Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Nog Revisits The Bad Lieutenant!

So, due to the pure lunacy of the trailer I've watched a half dozen times or so, I'm very excited about Herzog and Cage's "re-imagining" of Abel Ferrara's Bad Lieutenant. To borrow a word from Ain't It Cool News, it better be "batshit" crazy.

But can it really top the original? I mean, let's think about this. Within the first half hour of that film we've seen Harvey Keitel (a) snort cocaine in his kids' school's parking lot, (b) do some sort of drugged-out full-frontal naked penguin walk, (c) shoot his car radio because of the baseball score, and (d) sexually harass two underage girls at a traffic stop by making one show him her ass while the other pantomimes a blowjob. Top that, Herzog and Cage, I dare you!

Checking out Ferrara's film again after a long, long while, I was pleased to feel that it remains a real film, not just a collection of provocations, with a masterful performance by Keitel. In fact, what happens in the film is far more interesting than my memory of the film. While I was thinking that the film played out as more of a revenge picture (depraved cop finds salvation in avenging the murder of a raped nun), it's actually a more complex inquiry into faith, the story of a man who is forced to recognize some divine order more powerful than his human need for revenge.

Herzog, of course, is a serious filmmaker, so it will be interesting to see what in hell he's up to with this new re-imagining which, at the very least, should provide Cage a more suitable vehicle for his gonzo acting. But somehow I don't feel it's going to have the power of Ferrara's flick.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Nog Gazes Upon Jennifer's Body!

Diablo Cody's screenplay elevates Jennifer's Body above your run-of-the-mill multiplex horror flick, but not by as much as it should. For every witty line there are two others that fall flat (and her satire of indie-bands is weaker than my hipster satire, and I improvise mine on the spot!). Megan Fox proves herself capable of doing more than just getting her leg humped by tiny Transformer robots: she can deliver a fast-paced Cody-zinger well enough and in fact deals with the lines better than Amanda Seyfried, who is no doubt a better actress but gets stuck with a grating voice-over.

The film isn't scary and doesn't try very hard to be, nor does it dig very far beneath the surface to find anything particularly new or interesting to say about teenage female sexuality ("Hell is a teenage girl"--the tagline reads, which is about as deep as it gets, though one can't help but imagine the kind of body-horror film someone like Cronenberg could dig out of the material). So we're left with a few witty lines and Megan Fox making out with Amanda Seyfried, but there are far worse ways to spend an afternoon than that.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Nog Informs You About the Informant! (whose exclamation point is part of its title)

One would imagine that a corporate whistle-blower film starring Matt Damon marks a complete return to the mainstream for Soderbergh after his four-hour Che (which I didn't see) and his escort-service film The Girlfriend Experience (which I did). But it's a surprisingly odd little picture that I expect will alienate half the audience who show up expecting a more conventional thriller.

Soderbergh seems less concerned with making the standard corporate intrigue picture than he is interested in the inner-workings of the mind of a man (Damon) who realizes that his penchant for lying is perfectly suited within the corruption of his company and has himself a ball manipulating his fellow workers and a group of FBI agents while lining his own pockets. Damon is very good here, bulking up and talking fast after his largely silent presence in the Bourne flicks (the interior monologues are very amusing...he seems to imagine himself as a character in a Grisham-y/Crichton-y kind of novel, and Marvin Hamlisch's silly, spritely score is a perfect complement to his mindset while still seemingly oddly unsuited to the actual movie that we are witnessing).

The film itself ultimately seems slight to me, not compelling or tense enough to work as a corporate thriller, not funny enough to play as farce, not deep enough for any kind of powerful condemnation of big business. But Damon is reason enough for a look and kudos to him and Soderbergh for continuing to pick interesting projects.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Nog Sees 9 and Finds Himself Bored / Nog Gets Edgy with Mr. Goldthwait

Shane Acker's 9 looks great, but once you've got a feel for it's post-apocalyptic landscape, it doesn't have much else to offer you besides a bombardment of action sequences the likes of which wouldn't feel out of place in your more run-of-the-mill summer fare. Tim Burton is listed as an exec-producer here, but there's none of the sense of play one finds in Nightmare Before Christmas or Corpse Bride (plus, the CGI is far less amusing than the stop-motion animation of those films). I suppose too much lightness would be out of place here, and there's something sort of admirable about its bleakness, its studious avoidance of whimsy, but there's ultimately nothing to connect to and the film finally dissolves into a strange and overly optimistic ending despite itself. I found the experience mononotous after twenty minutes and spent the time looking forward to the long-delayed The Road next month, providing us all a dose of pure despair that will at least likely be far more compelling to watch.


Following up his alcoholic clown film and his film about the woman who gave a dog a blowjob, Bobcat Goldthwait delivers a film called World's Greatest Dad starring Robin Williams. And if that title and star conjures a vision of some unwatchable treacly mess of a family-film, you can take comfort in the fact that it's, in actuality, about a failed poet who exploits his son's accidental death by auto-erotic asphyxiation to further his own career.

Williams' son is a despicable person, a perverted bully hated by everyone (and at least strongly disliked, if not hated, by his own father). So when he turns up dead, Williams' disguises it as a standard suicide, fakes some deep and introspective diary entries, and ends up turning his son into a misunderstood hero among the school. On the heels of Michael Jackson's death, the film plays as an interesting take on the culture's need to mythologize the dead, smoothing over unpleasant and obvious truths and allowing us to feel better about ourselves in the process. Edgy stuff, but its shifting tones and too-nice ending keep it from being as strong as it could have been. Plus, we all know that Heathers is (and is likely to remain) the gold-standard of teenage suicide films (can anything top that film's deathbed prayers for each character: "Why'd you havta kill such hot snatch?" "I loved my dead gay son."--now that's dark humor at its finest, friends!).

Monday, September 7, 2009

Nog Extracts a Few Laughs From Mike Judge's New Flick

Mike Judge's films seem destined to fail at the box-office and develop loyal followings later on. There's Office Space, of course, but also Idiocracy, which barely got released in theaters but whose reputation is already seeming to grow (less deservedly, but the names of its reality-shows are hysterical: Ow, My Balls!). And now there's Extract, which tanked badly on this holiday weekend (there were three people when I saw it, including me), but should make for some very entertaining DVD viewing later on.

Certainly it's not a great film, and there's no particular reason for most people to see it in the theater, but the fact that people are opting for a unanimously reviled Sandra Bullock comedy over this is sad (if not surprising, I guess). Extract has a strange rhythm and some nice character work. The problem, as with Office Space, is that there's also a cluttered, not-at-all compelling plot that gets in the way of these characters. Still, there's plenty to enjoy among the actors. Jason Bateman (in a likeable Michael Bluth from Arrested Development-mode) is good as a man who seems to have scored a good job and a nice house in the suburbs only to find that the job is unfulfilling, the wife no longer wants to sleep with him, and the neighbor wants to have interminable driveway conversations. So he takes to hanging out with his old friend and bartender (a very funny, bearded Ben Affleck) who wants to shake him out of his doldrums. Mix in the ever-reliable JK Simmons as a plant supervisor who can't remember anyone's name and David Koechner,especially, as the obnoxious neighbor, and you've got yourself a few laughs on a dull afternoon.

Also, Mila Kunis is just outrageously hot.