Monday, October 19, 2009

Sorry Spike

I’m sorry Spike.
You see I really want to like Where the Wild Things Are.
The idea of matching skater-boy genius Spike Jonze to the beloved kid lit classic seemed the perfect collaboration. Those monsters were like the grubby teddy bears we all shared. And who better to direct then Spike Jonze? He who taught us to how to be John Malcovich. He who predicted the hipster moustache, when Mike D and the boys shot Sabotage.
So I really wanted to like it.

But, I can’t.
Yes it’s beautiful. The monsters loom large and lovely. It is exactly as I imagined it, well that is until the monsters open their mouths. Suddenly these mud-caked mascots sound like the cast of Felicity. Carol doesn’t like Bob and Ted. K.W. spends too much time with her friends. Judith is always picking on Ira and no one listens to Alexander.

Is this really the fantasy world we envisioned? Where the Wild Things Are author Maurice Sendak anointed Spike Jonze because he seemed so boyish himself. Certainly watching Spike and his young surrogate Max get along I can see there’s a part of the director that’s still hiding under the bed with his flashlight.

Childhood is a beautiful thing. But we’ve been living the past for so long Hollywood should be charged with smothering its inner child. You know before Jonze inflated the 20-page book into a blockbuster he’d been working on an adaptation of Harold and the Purple Crayon?.
And heck, why not?. The past couple years it feels like we’ve done nothing but playing in the past. GI JOE, Star Trek, Land of the Lost. How did we get here where nearly every piece of mainstream entertainment is a version of something else?

I remember a number of years ago when I was running a film club for a group of high school students. After watching a couple clips one of the students remarked how lucky I was to have grown up in the 80s when all the great movies were made.

It’s hard to look at the decade that brought us Police Academy 1 to 6 as a renaissance, but then again as least the good filmmakers were making something out of nothing. E.T. Back to the Future. Ghostbusters. All classic, entertaining films with inspiration to spare. What can we look forward to now? Ghostbusters 3 . Fantastic. Flabby phantom versions of the original.

Time to stop looking backwards.
I think I can survive without the next remake of Clash of the Titans, Thundercats and whatever else is in the pipe.
It’s time to see something new at the movies again.
As the boy king says, "Let the Wild Rumpus Start!"

Friday, October 9, 2009


My Couples Retreat review?


No it's not the worst comedy in the world.
But it certainly is lame.
Lame, predictable and with about as much bite as a Friends sitcom.

Surprised? I doubt it, but I was disappointed considering the talent available for this one.
As I've being talking about on air, Jon Favreau and Vince Vaughan made a big splash with Swingers in '96. They put their heart on their sleeves, poured their own money into it and made something real, something funny and touching.

You may not have liked the guys hitting the clubs in Swingers but I think you believed them. Do you believe Vince Vaughan as the henpecked husband? Not for a second. It's because Swingers came from a place of truth. Couples Retreat? The place of "Wouldn't it be flash to shoot a film in Bora Bora?"

Alack and alas.

Although I do want to draw your attention to one of my particular hang ups. Trailers That Don't Match Their Movies. If you watch the trailer to Couples Retreat you'll see some shots making it incredibly obvious Jon Favreau and his wife Kristin Davis are cheating on each other.

Now, unless I dozed off it seems those two little moments of infidelity are missing from the movie. Gone. Deleted.

The not-so-happy-couple still act like a couple of cheaters, so why snip out the evidence?
My theory is that when they tested the film audiences didn't like the couple's behaviour. So, bam, it's gone. Although most of us saw it in the trailer anyway. Silly and gutless.

And what about Vince Vaughan? Remember when he first burst on the scene? Sure there was the swagger, but there's was also an edge there. An actor not afraid to push the audience.
So what happened? Well here's his buddy Jon Favreau with the answer. This is from the great show Dinner for 5. It starts with Tony Shalhoub talking about actors who take risks.
(Follow the link or skip ahead to 1.42 in the video below.)

There you go. "Protecting the franchise." Now, of course Favreau wasn't talking about Vaughan there, but it's perfectly applicable. And we all know what the Vince Vaughan franchise is: The smart-ass friend. The angry tall dude with a penchant for put downs. What kills me with something like this is I know Vaughan can be funny. I watched him joshing with the cast during the promotional interviews. He's a naturally charming guy. But not the best choice for a puffy comedy about husbands and wives.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Garden State + Slap Shot

Who knew they were such fun?

The past couple days I've been spending a serious amount of time reading up on the skater-gal subculture. I've been learning the lingo (fresh meat = new recruits) and making a list of my fav derby names. (Axles of Evil, Nutcracker, Mack Truck Mel & Vega Vendetta)

The new movie WHIP IT, starring Ellen Page, is the reason for my new-found obsession. I liked Whip It when I saw it and I'm liking it more as time passes.

Part of my hesitancy was when I first watched Whip It was I focusing perhaps a little to much on Drew Barrymore's directorial debut. Was the music mixed too low? Should she have gotten better coverage of the action scenes? Why did you bother to set this in Texas when the actors sound as Southern as Woody Allen? All true, but those are small quibbles.
As I've had some distance, I'm growing impressed with what Drew was able to do here. Here's an actress that is no Megan Fox. Her look is a little more off-kilter, and that's a good thing because it forced her to develop other talents. Comic chops. A unique voice.

Then Drew finds this screenplay based on a book about RollerDerby gals, written by someone who put on skates herself. Drew tells the screenwriter, keep it messy, keep it raw. The result, a grrl power movie with some guts. The mother character isn't a total caricature. The loose ends are left hanging.

In a world of crappy remakes like FAME and plastic preachy flicks ala HIGH SCHOOL MUSICAL, Whip It is a rallying cry, filled with real gals who are strong, smart and happen to look fine in fishnets.

By the way, keep an eye out for Ellen Page's teammates in the Hurl Scouts. Seems Drew called in a lot of favours for this film.

Zoe Bell stuntwoman/actress is there, as it SNL's Kristen Wiig, R&B star Eve and Andrew Wilson is their coach Razor. He's the bearded brother of Luke and Owen Wilson.

See you out on the rink!