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Posts Tagged ‘brad dourif’

World’s Greatest Dad: I have never liked those wholesome family comedies or dramas. Hated Problem Child. Loathed ET. Cried during The Lion King for all the wrong reasons. Swore upon my grandma’s grave that I’d find and kill the Little Mermaid, Lassie, Flipper and those annoying 101 Dalmatians. That kind of sparked the anger I had as a teenager for Robin Williams. He starred in films such as Hook, Mrs Doubtfire, Toys, Jumanji, Jack, Patch Adams, and Bicentennial Man that tried enticing us with hyperbolic chirpiness. Over time I have grown tolerant towards him and as irony would have it, this comedian looks more convincing in tragedy. Exhibit A to E, Fisher King, One Hour Photo, Insomnia, House Of D and grossly underrated The Big White.

In Bobcat Goldthwait’s World’s Greatest Dad, he plays Lance Clayton – failed novelist, underappreciated teacher and grieving dad of a misanthropic pervert. He is nice enough chap, but lady luck has a habit of kicking him in the side of his head. There’s a young professor who keeps outperforming him in front of his girlfriend. His neighbor is an agoraphobic pot-smoking grandma and even she ignores him. To top it off, his son embarrassingly dies from autoerotic asphyxiation.  Poor old Lance Clayton. Everything he wanted in life kept vanishing into thin air, pausing only to break wind to add to the humiliation of his existence. Needles to say, everything gets turned around once a “suicide letter” is discovered and posthumously published. Few months later, Clayton is the toast of the town. Popular, loved and respected. Sounds cute, doesn’t it?

While the film had all the ingredients of a perfectly respectable indie movie, the second half strays too far from the morbidity that had grabbed me in the first. Even the accidental (hopefully, not ripped off) nod to the final scene in Thomas McCarthy’s fantastic Station Agent doesn’t help matters towards the end. I can only thank heavens that it wasn’t Anger Management climax-level bad.

All’s not lame however. The first half is both funny and fucked up and I quite liked it. Daryl Sabara has shaken off the Little Annie-look that he had in the Spy Kids trilogy; he is quite the revelation as Clayton’s immensely dislikable son – Kyle (who could have run amok the suburban streets with Alex, Dim and the rest of the droogs). Alexie Gilmore does a neat job playing Claire – Clayton’s girlfriend; something about the slyness in her eyes makes her captivating to watch. Oh and Robin Williams just jumped ahead of Marlon Brando on the list of men the world should have never seen naked. It isn’t lame as much it is evil.

Bad Lieutenant: I say this with a heavy heart. I enjoyed Abel Ferrara’s way more than Werner Herzog’s Port Of Call: New Orleans version. The original had Harvey Keitel in one of the grittiest portrayals of a rogue cop, investigating a young nun’s rape while sinking into new levels of decadence and corruption. Herzog’s had Nicholas Cage trying his best to come across as the bad guy. He investigates the drug-related assassination of a family of African immigrants while dealing with his drug addiction. Truth be told, I don’t get Herzog’s casting decisions. I have no friggin clue why he roped in Eva Mendes, Val Kilmer, and Xzibit; they were all sorts of bad, especially Val Kilmer (one would think he did more drugs than the bad lieutenant). Thankfully, some worked. Jennifer Coolidge and Brad Dourif (Billy Bibbit!) were impressive as the perennially-sloshed stepmom and the nervous gambler.

On to the Herzog-Cage experiment. One of my least liked actors being led by one of my favourite directors. Well, the thing is, Cage has tried really hard (he even picks up an accent about 40 minutes into the film), so it is hard to fault him. To be honest, it is one of his best performances (Weather Man remains his truest yet), but then again, that isn’t saying much. Unfortunately, this also happens to be one of Herzog’s least impressive films. Just so you know, it had nothing to do with the actors or his direction; it  is merely as petulant to expect him to ape another man’s vision as it is unfortunate  how little could have been done to make Abe’s version any better.

For me, the real surprise lies in the visual elements in the film; never has a Herzog film looked this mediocre. Cinematography had a role in making Keitel’s portrayal of the Bad Lieutenant seem more irreverant that he actually is. In this, Peter Zeitlinger’s photography is surprisingly timid as it plays second fiddle to Lt. Terence’s mental deterioration; quite the contrast to the disquieting beauty he conjured in the truly Herzogian Encounters at the End of the World and Wheel of Time.

Having said all that, you should defintely watch Bad Lieutenant, Port Of Call: New Orleans at least to see what once happened in 2009 when Werner Herzog actually directed Nicholas Cage. Two masters (one of new wave cinema, other of bad one-liners) trying to perfect a strange craft. Sort of like watching Jet Li wrestle Mike Tyson for the beach volleyball title. Awkward, vaguely intriguing and a frankly, very disturbing.

Fear Of The Black Hat: I love mockumentaries because of their silliness. Even the madcap entertainment of B-grade slasher flicks pale in comparison. From Christopher Guest’s pioneering This Is Spinal Tap to the more recent, Justin Lin-directed Finishing the Game, mockumentaries have generally thrived on satirizing popular phenomenon, be it art, religion, social fads, martial arts or whatever. Rusty Cundieff’s Fear Of The Black Hat is a hilarious take on the gangster rap culture. Focusing on the rise and fall of the controversial rappers in NWH (Niggaz With Hats), a very obvious dig at the gnarliest of west coast rap outfits NWA (Niggaz With Attitude), the mockumentary takes us on a tour in the lives and times of MCs Tasty Taste (Larry B Scott), Ice Cold (Rusty Cundieff) and mix master Tone Def (Mark Christopher Lawrence).

Larry Scott brings most of the funnies, with his character shuffling between spoofing Public Enemy’s Flavour Flav and rapper Too Short, I guess. Matter of fact, with the exception of Vanilla Sherbet (Devin Kamin), the archetypal whiteboy rapper, everything else about Fear Of The Black Hat is very funny. Props must be given to the three lead actors, who, despite the silliness of it all, have done a very commendable job. Seriously, go out of you way to see this.

CB4: The problem with Tamra DavisCell Block 4 (CB4) is that Fear Of The Black Hat was released a year later and had pretty much the same story going for it, but only funnier.  Also, at some point in the film, I think that Chris Rock (who wrote the film and starred in it) and the director started getting all serious instead of sticking to taking potshots at this genre of music and the lifestyle it demands. Charlie Murphy gets a few laughs as Gusto, but it was 1993 and he wasn’t even close to the awesomeness he brought to those skits in the Dave Chappelle Show much later. Not even a reworking of Sugar Hill’s Rapper’s Delight could save CB4. Pretty soon, the dialogues start to wear thin as inside jokes turn into semi-preachy one-liners. For instance, MC Gusto hears this from his dad a good hour into the film.

Albert Sr.: You ain’t tough. There are real some kids out there that are going to kick your narrow ass. You ain’t from the street, I’m from the street. And only somebody who wasn’t would think it was something to glorify.

Riiiight…that’s great. Thanks. Now why don’t go fight the power or something.

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Ogden NashThe Collected Works Of Ogden Nash by Ogden Nash

Have you ever wondered if it would be possible to write something funny without delving into the realms of satirical social commentaries, absurdist views of cultural flaws, vitriolic trashing of populist beliefs and just plain mean criticism of art? Is it just possible to say something funny for the sake of humour and not an opinionated comment? A tickler: The firefly’s flame is something for which science has no name, I can think of nothing eerier than flying around with an unidentified glow on a person’s posterior. Let me introduce to the deliciously wacky world of Ogden Nash. A sprawling madhouse where rhymes meet nonsense halfway in the corridor and giggle incorrigibly at everything else. Another tickler: Progress might have been all right once, but it has gone on too long. While Ogden Nash also dabbled in writing for Broadway musicals, his passion, time and patience were saved for “humorous poetry”. One more tickler: The cow is of bovine ilk; one end is moo, the other is milk. Decorated with some of his finest one-liners and limericks, The Collected Works Of Ogden Nash is a perfect companion during those lonely train journeys. Even when the humour takes a breather and the rhymes get all Hemmingway-ish on us, it still makes for pleasantly introspective digestion. Last tickler: How pleasant the salt anesthetic…we vegetate, calm and aesthetic, on the beach, on the sand, in the sun.

Butcher Boy by Patrick McCabe

patrick mccabeFor almost an entire year when I frequented British Council library at Anna Salai, I got myself hooked on to Irish literature. Iain Banks’ Wasp Factory put this thought in my head that Irish writers, much like Korean film directors, were a messed-up lot who suck the light out of day and save the rest for the night. Ultra-talented writers who craft barbaric forms of art only to lull unsuspecting readers towards fear and insecurity. Despite the flimsy basis on which these notions were formed, I desperately kept an eye out for such novels. My sense of delirium also had a role in my fortunate ‘stumbling upon’ of Patrick McCabe’s The Butcher Boy, the harrowing tale of Francis ‘Francie’ Brady. With the troubles of a broken home working overtime on young Francie’s mind, he often retreats to his “violent fantasy world” where pigs go beyond bacons and sausages; matter of fact, they give the Iain Banks’ wasps a good run for their money in terms of being truly fucked up living, breathing literary metaphors. The scene involving the killing of a piglet at the abattoir is somewhat of a personal landmark. I flinched for the first time while reading a novel. Read The Butcher Boy only if you like being disturbed (if don’t. you could watch Neil Jordan’s film adaptation).

The Crystal World by JG Ballard

jg ballardI grabbed this book from the counter at Blossoms (Bangalore) only because a little voice told me that it probably inspired Jim Morrison to write my favourite Doors’ composition – Crystal Ship. Before you slip into unconsciousness, allow me to talk a bit about JG Ballard, the writer. His vision, as evidenced by the new wave, sort of science fiction-ish stories he writes about, is apocalyptic and dreamlike at once. There is also a hint of discomfort in most of his novels; something that he uses against the readers and quite naturally, for the readers. Whether it was the sexual fetishism in Crash (no not that shitty Oscar-winner), the scathing brevity of The Atrocity Exhibition or the sheer weightage of psychoanalysis in The Drowned World, something has always crept up in JG Ballard novels to cause a slight disorientation of our senses. In The Crystal World, he weaves a story around an English doctor (Edward Sanders) who lands in Port Matarre (Africa) to meet his friends at a secluded leprosy treatment center. To do that he must cross the treacherous jungle in Gabon, which for some apparent reason is slowly crystallizing itself and the inhabitants. I must warn you, this is not a page-turner; it moves slowly like a mythical beast, as Ballard describes in detail the process of crystallization and the pop science that governs it. Thankfully, more of the latter than the former. I later found out that Jim Morrison wrote Crystal Ship for his first love, Mary Werbelo. I can’t seem to find an intelligent connection between the song and the book to summarize this review, so I will tell you this …you should totally give Ballard a try if you share equal fondness for science fiction and the English language.

One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Keseykesey_ken1_med

Fewer movies have done greater injustice to literature than Milos Forman’s One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest. Not in an aesthetical sense since it was a decent movie; I mean, it was a relatively fresh breath of cinema in 1975 and also kudos to Jack Nicholson, Louise Fletcher, Brad Dourif for tuning in average to sort of great performances during the course of the movie. Unfortunately, having read the book and imagined the scenes that took place within the walls of the Oregon State Hospital in Salem from the brooding Chief Bromden’s point of view, I was disappointed with the way the director told the story from the perspective of rebellious loudmouth Patrick McMurphy. Wait a second, this is not a film review. Ahem. My train of thought has wrecked itself beyond redemption, I’m going to let someone else take the reigns and opine about this fantastic novel.

iCE cUBEUhmmmm thank you, Mr Ice Cube…but I think I was talking about The Brothers’ Judd review of One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest.

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last-house-on-the-left-732058Last House On The Left: Wes Craven’s 1972 classic ranks alongside the likes of James Watkins’ Eden Lake and Sam Peckinpah’s Straw Dogs in its propensity to scare the living shit out of me. Much like Straw Dogs and Eden Lake, Last House On The Left is a slumbering beast that works tremendously well based on how real it feels to us, the audience. Most of us spend time worrying about the safety of the near and beloved; this fear is an inherent part of our humanity that indicates both maturity and insecurity. The trick, many tell me, is to not let this fear metamorphose into paranoia, but rather to let to meander somewhere around an aura of cautiousness. Wes Craven doesn’t make room for such comforts; this uncompromising urban thriller about a family terrorized almost makes you want to sign up for the next NRA newsletter. Despite the bloodshed and exploitative violence, the film packs quite a realistic punch; and like Ebert says, it has more in common with Bergman’s The Virgin Spring than with any other film that we could rightfully expect from Wes Craven. Google tells me that the tagline for Last House On The Left warned the viewers “to avoid fainting by keep repeating to yourself…it’s only a movie, it’s only a movie”. Well, that was a tad dramatic but still, what really, really makes the film work is the frightening prospect that one day, one of us might go through these ordeals too.P.S: I have not yet seen the 2009 remake, so I shall reserve my comments on it for later

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Wild Blue Yonder: My love for Werner Herzog knows no bounds and lately, as I had admitted to the dude from Seventh Art, it has indeed become an obsession. With his dry German-Hungarian accent proving to be a perfect foil for the stories that twirl around his aesthetically tortured psyche, most of his films have left me in an almost drug-induced state of euphoric bliss. Quite simply put, Wild Blue Yonder is a science fiction mockumentary done Herzogian style. In fact, every so often during the course of the film, I was reminded of the track Faaip De Oiad on Tool’s Lateralus album. It was a paranoid mess of a monologue delivered by someone claims to be a former employee of Area 51 over feedback noise that took proper shape every 20 seconds. The thing is, as absurd as the track was, it was also strangely moving in its ability to throw the reins on the listener and to entice him with surrealistic allure. Much like the song, Werner Herzog’s Wild Blue Yonder is a work of art that takes itself seriously for the sake of absurdity. The storyline chronicles the events that led an extraterrestrial from the Water Planet to earth and then goes on to facetiously connect the dots between Kissinger’s diving expedition, the Rosewell incident and a bunch of CIA-led conspiracies. Reijsiger’s original music for this film along with Henry Kaiser’s cinematography hog the limelight as they provide little pockets of breathing spaces that are very necessary for films as fantastically surrealistic as Wild Blue Yonder. Not So Fun FactBrad Dourif, the actor who plays the extraterrestrial is also Billy Bibbit from One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest.

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Born And Bred: Sometimes I get the feeling that films get irritated with me. I can visualize them clenching their fists and looking to hammer blows on my skull for not admiring them as they are, and instead criticizing for how I wanted them to be. Pablo Trapero’s deliberately moody Argentinean film Born And Bred must have been sharpening surgical knives on rusty iron by the time the end credits rolled. The story centers around Santiago, a successful interior designer whose life is thrown out of balance after a really bad accident. From then on, he embarks on a thinly veiled healing process that has Santiago dwelling in the nether regions of self-destruction. Relevant Quote From Random Movie: “Self-improvement is masturbation…self-destruction is the answer”. I really dug cinematographer Guillermo Nieto dreamlike photography throughout the film and actor Pfening’s performance as Santiago was riveting enough to evoke sympathy, but the rest fell sort of flat. Now if Mr Pablo had condensed all of this within a short film that ran for no longer than 15 minutes…now that would have been good stuff. Hmmm I can see why films hate my guts.

Twilight: Trashing films is my least favourite part of reviewing. But strangely and not very unlike some really good cough syrup that leaves a bad taste in my mouth, I keep moving towards such endeavors. And well, for certain reasons, the readers seem to get a good kick out of it…so what the hell, here goes. Director Catherine Hardwicke’s monstrously silly movie about emo-vampires is so bad and so after-school special-ish that rumour has it that the director’s cut version of the DVD would have Mrs Hardwicke reading aloud a list of Schedule H drugs that she had consumed in order to convince herself that making this film was a semi-good idea. I swear, the creepy uncle in my old neighbourhood who used to beat the shit out of his son all the time had more subtlety in his pinky finger than this idiot director has ever had.

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