Friday, August 24, 2007

King of Kong

There are some documentaries that try to create story and character arcs through cheap, artificial means like reenactments and heavy-handed narration. Or, in the case of Michael Moore, just staging their own events and then pointing the camera at them, so the director is effectively the star of his own documentary.

Then there are documentaries like King of Kong, where all they have to do is point the camera at someone like Billy Mitchell or Steve Wiebe and let them define themselves in every word they say. It's terrific. I feel like I know exactly what all these guys are like. And although many of them would probably be pretty annoying in person, I happen to have a lot of experience with their brand of nerdy obsession. I was never that into Donkey Kong, but I certainly put in my share of hours.

The most fascinating character is Billy Mitchell, he of the huge ego based on accomplishments 25 years old. I understand he objects to his portrayal, and I can understand why: every single thing he says or does is hilariously pompous, to the point where the movie gets a huge laugh just showing him blow-drying his hair.

I should admit that I have a bias in favor of the kind of crazy obsessive behavior in thie movie. When the Twin Galaxies staff is talking about how important it is to correctly grade and rate video game performances, I'm nodding right along with them. I mean, I'm laughing at the same time, but . . . accuracy is important! It is!

I would like to add that Steve Wiebe's daughter is clearly the smartest person in the movie. Also, it's terrific and everyone should see it.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Stardust

This is a fantasy movie with comic elements and airship pirates. Obviously, I was going to like it. Although I think I liked the little grace notes (like the performances of the ghosts) more than the movie as a whole, if that makes sense. There were a lot of little things I liked a lot.

I thought it was going to be an empty theater, because I saw it at 12:40 on a Sunday, the week after it opened to what I'd heard were very small audienced. But our theater was almost packed. Weird.

Muppet Treasure Island

I like Muppets and pirates. And Tim Curry.

Wild Style

This is another classic hip hop movie I've never seen. But it turns out to be mostly terrible, with flat, uninteresting cinematography and flat, uninteresting performances. It is of historical interest, but it's not . . . good. Phooey.

Krush Groove

I think it's weird that Beat Street is one of my favorite movies and I've seen Breakin' a million times, but I've never seen Krush Groove. How is that possible? I was watching breakdancing movies in theaters when this came out, so what happened?

I can't remember my exact thought process, but I expect I either skipped it because it was more of a Rap movie than a Breaking movie, or (And this is a little more likely) I figured it was a Fat Boys Movie and I didn't want anything to do with it because they were a novelty act. I was young and I had strong, albeit arbitrarily-chosen, standards. It took me years to warm up to the Beastie Boys.

So now that I've seen it . . . it was okay. It's more of a Run-DMC movie (I haven't seen Tougher than Leather either, and I love Run-DMC!), but I think I enjoyed the Fat Boys plot more. The main Russell Simmons/Run-DMC plot was kind of weird for me because it was about Run-DMC's really early days, but they were using the songs that were out when the movie was made. So you see them record "King of Rock", and then they're still struggling. That song was huge! Russell Simmons did not have trouble paying back five thousand bucks after that movie.

That actually brings up a question I have about the mob in movies. This might apply to the actual mob too. Anyway, you always see them loan someone some money and then start threatening to kill the guy if he doesn't pay it back, plus exorbitant interest. My question is, why do they loan the money in the first place? You've got muscled-up goons, right? Why can't you just find some innocent citizen and say you'll cut off his thumbs if he doesn't come up with some cash? It seems more efficient.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Goodfellas

I enjoy this movie and feel it is well-made. It's a lot like a proto-Sopranos, what with all the Lorraine Bracco and Michael Imperioli around the place.

Also, Joe Pesci is just terrific in this. He deserved the Oscar he got. In fact, I personally think this should have won Best Picture instead of [checks IMDB] Dances with Wolves? Seriously? That's crazy.

I kind of hate the DVD, though. No extras and I have to flip the disc over halfway through the movie? That's what I get for buying it right away, I guess.

The Miracle Woman

Yeah...I didn't really connect with this movie. It stars a startlingly young Barbara Stanwyck as one of those preachers in a big tent, a lot like a televangelist without the "tele". And then she meets a blind man who teaches her the value of love and truth and all that. And the whole time, the sound is really loud and harsh because it's 1931 and they haven't really figured out the subtleties of sound recording.

There were two things that stuck with me. First, there's a scene where the blind guy entertains Barbara Stanwyck in his living room, and it's like a horrifying tour of what people did before television and the internet. There's a wind-up music box, a marionette, a card trick, and a ventriloquism act. And the ventriloquist's dummy ends up with a lot of dialogue. I do not believe it's a good idea to try to seduce a lady preacher with a dummy.

The other thing was that a messenger boy gives someone the finger. It's not much these days, but when it happens in a 1931 movie directed by Frank Capra, it comes as quite a surprise.

Whirlpool

Now this is proper film noir. Directed by Otto Preminger, written by Ben Hecht (under a fake name because of the blacklist, which I think adds a certain amount of world-weary bitterness to a script), and starring Richard Conte, Gene Tierney, and an extremely young and weird-looking Jose Ferrer as an unscrupulous hypnotist.

One thing I really liked was that there aren't any really nice people in the movie. Even before the evil hypnotist shows up, the "perfect couple" are lying to each other and quietly seething. That's good stuff right there.

Saturday, August 4, 2007

Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves?

How do you screw up Robin Hood this much? And if you're going to, why don't you just not bother? We've already got two great versions (Errol Flynn and Disney, and I don't care what you say), and then this nonsense comes along. A whiny, clumsy Robin Hood that is only cocky when it's most annoying? Great. Morgan Freeman playing the Magical -- actually, can't we just call it "The Morgan Freeman Character" at this point?

Anyway, I obviously only watched this for Alan Rickman, because I was still on that "Alan Rickman as an entertaining villain" thing. In this case, it's like he's appearing in a different, much more fun, movie. Here's what Roger Ebert said when it came out:

Costner plays Robin Hood as if he were Alan Alda.

Alan Rickman, in complete contrast, plays the Sheriff as if he were David Letterman: He's a wicked, droll, sly, witty master of the put-down and one-liners, who rolls his eyes in exasperation when Robin comes bursting in to interrupt the rape. Rickman's performance has nothing to do with anything else in the movie, and indeed seems to proceed from a uniquely personal set of assumptions about what century, universe, etc., the story is set in, but at least when Rickman appears on the screen we perk up, because we know we'll be entertained, at whatever cost to the story.


Darn right! I don't understand how a fun guy like Brian Blessed's Lord Locksley could possibly be the father to both Kevin Costner and (spoiler!) Christian Slater. Well, I admit that I don't really know that Blessed's character is a fun guy, but how could he not be? He's Brian Blessed! If Mike McShane hadn't shown up as Friar Tuck, the "Merry Men" would have been the worst-named group since, um, I can't be bothered to come up with a comparison.

This movie stinks.