I remember thinking of HE GOT GAME as a slightly under-the-radar Spike Lee joint, but I think it’s become pretty well known over the years. It’s just that it’s in that middle period where he still seemed to have clout but the cultural excitement around him was on a slow, inevitable decline after touching the sun in 1992 with MALCOLM X.
With CLOCKERS and GET ON THE BUS he got increasingly experimental with his style, switching between different film stocks and handheld cameras in energetic ways that I always thought were influenced by Homicide: Life on the Street. HE GOT GAME is a uniquely stylish film that seems more inspired by slick commercials and sports show intros. The story is about the ugly, exploitative side of college athletics, but the style is all about worshiping basketball as the great American sport.
Two credits give you an idea of Lee’s lofty approach: “Music: Aaron Copland. Songs: Public Enemy.” The musical score is built from the sweeping 1940s “populist” style orchestral pieces by, as Lee puts it on the commentary track, “the great American composer from Brooklyn, New York.” Pieces used include “Our Town,” “Lincoln Portrait” and “Fanfare for the Common Man.” The latter has been used in sports broadcasts and Navy ads, it has played on Space Shuttles and inspired the scores for both SUPERMAN and SAVING PRIVATE RYAN. It was originally composed upon America’s entry into WWII. Copland considered the titles “Fanfare for a Solemn Ceremony” and “Fanfare for Four Freedoms” before using a term he heard in a speech by Vice President Henry A. Wallace. These are reverent Americana anthems for the pursuit of happiness and amber waves of grain and all that. (read the rest of this shit…)
Before Riverdale, before the Marvel Cinematic Universe, before Christopher Nolan Batman, before 9-11 even, there was a different type of comic book movie: JOSIE AND THE PUSSYCATS. Inspired by the Archie comic book and Hanna-Barbera cartoon, writer/directors Harry Elfont & Deborah Kaplan told a goofy version of the little-rock-‘n-roll-band-tested-by-overnight-superstardom story.
Actually maybe we should forget about comics and consider this timeline: it was a year before American Idol started. The Spice Girls had packed it up the year before. NSYNC and Backstreet Boys were still popular. The movie seems to offer the Pussycats as a refreshing alternative for teenage girls to obsess over instead of boy bands, but it should be noted that Destiny’s Child, Alicia Keys, Jennifer Lopez, Janet Jackson, Brandy, Madonna, Mary J. Blige, Pink, and Aaliyah (plus Britney Spears and Jessica Simpson) all had hits that year. But I guess the Pussycats do stand out by playing instruments. Their songs are kind of sassy pop punk, not good in my opinion but not as intolerable as some in-movie music. (read the rest of this shit…)
So KIDS is 20 years old – which is older than most (all?) of the actors in the movie. What I’ve discovered watching it now as an aging individual is that the older you get the more disgusting it gets. I mean, they have always been younger than me, but now they look like babies. The first shot of the movie is an endless closeup of skinny, shirtless sixteen-years-young Telly (Leo Fitzpatrick, now better known as a junkie on The Wire) awkwardly french kissing a girl who looks even younger than him (I believe he says she’s 12). I don’t think there’s any nudity in this movie, and for all the sexual discussion and activity – enough that it had to be released NC-17 – it’s actually not very graphic. But there’s a whole lot of young teens sloppily kissing, which is almost more uncomfortable. Those scenes make me feel either like an old prude or a young kid who thinks kissing is gross.
This is the rookie movie of both director Larry Clark and writer Harmony Korine, and it definitely gives you an idea of the type of filmatists they would become. You got Clark’s eye for a gritty, documentary texture and his obsession with documenting sweaty, burgeoning teenage sexuality, and you have Korine’s weirdness and disdain for traditional cinematic storytelling. One long section of the movie is just cutting between two rooms, one full of boys, one full of girls, as they talk candidly/show-offily about sex. Of course they paint very different pictures. For example, in the boy’s room they’re pretty excited about how much they know girls love to “suck dick,” while at that same moment the girls are all commiserating about how much they hate that. (read the rest of this shit…)
I usually have a hard time writing about comedies, but TOP FIVE is a moment worth commemorating: the point when Chris Rock finally became the filmmaker he always seemed like he wanted to be.
Not that he really needed that. The man has come a long way since having to play Luther Campbell on Saturday Night Live because he’s the only black guy. He’s reached the heights of standup, done some smart television, hosted the Oscars, produced GOOD HAIR and POOTIE TANG*, and yes, been funny in movies. But to me it seemed like his movies were always compromised in some way. Can you point to the one (or more) great Chris Rock vehicle? CB4 maybe?
I remember when he directed HEAD OF STATE I had high hopes. That’s about all I remember. Well, the one thing that made an impression was that it had narration sung by Nate Dogg.
TOP FIVE finally feels like that pure personal expression he’s been on the verge of. Not because he plays a comedian trying to be taken more seriously, but because his talents and passions are all over this. It’s a conversation movie. His character, comedian-turned-movie-star-tired-of-comedy Andre Allen, is being profiled by New York Times writer Chelsea Brown (Rosario Dawson) on the eve of his movie about the Haitian Revolution and his Bravo-sponsored wedding to a reality show star (Gabrielle Union). (read the rest of this shit…)
I’m not saying I liked SIN CITY: A DAME TO KILL FOR exactly, but it wasn’t as bad as reported. Considering that its two directors’ last films were THE SPIRIT and MACHETE KILLS, which I would consider among the worst things I’ve ever paid to see in theaters, this almost seems like a real movie.
It has all the same problems as the first SIN CITY without the novelty of being a weird new approach to a comic book adaptation, and with very little technological or stylistic advancement considering it was done 9 years later. But I think maybe things bugged me about the first one that people overlooked at the time and now are having a problem with, so they’re being harder on it than me. I don’t know. (read the rest of this shit…)
Do you ever notice the movie posters where it shows the faces of all the leads but then the names above their heads don’t match? You see that and you understand that it was some legal thing, they were required to list them in that order by contract, there’s alot of politics involved. But then you wonder why they don’t plan for that reality ahead of time and make a composition with that in mind. I know it can be done. And KILLSHOT, the long-delayed-then-poorly-received-then-put-off-seeing-by-me-until-now Elmore Leonard adaptation from the director of SHAKESPEARE IN LOVE, does something rarer. It introduces the characters in the actual movie in credits order so the actor’s names can appear over them on screen. I was really impressed by that extra effort. (read the rest of this shit…)
After the one-two Avid fart punch of MAN ON FIRE and DOMINO, I swore off Tony Scott for life. Or, it turns out, for five years. Those two movies sounded up my alley but they were brutally murdered by Scott’s reckless disregard for visual storytelling. I just couldn’t trust him anymore, even if the movie sounded good, which his last couple have not, even if everybody said he calmed down a little.
Now, through the combined magic of blu-ray technology, boredom and Christian forgiveness, I have given Tony Scott another shot with the Denzel Washington-Chris Pine-speeding train motion picture UNSTOPPABLE. The bad news: I didn’t like the movie enough to justify ending my boycott. The good news: at least he’s curbed his instincts to mark his territory by stylistically peeing all over every frame of film. (read the rest of this shit…)
As I’ve chronicled over the last few years, I have mixed feelings about Hollywood filmatist R. Zombie. On one hand I really like some things in all his movies (especially DEVIL’S REJECTS), on the other I hate things in most of them too (especially HALLOWEEN). On one hand I think he has a unique eye and a distinct vision, on the other hand he’s too undisciplined to know when his Kiss t-shirts and kitschy cartoon white trash aesthetic is fucking up the other things he’s trying to do. One minute he’ll win me back on the team (HALLOWEEN II) and the next he’ll get in my face and dare me to change my mind (HALLOWEEN II unrated director’s cut).
So I decided fine, you want to test my loyalty? Then I’ll watch your cartoon. We’ll se where that gets us. And I rented his DTV cartoon presentation ROB ZOMBIE PRESENTS THE HAUNTED WORLD OF EL SUPERBEASTO, allegedly directed by Rob Zombie (although the cartoonists might disagree, I’m not sure). (read the rest of this shit…)
Here in the US these two movies were designed and released as a double feature with trailers for fictional movies in between. They were released under one unifying name that starts with a ‘G’ that is a word used to describe the shitty theaters that used to churn out sleazy horror, sexploitation, kung fu and blaxploitation movies back in the day.
I am not going to be using the g-word in this review, because I am sick and fucking tired of hearing it. It’s a perfectly legitimate title for this concept, but here is the problem. Mr. Tarantino is a huge fan and expert on these types of movies, he is the human IMDb judging from some of those interviews. So I don’t mind seeing him talk about it in every article about KILL BILL VOLUME 1 and then KILL BILL VOLUME 2 and then when they announced this g-word movie, and then while he was filming it and now to promote its release. Tarantino can use the g-word all he wants, he has earned it. So I don’t mind him and the trailers for his movie trying to explain to the kids what the g-word means. (read the rest of this shit…)
I had no problem skipping this one when it came to theaters, but it was on DVD where the problems came up. Sure, I tried, but then motherfuckers kept recommending it to me. Saying it was “actually good” and “alot of fun” and all that kind of nonsense. After a while I figured well why not, give this Rock dude a shot. I skipped his mummy pictures, so all I know is he was in BEYOND THE MAT and he seemed like a nice guy. Goes by the name of Dwayne, I believe, in everyday life, but for wrestling and movies it’s last name Rock, first name The. No relation to Chris.
The movie was pretty much what I expected when I first succeeded in skipping it. Unfortunately when they’re trying out action heroes that have not yet convinced the Hollywood suits, they have to team them with some company man as his partner/buddy/”comic” relief sidekick. For example they pulled this shit on Chow Yun Fat in BULLET PROOF MONK and here they have the same fucking narc, Sean William Scott from the AMERICAN PIE teenage pictures, saddling down The Rock, making sure he stays in line and doesn’t pull anything funny like making a great movie. (read the rest of this shit…)
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