File this under “Apocalypse, pending.” Slashfilm is reporting, per a video announcement from Troy Duffy himself, that the long-threatened… err, rumored Boondock Saints sequel is finally happening, with original cast members Sean Patrick Flanery, Norman Reedus and Billy Connelly all said to be returning. Does St. Patrick’s Day fall on a Tuesday next year? Because I’m sensing a savvy direct-to-DVD stunt from financier Sony, a la the recent remake of The Omen, which studio middle-ups and director John Moore basically admitted was made solely to opportunistically fill the slot of a June 6, 2006 (i.e., 6/6/06) release date. Either way, maybe this gives Duffy another chance to threaten to kick my ass if I don’t like his movie, and give it a bad review…
Based on the best-selling book by renowned author Jack Ketchum, The Lost is a psychological thriller about the ennui of small town life and a young, charismatic serial killer who looks like the lead singer of The Killers — sporting mascara, an affected beauty mark and crushed beer cans in his boots to give him a boost in height as well as ego.
Inspired by actual events related to Charles Schmid, the so-called “Pied Piper of Tucson,” The Lost delves into human horror on a fairly mundane level. For sadistic sociopath Ray Pye (Marc Senter, above left), who lives with his (very much alive) mother at the hotel they own and operate together, small-town life is a dead-end road of sex, drugs, liars and losers. Yet Ray’s cajoling charm and intelligence mask a raw temper and insatiable compulsion to lash out.
After shooting a couple girls in the woods (Seduction Cinema staples Misty Mundae, né Erin Brown, and Ruby LaRocca), twentysomething-ish Ray and his two younger acolytes, Jennifer (Shay Astar) and Tim (Alex Frost), go about their business, which consists of biding their time during the day so that they can party and do as they please during the evenings. In an effort to protect the young girlfriend, Sally Richmond (Megan Henning), of an old friend, Eddie Anderson (Ed Lauter), Detective Charles Schilling (Michael Bowen) pays a visit to Ray, to sort of let him know in informal fashion that he’s got his eyes on him. Ray, though, has other options when Sally spurns his amorous advances, and he eventually confesses his act of murder to a new girl, Katherine (Robin Sydney), in a warped effort to impress her. Things come to a depraved head when
Notwithstanding a very brief but strikingly emotional cameo by Dee Wallace-Stone and the appearance of Luke Y. Thompson as “Handsome Country Club Patron,” The Lost is for the most part a meandering (the movie runs just under two hours) ensemble mood piece about vice, violence and psychopathy. Adapted for the screen and directed by Chris Sivertson (I Know Who Killed Me), The Lost bills itself as a suburban fairy tale gone horribly wrong, which I suppose is partially true. But since most of the film unfolds four years after the initial murder, and its effects are largely out of sight and out of mind after the first 15 minutes, there’s a weird disconnect between those events and the present day, even though we obviously know Ray is psychotic. He was the only suspect in those slayings, but Schilling seems awfully resigned to his freedom, and The Lost consequently suffers, since for much of its running time there is simply no direct conflict or ticking-down moral clock driving the movie forward.
What we get instead is a bunch of discrete scenes of hair-trigger temper, some of which work, and some of which don’t. The Lost is a movie that bears some small similarity to young-homicidal-lovers-on-the-lam flicks (Kalifornia, Natural Born Killers, Jimmy and Judy), but the mentor-lover-friend triangle between Ray, Jennifer and Tim isn’t fully explored until Schilling and company come crashing in, via a series of interrogations, in the third act. By that point, through other dawdling scenes (a protracted introduction to Katherine, for instance), you’ve been wanting a fuller, in-all-its-tangled-ingloriousness exploration of the twisted dynamics between the aforementioned trio, not just some post-mortem.
Meanwhile, Senter — as mentioned before, dolled up like the lead singer of The Killers, to mimic some of the Elvis-inspired “peacocking” of Schmid — delivers a performance that’s often forceful and engaging, but ultimately tips over into precious, look-at-me theatrics, with tics, wild gesticulations and snarled asides. It doesn’t help that Sivertson shoots much of the movie in tight close-up, giving viewers a claustrophobic urge to ditch the proceedings even before the most egregious bloodletting commences. Music (composed and rock) is also used liberally, to wildly varying effect.
Forced-play trailers for The Girl Next Door, also from Ketchum, and the forthcoming theatrical release Sex and Death 101 open the DVD, which comes in a regular Amray case that’s then housed in a cardboard slipcover with mock bullet holes on the front. Presented in 2.35:1 widescreen, enhanced for 16×9 televisions, the disc comes with Dolby digital 5.1 surround and Dolby surround 2.0 audio tracks.
As for supplemental features, first up is a rather snooze-inducing audio commentary track with Ketchum (his first such undertaking) and fellow horror novelist Monica O’Rourke. Ketchum offers up a very few interesting tidbits early on, like how the inspiration for the story came from a newspaper clipping from friend and fellow writer Christopher Golden, but he has virtually nothing to say about the production, so while interesting or notable things are unfolding on screen, he’s just as likely to be talking about an idea for another book project, or speech he gave years ago. Thankfully, the rest of the bonus features are a bit better. There are seven minutes worth of audition footage and 16 minutes worth of outtakes, including some random nudity. There’s also a three-and-a-half-minute storyboard sequence and an Easter egg that’s accessible from the bonus menu screen — a two-minute black-and-white short film, Jack and Jill, which gives grim new meaning to picnic offerings. C+ (Movie) B- (Disc)
So a warrant for the arrest of Shia LaBeouf has been recalled a day after the young actor failed to show up in court to face an unlawful smoking charge. Authorities issued a $1,000 bench warrant for his arrest earlier in the week, but on
Wednesday the court discarded the warrant after
LaBeouf’s attorney turned up to plead not guilty on behalf of the 21-year-old. Small potatoes, sure, but why even bother with a non-guilty plea? A good friend of mine has the right idea: “If I were his lawyer, I’d say they were those sticks of gum coated with powdered sugar that look like cigarettes from the 1980s — you put them in your mouth, inhaled the sugar and blew them out to make it look like you were smoking. I think they stopped selling them because they claimed it marketed cigarettes to kids. But Shia’s got Spielberg money now, so he can afford to buy some of those off eBay and ‘smoke’ sugar wherever he wants.”
A sort of Muppet Babies animated satire crossed with That’s My Bush!, the short-lived, live-action White House spoof from South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone, Comedy Central’s Lil’ Bush: Resident of the United States is a razor-sharp skewering of the rascally, tunnel-visioned foibles of George W. Bush (and other political figures), all in miniaturized, adolescent form. Created by Donick Cary (a former scribe on The Simpsons), the series details the blinkered antics of Lil’ George and his Lil’ White House posse — including Lil’ Condi, Lil’ Rummy and the unintelligible, foul-mouthed Lil’ Cheney — as they tackle all the major playground issues of the day, from illegal immigration and abortion to evolution and the war on terror.
The first series to make the transition from mobisode to full-fledged television show, Lil’ Bush premiered in mid-June of last year, as the most watched Comedy Central original series bow since 2004. Unfolding in a sort of alternate, suspended imaginary state (present day, inclusive of all the complications in Iraq, but with a doddering George H. W. Bush as president, allowing Lil’ George run of the White House grounds), the series’ inaugural season naturally gets a lot of painfully comedic run out of its subjects’ war-mongering ways. Lil’ George makes a statement with his Aquaman underpants while facing off against Lil’ Kim Jong Il, and the gang also goes on a panty raid against an Al Qaeda training camp before eventually unleashing weapons of mass destruction. Lil’ George also becomes fascinated with Lil’ Tony Blair (beguiled by his accent, he asks if he’s from Narnia), and the pair become cheerleaders together.
Some of the most jaw-droppingly hilarious episodes, though, take other topical issues as their leaping-off points — an ill-reasoned attempt by Lil’ George to speed up global warming, and a protest at an abortion clinic which ends with Lil’ Cheney, umm, stuck inside Barbara Bush’s uterus. The musical predilections of Cary and fellow show runner Opus Moreschi
are also revealed via the show’s voice cameos, which include Iggy Pop, Henry
Rollins, Frank Black, Wilco frontman Jeff Tweedy, Dave Grohl and Red Hot Chili Peppers
members Anthony Kiedis and Michael “Flea” Balzary. In fact, since Lil’ George and his pals are in a band together, and he’s always talking about wanting to rock, a portion of many episodes is devoted to music video-style send-ups, which are amusing at first, but eventually reach a point of somewhat diminished return, except in an episode like “Walter Reed,” in which, wincingly, Lil’ George enthusiastically opines, “These troops’ll be blown away all over again — but this time by rock ‘n’ roll!”
For what it’s worth, there is an honest attempt here made at fair play, with bipartisan skewerings of various Democratic candidates and left-wing figures like John Kerry, Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and filmmaker Michael Moore. But these bits (they too, are classmates of Lil’ George) are not as tightly scripted or effective, and mostly just play off a single character trait (e.g., Kerry’s ponderousness, or Bill Clinton’s lasciviousness). Thankfully, the cracked, tangential observations of Lil’ George — humorously embodied with petulant confidence by Chris Parson — are sharp, and high-yield enough to keep things moving at a great pace. (Sample line, about the Oval Office: “Oval is a shape they don’t tell you about in school — it’s like a circle, but for rich people.”) And the show’s humor also reaches back in time a bit; Bush Sr. is reminded that he’s “allergic to Asian people,” a reference to his vomitous state dinner trip to the Far East.
The show’s uncensored first season DVD set (allowing for an unbleeped airing of Lil’ Cheney’s occasional favorite exhortation of “Go fuck yourself!”) is presented on a single disc, and housed in a regular Amray case. It comes with a quite-nice roster of bonus material. An animated, one-and-a-half-minute White House tour sets up the show’s concept nicely, and allows for a few zingers. There are also six minutes of cast and crew interviews, with Cary, Moreschi and voice talent Parson, who it turns out was found and booked for the series via Craigslist, amazingly enough. A six-minute table read for the episode “Hot Dog Day” (in which Lil’ George bristles at the un-American notion of scaling back his school’s lunch line offerings), meanwhile, offers a glimpse at the pre-production process.
Its most intriguing bonus feature, though, might be its collection of
audio commentaries. Cast and crew sit for a number of them, during which we learn that the animation for the series takes anywhere from four to six months, but that the brief “cold open” to each episode is scripted about a week prior to airing. Even more interestingly, creator
Cary is also joined on a trio of commentaries, improbably enough, by Jerry
Springer, Tucker Carlson and Ralph Nader. While each figure’s familiarity with the show varies, their participation certainly makes for some off-the-beaten-path exchanges; Nader’s in particular is strange, as he mercilessly harangues the real-life Bush by pointed comparison to the show’s animation, noting that arched brows are “a signal of belligerency in chimpanzee land.” Seriously.
Finally, there’s also the inclusion of the aforementioned, but never-before-seen bonus episode “Walter Reed,” which substituted for another episode that finds Lil’ Cheney dying of a heart attack after getting stuck in a vending machine, going to hell, and loving every minute of it, crying, “Home, home!” As Cary and Moreschi explain in a brief introduction, they had to work up something to swap in for public airing and sensitivity’s sake on the off chance that the real-life Cheney passed away. Wow — if only that sense of preparation was applied to, say, post-war planning for Iraq. To purchase Lil’ Bush on DVD, click here. A- (Show) A- (Disc)
So I had a dream last night about a very detailed trailer for a film starring Madonna, directed by Julie Taymor. And it came on during an episode of Saturday Night Live that Jessica Alba was hosting. What the hell is that about?
He gained around 60 pounds for the role, so you know it’s not something he undertook lightly. Now Jared Leto will step out and make a few bi-coastal, in-person appearances for Chapter 27, the long-delayed Mark David Chapman flick whose release through Peace Arch Entertainment is finally just around the bend (March 28 in New York, April 4 in Los Angeles). Based on crime journalist Jack Jones’ book Let Me Take You Down: Inside the Mind of Mark David Chapman, the movie, costarring a pre-rehab Lindsay Lohan, takes its title from the notion that Chapman was trying, through his actions, to author his own concluding chapter to J.D. Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye, which features 26 chapters. In New York City, at the Angelika, Leto will appear at two evening shows apiece on March 28 and 29, at 8:00 p.m. and 10:20 p.m. The following weekend, in Los Angeles, Leto will appear at the 7:30 p.m. and 9:50 p.m. shows at the Nuart, on April 4 and 5.
I’ve noted this past week just how bad Doomsday is (a couple times, actually) but previously failed to mention that one of the more unusual and curious elements of its failure is the sound design, which is mixed too high only, and notably, in non-action scenes. Composer Tyler Bates‘ cheesy instrumentation notwithstanding (he dabbles all over the map, to poor effect), Doomsday‘s sound mix masks simple dialogue and (arguably) crucial expository set-up, which is usually a sign of a director not trusting his or her script. The rub? Director Neil Marshall wrote the screenplay here as well, raising the crucial question: is a somewhat self-aware hack better than a hack who doesn’t know they’re a hack?
A riveting, perfectly constructed crime saga of counterweighted hopelessness and humanity, Joel and Ethan Coen’s No Country for Old Men, based on the novel of the same name by Pulitzer Prize-winning author Cormac McCarthy, is a film that originally seduces you with its cool sheen of menace and nervy, swallowed intensity, and then, in subsequent viewings, wins you over with all the broader questions its desperate scramble for survival raises.
That the back of No Country for Old Men‘s DVD cover synopsis ends by touting the movie’s “heart-stopping final moment” is… I don’t know, ironic? Or maybe just stupid? No Country for Old Men is several things at once — a dusty ensemble elegy for simpler times, a neo-western, and a relentless, stalking psycho-killer picture — but its famously contemplative ending (more on that in a bit) isn’t a conventional capper by any stretch of the imagination. Irrespective of its box office gross (it made $74 million domestically), to try to sell this movie as a “super-charged action thriller” (another lame-brained quote from the DVD cover text) to folks who haven’t yet seen it is to simply set everyone up for confusion and potential disappointment, if only based on expectation. Just sell the many things that it is, and let that be enough.
The winner of four Academy Awards (for Best Picture, Best Directors, Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Supporting Actor, for Javier Bardem), No Country for Old Men was also nominated for four more Oscars, and features achingly beautiful cinematography from Roger Deakins as well as a sparsely used score from composer Carter Burwell’s that summons the feelings of a distant roar of thunder — a thin string of vague, atmospheric discomfort until, finally, full-fledged menace suddenly overtakes you. That’s in keeping with the overall tone of the movie, actually — at once the most ambitious and reserved Coen brothers’ picture in some time.
Violence and mayhem erupt in the parched scrubland and panoramic skies of West Texas, a land dominated by beiges and greys. While out hunting one afternoon, cud-chewing Llewelyn Moss (Josh Brolin, above) stumbles on a suitcase containing $2 million dollars, and the site of drug deal gone very bad. Fleeing with the money and sending his girlfriend Carla Jean (Kelly Macdonald) off for safety, Moss finds himself stalked relentlessly by Anton Chigurh (Bardem, eerie and mesmerizing), an unstoppable sociopathic killer with a pageboy ‘do and chilling, thousand-yard stare.
A hired gun who takes his task very, very personally, Chigurh, who could well be an even more demented cousin of Bobby Peru, has no qualms at all with violence, and leaves a bloody trail in his wake while searching to recover the cash. As Moss scrambles to hang on to the money and his life, small-town sheriff Ed Tom Bell (Tommy Lee Jones), a taciturn third-generation lawman, closes in on both men, but wonders what he’s gotten himself into. Meanwhile, fellow bounty hunter Carson Wells (Woody Harrelson — a tall, cool glass of water) tries to find Moss and convince him to turn over the money before Chigurh does away with his family.
The cast here is uniformly excellent, but the revelation of the movie, though, may be Brolin, who had quite a 2007 between American Gangster, In the Valley of Elah and Robert Rodriguez’s vibrant, fun Planet Terror portion of the misguided experiment that was Grindhouse. He’s the emotional heartbeat of this film — the character you’re most sympathetic to, and personally interested and invested in… unless perhaps you’re a retiree.
Jones’ character is hamstrung by the fact that he ducks in and out of the film more than Moss or Chigurh; if they’re the mouse and cat, respectively, he’s the old hound dog sitting on the backyard porch, trying to figure out a way to get down and catch up to both of them. Large swatches of the movie address his dissipating passion for his work, his worn-down weariness at having to confront evil. (“This is a mess, ain’t it, sheriff?” asks his junior deputy at the aforementioned outdoor crime scene, to which Bell replies in deadpan fashion, “If not, it’ll do ’til one arrives.”)
The first go-round, some of these passages might seem to slow the movie down a bit. But they actually give it a corresponding real-world starkness and depth that serves to counterbalance the inexorable march of Chigurh. This is most robustly embodied in the film’s finale, in which Bell recounts some dreams he’s recently had — dreams featuring his father. There’s a specificity of intent there, but Bell’s monologue of recollection is also about hope and the future, about recognizing a world outside of and independent from all the evil, familial acrimony and missed opportunity in the world (“And then I woke up…”), and choosing to live there. While more overt Iraq films have flailed at the theatrical box office (not the least of which Jones’ own In the Valley of Elah, written and directed by Paul Haggis) because Americans by and large don’t like to see on the big screen mirrored reflections of real life and/or what they’ve been seeing on the television news, in certain ways No Country for Old Men is very quietly, shrewdly and profoundly political. It’s a movie whose grace-note ending presages some of the hope attached to the presidential candidacy of Barack Obama. The arc of Bell’s character represents a typical independent American voter, from 2002 to 2007.
Housed in a regular Amray case in turn stored in a cardboard slipcover, No Country for Old Men is presented in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen, enhanced for 16×9 televisions, with a Dolby digital 5.1 surround sound audio track and optional French, English and Spanish subtitles. Along with a gallery of trailers, supplemental extras consist of a trio of featurettes, running around 40 minutes in total, and pieced together from the same interview sessions with cast and crew. The first, a more general making-of overview, charts all the ins and outs of production. Another featurette examines working with the Coens, and includes some amusing anecdotes about their working methods. Finally, “Diary of a Country Sheriff” offers up a more thematic and slightly esoteric view of the film itself, using the character of Bell and the movie’s geography to give it some contextual mooring. Oh, and there’s also a six-minute striptease lesson from Tommy Lee Jones… just kidding. A (Movie) B+ (Disc)