Autumn Cleaning

Between post-election moping, post-election acting out, post-election dringe-binking, chasing after the lovely stage manager (yes, still), seeing Team America, exercising my willies at a terrifying screening of The Grudge with Jess, and busily reading up on comforting post-election blogs and articles, I’ve hardly had a second to write.

Plus there’s that Day Job thing, and trying to get Ethan Lipton a whirl on radio in Providence for his upcoming gig at AS220 (no luck so far), and moving my room around because the paint-scraping guys need to get to my windows. And the MRI and blood tests, but more about that another time. I’m getting a bit itchy not posting, but the rough patch looks to be over soon enough.

Meantime, you can buy some used DVD’s from me at eBay. Just a day left in these auctions! Support your local Pepper, and help me get these things out of the house. (I promise I didn’t lick them.)

The Truth About Cats and DogsThe Truth About Cats and Dogs – Uma is the body but Janeane is the kind witty brain in this who-met-whom case of romantic mistaken identities. This sweet feel-good comedy is so well done it almost lifts off midway through and dances about trying to pat itself on the back. It’s a distaff Cyrano de Bergerac, basically, with pretty-but-not-pretty-like-THAT radio veterinarian Janeane Garofalo putting her tender words into the pretty-like-THAT mouth of Uma Thurman’s ditzy model. Will Ben Chaplin’s Brian figure out which of the girls he really loves? Of course he will, it’s a movie.

Everything is perfectly in place in The Truth About Cats and Dogs. It’s a fantastic picture, and I have no idea why it didn’t take off as much as, say, When Harry Met Sally. There’s a spark between Garofalo and Chaplin that doesn’t quite take until late in the game, so maybe that’s it. Me, I love Janeane Garofalo utterly, so I was sold from the first unlikely escapade with the roller-skating dog. Did you know that Uma Thurman’s mother was once married to Timothy Leary? True dat.

Jamie Foxx appears as Ed the Other Buddy. Some movies make you want to run out of the house to drink milk and be nice to animals, and this is one of them.

CrushCrush – Terrific acting and smart writing in this comedy of 40-something women and their travails with boys elevates a pedestrian movie and makes it a touching one. Andie MacDowell is generously weak as the glue that holds Crush‘s gushing women-will-be-girls together, but happily her co-mates do a fantastic job: Imelda Staunton’s bulldog of a policewoman finds love in all the wrong places with unselfconscious goofy style, and Anna Chancellor is lush and lovely as a predatory doctor who is love in all the wrong places.

The dialogue is snappy and satisfying, and this parable of love and passage sets its feet and crosses its arms and announces that life doesn’t end at age 30. Good for director Michael Lehmann and writer Audrey Wells for saying the right thing, and points all around for putting in a (visually chaste) lovemaking scene at a funeral, surrounded by gravestones. It’s literary, I tell you, literary. Downright symbolic.

Crush is at its best when it is being snappy and light-hearted and letting Chancellor and Staunton draw their characters with easy style, and it loses urgency the harder it works at driving its plot down the inevitable dark country road; but that’s to be expected, and at the end everyone is older and wiser. Or almost everyone. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you might even wish. As has been noted in reviews, this is a solid and caring mainstream movie that could never have been made in Hollywood, and shows its lineage with pride.

Far From HeavenFar From Heaven – Deep, mannered, and drenched in lurid color, Far From Heaven is a wickedly subversive tale perched in the Douglas-Sirk-suburbia of 1950′s Hollywood and poised to tumble into the thickets and brambles of social change. Julianne Moore plays Cathy, a well-to-do meant-to-do-well housewife at a time when that was considered a proper calling. She is perfect for the role, with backbone and domestic passion and the obvious counterpointed craving for a pat on the head from hubby Dennis Quaid and the kids. She decorates, she supervises the maid, she gives orders to the gardener, and all is well in the world.

But when Quaid starts coming home late for work it’s not another woman: it’s a man he’s been seeing. The black gardener becomes a friend and then a confidante, and that’s just not done in Nicetown. There is some ugly drinking, a black eye, and tears. As much as director Todd Haynes has overwrought prejudice as his main axe — racism, sexism and homophobia intertwine into impossible knots — the secondary theme, which is beautifully and subtly drawn, is of waking breaking hearts, and the pain they cause as they come up for air and change the world around them.

Spy GameSpy Game – Brad Pitt at the height of his powers teams with Robert Redford at the height of his easy invulnerability, and the pair make a two-stroke engine that powers this thin thriller forward at a dead run full of high-Hollywood spy lore, stylish computer-intelligence and CIA maneuvering, and on-the-ground ops running against friendly ops, counter-ops and, no doubt, opp-ops. I love this movie. Loved it in the theatre and bought it for home, but got the Full Screen edition by mistake. It just drives me crazy when I can’t see the sides of the image; I’m the kind that peers into the letterbox instead.

This is the Full Screen Collector’s Edition. Per the All Movie Guide DVD review, “Universal’s Spy Game DVD demonstrates just how much entertainment a DVD can provide. The movie stars Robert Redford as a veteran CIA operative and Brad Pitt as the young spook that he brings under his wing and takes a shine to. However, the movie, which is presented in full frame with a 1.33:1 aspect ratio and Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound, is almost incidental to the wealth of special features on the DVD.” There are two commentaries, deleted scenes, storyboard comparisons, and more.

Scenes of the CrimeScenes of the Crime – This independent where’s-the-money caper stars Jeff Bridges as the Big Boss who finds himself in the wrong car at the wrong time in a story of betrayal, ego, and the usual suspects. Jon Abrahams is the lead as Lenny, a little guy in the Organization who skips his own bachelor party to drive for Peter Greene’s Rick and ends up in the middle of a no-win situation, with rocks and hard places scattered all around.

Noah Wyle plays the enforcer Seth like he’s been waiting his whole life for this role, and maybe he has. Jeff Bridges is as godlike as he always is. This is a fun noir-light story that isn’t quite strong enough to bootstrap itself up into the big time, a quality it shares with most of its characters. It’s a lot of fun to watch. Mizuo Peck adds unspeakable eloquence in a brief topless scene (yay topless scenes), and Madchen Amick and Morris Chestnut are super as a vivid couple running the nearby deli who, curiously enough, don’t actually seem to have any function in the picture. As if you’re watching the plot, and then the camera wandered over to the side for a bit, and you said, “Oh look, those seem like really interesting people, and they sure look great together,” and then the camera went back to the story except when it got thirsty and popped into the store for a bottle of water. Odd, but it sort of works, if you don’t think about it.

Table OneTable OneTable One looks and feels like a cable pilot. It begins more or less with a few loser-type guys hitting on girls at a local bar. When they strike out they decide that the bar is to blame: the lights too dim, the music too loud, etc. etc. Why, if only someone would open the RIGHT kind of bar, life would be great, wouldn’t it? Opening a bar, that can’t be rocket science, can it? They might as well do it themselves, right? Basically, this is the story. It also seems to be how writer and director Morris Bregman decided to make this movie in the first place.

Because the guys mostly don’t know how to run their own place, the mob gets involved when money gets tight, and decides a nudie bar would be a better investment than a bar and restaurant aimlessly aimed at the kind of Yuppies who can’t properly pick up girls in a loud dark bar. Hijinks ensue. Everyone is redeemed in the end, which is no surprise, and along the way the humdrum battles the interesting to a pretty even draw.

Table One is so-so overall, but it’s worth seeing to watch Luis Guzman shine as a flaming gay maitre d’ and Michael Rooker build a fantastic character, a gruff ex-hockey star, out of slim sticks, and also for the on-and-off bits of levity via the guys from the mob. There are cute girls, some of whom have lines. The ones who don’t have lines periodically take off their shirts, but not enough to offend.

All or NothingAll or Nothing – This superb Mike Leigh film makes you want to slit your wrists, pour poison in the slits, shoot yourself, and make sure there’s ground glass on the bullets, just in case. Actually everyone is more or less delivered to grace at the end of this grim film, but getting there is the tricky part.

We have the destructive girl who seems on top of things but repeats the mistakes of her Mum, exactly. We have the long-married couple that falls into callous cruelty. One of the fat children can’t find love and pretends not to care; one has medical trouble that nearly ends in fatality. The abusive boyfriend shags the cute girl (in his one concession to the audience, Leigh gives you a character you wish would take her shirt off, and then she does). Another mother is a lousy drunk. But they all love each other, or summat. Mike Leigh writes and directs, and the acting ensemble is understated and absurdly good.

All or Nothing paints the quiet longing of its characters with such understatement and impassivity that audiences can project anything from faint hope to utter despair onto the canvas. Like Naked, the director’s brutal 1993 black comedy, the film sometimes seems to dare viewers to keep their eyes open. Leigh is so intent on depicting the stuff of humanity without prettification that his characters’ raw emotions and even their gloriously flawed faces and bodies sometimes seem too fearsome to continue watching.” – All Movie Guide

But don’t be fooled: grim as it is, this movie is enlightening and true, and full of vision and joy. The cast of jes’-folks looking actors plays it real and close to the bone, and it’s powerful to realize how rarely anything faintly resembling real life ever makes it onto your TV screen. For humans everywhere.

Glitch!Glitch! – Topless wackiness and in-your-face nonsense are paramount in this robbery caper gone sloppily wrong. Nico Mastorakis is sort of the Roger Corman of European beach-babe movies, which is either a good thing or a bad thing or just a thing, depending on how you look at it. This minor entry in the Mastorakis oeuvre features dumb thieves pitted against even dumber thieves, a femmy Ninja, a wandering hypnotist mystic, a pink miniature remote-control helicopter, and some of the lamest pretenses ever to coax giggly girls out of their tops. It’s outrageously bad, in a fun way.

This is the Omega Entertainment release, which features additional trailers for other Mastorakis outings and Part IV of the director’s jovial, rambly biomentary look at his body – ahem – of work. I’ll admit it, I bought this DVD new and have been its only owner. Mastorakis is a character and a half and I was checking out the, um, fruits of his efforts.

About Linus

The man behind the curtain. But couldn't we get a nicer curtain?
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