Cinema Snapshotsby Bobby Matherne
Movies we watched this past Month
Hits (watch as soon as you can):
Arnold may become the first governor of California to have appeared nude in a movie. Shoot him in the head and he spits out a bullet and says, “Don’t do that.” A woman rewires his head and he goes bad for a time till he does a system reboot. They spent so much money on special effects and knocking power poles down with a crane that the budget didn’t allow any money for a script, but who’s complaining? A fast two hours. Machines 1, Humankind 0.
When Dr. Evil explains that his preparation A didn’t work, and neither did B, C, D, E, . . . at some point you knew that he was heading for the Preparation H. “On the whole, it feels good.” is an actual quote. The miracle of this movie is the quaint euphemisms for parts of the male genitals and other forms of excrement that kept it from having an “R” rating. When Mini-Me shows his to Austin Power's father, played grandly by Michael Caine, Caine says, “You look like a tripod. That looks like a baby’s arm holding a peach.” Mini-Me switches sides. And guess who has an “Evil Twin”? I found myself cringing sometimes and other times laughing so hard I couldn’t keep my eyes on the screen.
Caesar — with Richard Harris as Sulla, Chris Noth as Pompey, and Christopher Walken as Cato. This four hour original movie by TNT is well worth the watching. As often happens to great actors at the end of their long careers, Richard Harris enacted Sulla’s death in his bathtub and shortly afterward died himself. Well-paced, great narrative drive, fine acting all around.
We watched this movie on cable a few weeks earlier, missed the very beginning, and got tired of watching Jennifer Lopez continually make bad decisions. Halfway through we'd had Enough of seeing her get beat up by her possessive and philandering husband. Since these two attributes are so unlikely to be in the same person, it must be a set-up for something equally unlikely to happen next. But we turned it off in disgust. When the DVD came in, we decided to watch it from the beginning and see if it made more sense. It did. A little. We held on through all the beatings, ineffectual moves by JLO, the lugubrious advice from her air-head girl friend who first pushed her towards the man who became her abusive husband. Finally JLO gets help from Jupiter, her father, the rich and all wise-ass. She gets combat training and arranges to kill her husband legally. How? Well, that would be telling.
The Importance of Being Earnest
Rupert Everett and Colin Firth each wanted to be named Earnest because their girl friends loved that name. Unfortunately one was named Jack and the other one Algie. But since Jack pretended to have a wastrel friend in the city named Earnest he took that name when he visited Algie in the city. Algie uses that name when comes to the country to meet Cecilia while Jack’s away. But when Jack and his girl friend both show up unexpectedly in the country, you have what in the country is called a "peck of trouble". Witty and fun to the very end — the kind of fun that drove Oscar Wilde.
In the Time of Butterflies
When Minerva Mirabel and her sisters led an underground movement to overthrow Trujillo in the Dominican Republic. Watching the stark images of repression and torture by a dictator who stayed in power by killing all who opposed him was like watching Saddam Hussein while he was in power in Iraq. Minerva’s rebel name was “Butterfly” and the name soon became a synecdoche for the rebel movement. Its whispered rallying cry was, “God Bless the Butterflies”.
Unfaithful in which Richard Gere appears --- whose name is enough to conjure up all kinds of scenarios in which he is unfaithful to his wife, as he has been in every movie in which marriage was a plot issue, up until now. Surprise, Surprise! It is he who remains faithful to his wife until the very end, while she goes between the covers with a book dealer who gets a lot more than he bargained for.
Misses (avoid at all costs):
Or how one of the Baldwin brothers tries to save the world by blowing up private property, and how he gets religion when one of his enthusiastic followers of his begins blowing up people, too. Green thuggery is lionized in this movie, and it's not worth sitting through the lies to sniff out the meager whiffs of truth contained within this movie's toxic fumes.
A Jackie Chan disappointment. This must have been his earliest movie — done in Japanese language dubbed into English which is much fun as jogging in a swamp — most of the humor we came to love in his recent movies was absent. Well, there was an interesting bit where he had his clothes torn off of him and ran through a crowded open-air market using grape bunches to cover his front and back while fighting off bad guys, turning his back to camera while he dropped the front bunch. The grapes got replaced in sequence by pies, women’s hats, and about a dozen things before he manages to dress himself like a nun by pulling down an enormously long white sheet from a clothesline in an alleyway and wrap himself into a nun, all on camera without showing any more genitalia than Goldmember or Mini-Me on camera.
Your call on these next movies; your taste may differ, but I liked them:
The Good Girl
Jennifer Aniston doing her best to look bored and plain — good, since she was playing a married woman in “No Sex and the Small Town”. Strapped into the saddle at the Cosmetic Counter of Retail Rodeo, she finds herself soon beholden to Holden who spends his time at another counter reading his one book, “Catcher in the Rye” over and over, and writing the story of his life over and over. Soon she’s having an affair with Holden, sex with her loving husband’s best friend, her girl friend at work dies, she’s paying for the motel with her credit card, and she gets pregnant just before her husband finds out he’s sterile. All this is fairly predictable as the story unfolds except this minor point: Can this mess have a happy ending?
A 1997 movie with Jennifer Aniston in which she's confused once again over which man to give her love to: the womanizer Kevin Bacon who won’t make love to her unless she committed to someone else or the made-up fiancé Jay Mohr who will love her regardless of who she’s with. This time she’s got a dynamite job doing big-buck ads for the Super Bowl, but this made-up fiancé thing is a snow job heading downhill real fast. Will she remember how simply telling the truth makes things? She didn’t tell all in “The Good Girl.”
The mythical prep school Runcie has a clique of five seniors who think “as one mind” and do all sorts of retribution against students who have erred. One day they err when they decide to retrieve test answers for physics final and their ploy is uncovered. One student dies, one is expelled, and one is uncovered. Screen play lacks the continuity to make it a gripping drama instead of a slipping drama.
The Crocodile Hunter
Earlier in the day I’d seen Cagney in “Yankee Doodle Dandy” playing George M. Cohan, who was born to parents who were vaudeville performers and who began performing about age 4. Steve Irwin was born to wild animal experts and caught his first crocodile by jumping out of his dad’s boat at age 4. Also caught a poisonous snake at age 4 by stepping on it and waiting for his dad to come get it. Steve Irwin is the George M. Cohan of the wild animal kingdom. The DVD contains his life story told by his wife, with actual movie clips of young Steve. Plus a melange of his greatest song and dance routines with crocodiles, snakes, Komodo dragons, and large sharks. "Crikey! Dangerous! You’re alright, Mate!" If you can stand a couple of hours of that dialogue while watching a genuinely crazy man risking his life to save crocodiles, this is your movie.
© 2003 Bobby Matherne
See Bobby Matherne's website for many more movie and book reviews: www.doyletics.com;
Or sign up for his Monthly Newsletter