Archive for January, 2012

Clip: “Moulin Rouge – Absynthe and Green Fairy” on YouTube

Posted in Uncategorized on January 31, 2012 by tom

Yup. This happens. 🙂

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Moulin Rouge (2001)

Posted in Films 2012 with tags on January 31, 2012 by tom

Moulin Rouge is…

What I mean is, Moulin Rouge tells the story of…no. That’s not it, either.

On one hand, Moulin Rouge is what happened when a bunch of eccentric people drink entirely too much prescription cough syrup, break into a theater, and start randomly singing songs and dancing.

On the other, it’s a mix of different tragedies, mixed with colorful art direction, and pop songs.

Ewan McGregor and Nicole Kidman are the couple who love each other, but they must keep this hidden from the evil duke (Richard Roxbrough). Nicole Kidman has consumption, and Ewan McGregor has some odd associates, including a dwarf Toulouse-Latrec (John Leguizimo). Also, Jim Broadbent is amazing as the guy who runs Moulin Rouge (Broadbent won a BAFTA).

The story is about people having trouble assembling their show. Not so with Moulin Rouge. It has more edits in three minutes than 2001: A Space Odyssey had in its whole 9 hours, or whatever.

I should admit that I usually hate musicals with a burning passion.

But I loved Moulin Rouge. It grabbed my attention before the 20th Century Fox fanfare was done, and it zoomed by. When Broadbent ends up singing “Like a Virgin” to the angry Duke, I realized that Moulin Rouge is like one of those five amazing dreams you never forget. It doesn’t make a lot of sense, and disparate elements are shaken together like Yahtzee dice, but it somehow congeals into something magical.

I was really entertained, far more than I am normally after a musical (seriously, I wanted some third gang to come in and kill both the Jets and Sharks in West Side Story).

Perhaps it’s ironic, but I bet Moulin Rouge is even better after a bottle of the absinthe everyone’s drinking on-screen.

Grade: A-

Ah, Sweet Bird of Youth

Posted in Uncategorized on January 28, 2012 by tom

When I was 17, it was a very good year…
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Léon (aka, “The Professional”) 1994

Posted in Films 2012 with tags , on January 26, 2012 by tom

The three things you need to know about Léon. First, Jean Reno, as the eponymous hitman and protagonist, is a complete badass. Two, Natalie Portman makes her screen debut in this film as the orphaned tween, Mathilda, and she acts her scrawny ass off. Three, Gary Oldman, as demented, bent, evil DEA agent named Stansfield, is gloriously insane.

Oh, and Danny Aiello plays the standard Danny Aiello character.

“Léon” was written and directed by Luc Besson, whose breakout film was “La Femme Nikita.”

Léon is a cleaner, sort of jargon for a hitman. Danny Aiello gives him jobs and holds his money. Amongst Léon’s neighbors is a Jerry Springer family, the head of which is Mathilda’s drug-dealing father. Also in the home is the father’s skankwhore girlfriend, and her superskankwhore teenaged daughter. And a sweet, innocent, non-bullet-proof four year-old boy, Mathilda’s beloved little brother.

Mathilda’s pa has engaged in unethical business practices with a large amount of drugs he was holding for Gary Oldman. Bad dad swears he wasn’t the one who cut the cocaine from 100% to 90% purity. Gary Oldman moves right up next to the dad, sniffing his head, his shoulders, his face. (The “WHAT THE SHIT” look on actor Michael Badalucco’s face was not acting: he was seriously discomfited by Mr Oldman)

People get killed, and Mathilda knocks on Léon’s door. Against his better judgment, he takes her in.

Mathilda wants revenge, and she persuades Léon to teach her how to clean. Their relationship is interesting. Léon is a complete loner, and Mathilda grew up in a white trash rumpus circus. Worse, pubescent Mathilda develops a serious crush on Léon. (He has a couple awesome spit-takes with milk)

Jean Reno played Léon as borderline defective. He isn’t stupid, but he has a sort of simple personality. He drinks huge amounts of milk, and his best friend is a houseplant. If he hadn’t chosen this tack, “Léon” could have drifted into skeevy “Lolita” territory.

One thing I really like about Léon’s badassedness is that we see him work for it. He drinks milk, and does huge regimens of calesthenics that made me sore just watching him. He works at it. He’s not just some big guy with a gun. He’s smart. He has a code. He is a professional.

IMDB.com users gave “Léon” an 8.6 rating, placing it at #32 on their Top 250 Movies list, above “Citizen Kane,” “Sunset Blvd,” and “Dr Strangelove.”

I really liked “Léon.” I gave it an 8/10 on IMDB. It’s an excellent film, but it’s not what I would call a “classic.”

Holy shit, Gary Oldman’s creepy though. It’s worth watching just to see him. The beauty is that the film more than holds its own even when he’s not on screen.

Grade: A-/B+ (I vacillate)

An American Werewolf in London (1981)

Posted in Films 2012 with tags on January 25, 2012 by tom

John Landis’ film “An American Werewolf in London” will always take me back to college. No, I wasn’t in college when it came out, but my friends Chris and Tim had a VCR and a copy of “Werewolf.”

They also had all manner of “bongs,” as these items were called, and lots of substances that went into said items. It was a lovely combination.

I’ve seen “An American Werewolf in London” somewhere between five and 80 times, none of them since the early 90’s, when I had my own VCR. On a recent trip to Wal-Mart, there it was, digitally remastered with tons of bonus features, all for $5. Woo-hoo!

The two thoughts I had while watching it anew (and relatively lucid) were as follows. First, without “Werewolf,” there would never have been a “Shaun of the Dead” or “Zombieland.” Its mixture of comedy and monsters was perfect. The dialogue was fast and funny, and the monsters were creepy. Prior to this film, werewolves looked like guys with Chewbacca masks. Rick Baker won a well-deserved Oscar for engineering the werewolf transformations.

The other thought I had was, “DAMN, Jenny Agutter’s hot!”

The story is fairly simple. Two young American college students David Kessler (David Naughton) and Jack Goodman (Griffin Dunne) are backpacking through some desolate part of England (played by Wales). They stop by a small pub called “The Slaughtered Lamb,” where there’s a pentagram drawn on the wall. They’re made to feel unwelcome, and hit the road once again. Lo and behold, a werewolf attacks them on the moors, killing Jack, and wounding David.

Three weeks later, David awakens in a London hospital. He is tended to by crotchety Dr Hirsch (John Woodvine) and the delectable, kindhearted, awesome Nurse Alex Price (Jenny Agutter). One morning in hospital, David is visited by his hacked up friend Jack, who explains the werewolf story we’ve all heard a billion times. He was killed by a werewolf, and he’s thus doomed to walk the earth in limbo until the offending werewolf’s bloodline is severed. As it happens, David is the last of the werewolf bloodline, and Jack–after helping himself to some of David’s toast–tells his best friend he has to kill himself before the next full moon three days hence.

After David is released from the hospital, Nurse Price takes him home.  After a long nookie scene set to Van Morrison’s “Moondance,” David heads off to the bathroom, where Jack makes another appearance, cracking-wise and telling his friend to kill himself.

He doesn’t, and that night…

Well what the hell do you think happens? They go see “MacBeth”? A monster lorry rally? Maybe roller skating? Fish & chips, and watching telly?

Nope. As “Blue Moon” plays on the soundtrack, David transforms, and runs amok smiting Londoners. The transformation is protracted and painful. The killings offer a glimpse or two of the monster, but don’t show much.

The next morning, David awakens naked in the London Zoo’s wolf cage.

He feels great, “like an athlete,” and the whole night is a blackout.

Alex convinces him to go to the hospital. En route, David learns London suffered six mutilation murders, and escapes from Alex. He has his final meeting with Jack in the back of a Picadilly Circus porno theater. Amidst the sound of a really bad porno, Jack introduces David to all the people he killed the previous night.

The scenes with Jack and David are all really funny, especially this last one, where his victims offer friendly suggestions as to how David can kill himself.

David transforms, there’s a massive car crash, and the movie ends the way you’d expect it to.

I really like “An American Werewolf in London.” Just about every scene is sharp and well-made, often funny despite the most horrible activities on-screen.

However, the movie isn’t as much a great film as a bunch of cool scenes attached. It would be like swordfish florentine, chocolate pudding, and biscuits & sausage gravy–each of them highest-quality–all on the same plate. Great foods, that just don’t fit together.

Unless, of course, you were 19 and stoned.

Either way, I still enjoy “An American Werewolf in London.” And even if everything else 19 year-old Tom thought was completely wrong, I was right about one thing: Jenny Agutter is hot!

Grade: B

SOPA/PIPA This!

Posted in Uncategorized on January 18, 2012 by tom

A coworker today mentioned the saxophone in Norman Greenbaum’s “Spirit in the Sky.” I Googled it.

There was a black patch across the Google logo, but the site still worked. I clicked on the Wikipedia link.

Wikipedia is currently dark, blacked out. 10-7. Out of service.

They are doing this to call attention to SOPA/PIPA.

I adore the Internet. I love the whole damned thing. I love that I can wake up in the middle of the night, and I can find midget golden shower porn, AA meetings, shopping sites, the blogosphere, Jupiter’s mass, a recipe for methamphetamine, film reviews, news, serious commentary, whackjob commentary, you name it.

(I admit, I have never looked up midget golden shower porn, but I’m sure it’s there somewhere)

I love that the Internet teems with crackpots, conspiracy theorists, paranoiacs, and outsiders. I love that I can find the “JFK” movie quote “Them Warren Commission boys were pickin’ gnat shit outta pepper,” then find the relative size and mass of both gnat shit and pepper. I feel strangely at home here.

I understand, too, why SPOA/PIPA exist: because some people pirate movies and other intellectual property, and those who produce such content are denied their fair compensation. (They also spend zillions lobbying Congress)

I buy the books I read and the films I watch. I understand that some people don’t, and I think they’re douchebags.

However, the potential repercussions of SOPA/PIPA are mind-numbing. It could lead to websites being blacklisted, access to information and ideas being quashed, and more. The Internet is bigger than the United States of America; bigger than American film studios and record companies. That’s the Internet’s beauty. I have friends on nearly every continent, and online, we’re equals.

Leave the Internet alone. If nothing else, because the last dysfunctional group of megalomaniacs and scoundrels on Earth I’d want with the Internet’s future in their hands is the United States Congress.

(note: Please do a Google search for Jupiter, or something similar. Go to the Wikipedia entry your search pulls up. Click on it. That will take you to Wikipedia’s blackout page. Enter your Zip Code, and it will provide links to your representatives in Congress. Take a couple of minutes, and send a respectful note. Thanks.)

Saturday Rockabilly for those needing to keep warm “Rockpile w/ Robert Plant – Little Sister” via YouTube

Posted in Uncategorized on January 14, 2012 by tom
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