entertainment DVD)

Let's be honest, shall we? The world needs another documentary about the origins of Punk Rock like the American South needs another hurricane. Still, even as the genre approaches its hotly debated thirtieth birthday, the exhumation continues. To the credit of filmmaker Don Letts, himself a veteran of the original British Punk scene and erstwhile Reggae archivist, his latest documentary, Punk: Attitude, at least tries to be all-inclusive in attempting to encapsulate the amorphous cultural movement.

For Fans Only!

Directed by Ondi Timoner (UMVD DVD)

The premise is a relatively flimsy one at best – pit two rival rock ’n’ roll bands against each other and document their respective trajectories over a seven-year period. We’re not talking Zeppelin and Sabbath here, though. Ondi Timoner’s award-winning DIG! depicts the strikingly diverse paths and ambitions of the Brian Jonestown Massacre and the Dandy Warhols, two American alternative rock bands from the 1990s. Neither band is a particularly big draw or a household name (the Dandy Warhols did manage to trouble the pop charts once or twice, albeit to no lasting effect). Despite the bands’ borderline anonymity in the grand scheme of things, DIG! is assuredly more than just a fans-only feature. It’s a hugely compelling film and a striking glimpse into the world of struggling musicians.

Very Last Days

Last DaysLast Days, Gus Van Sant's film about the isolated stupor that his fictionalized account suggests was the mindset of the last days of Kurt Cobain, feels like it was filmed when the director himself was in a heroin nod. In take after take, we gaze for protracted minutes at the lanky blond hair of actor Michael Pitt as it swings forward in the famous greasy, neglected curtain that Cobain sported and, sometimes, hid behind. But he didn't hide behind it all the time. Van Sant's character seems barely to exist -- his withdrawal is so profound that he seems suspended in a world between life and death. But this world is far from the one we recognize as one Cobain inhabited.

So A Man Walks Into A Talent Agent's Office...

The AristocratsThe Aristocrats is supposedly how nothing is shocking anymore. The movie is built around one infamous joke that comics occasionally tell just for each other’s amusement, trying to outdo each other in grossness and invention. And “The Aristocrats” is the punch line to the joke, which involves a lengthy setup – one that stretches comics to think of the worst possible ideas they can to involve a family and their unbelievably foul stage act. Trying to get more and more outrageous, many comics have made the joke involve incest with the family fucking each other; mother and father and children all sucking and fucking in a pool of their own vomit and feces.