Posts Tagged ‘encounters at the end of the world’

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.

Read Full Post »

London To Brighton

Director’s Paul Andrew vision of London is more terrifying than Guy Ritchie’s worst nightmare. While the latter litters London suburbia with wisecracking hooligans and tenacious hit men, Andrew has chosen a far more realistic path that leaves his characters at the mercy of their actions, rather than of playful irony. The storyline is tight and through its progression creates a series of vicious blows not too dissimilar to those fashioned by a ten-ton sledgehammer. As the film begins, the audience sees Kelly – a prostitute and 12-year-old Joanne in a public lavatory plotting their escape from London to Brighton. It is evident that they are on the run. For the next hour and a half, we get to find out about the details. And like Gustave Flaubert once said, the devil is in the details. Oh yes, he is… pimps, mobsters and pedophiles too. Now wonder Bradshaw hailed this as the “British film of the year”.

Encounters At The End Of The World

Werner Herzog has this knack of capturing beauty in transition that only exists if we choose to see that way. In Encounters At The End Of The World, he travels to the South Pole and looks to film the gaping mystery that is the Antarctica landscape. Initially, we are treated to the director’s cynicism as he bemoans ATM machines, aerobic centers and such messing up his unstructured view of what he believes to be the end of the universe. But when he does film the unknown or the largely unobserved, it creates imagery that is both immediately devastating and beautiful. It gives us a sense of introspection that only several bottles of cough syrup could induce. The characters we meet along Herzog’s journey have one thing in common. They all let Werner make them look and sound like people you don’t expect to me outside a quirky novel. We meet a lady whose enjoys zipping herself into luggage, a philosophical truck driver, a plumber who believes that his ancestors were Aztec kings, a scientist who draws a connection between seals and Pink Floyd. And a penguin that the audience may never ever forget.


Not as bad as my friends had me believing, but definitely worse than what I expected from the writers of Wilder Napalm and the BMW short film Beat The Devil.

Cidade dos Homens

Critics have not been to kind to Cidade dos Homens (City Of Men). It is often cited as a poor successor to the brilliant Cidade de Deus (City Of God) and unfortunately, I can’t help but agree. While the original spoke in length about the vicious survivalist mentality of the lawless Brazilian underworld, this one looks at the same scenario from a bleeding heart’s perspective. A melodrama that too often is careful about the route it takes with the story and the characters. Throw in dollops of ill-fated machismo, construed father-son emotional shenanigans, Latin rap music and lo behold, welcome to the city of men who know all too well that they are mainstream cinematic characters. Give this one a miss.

The Descent

This is about a group of woman on a caving expedition gone horribly, horribly wrong. When I say “horribly”, I don’t mean they plummet to their deaths on sharp, jagged rocks. No, no, that would have been a relief for these thrill-seeking women. These adventurers find themselves trapped inside an explored cave and consequently on the menu of “cavemen who have stayed underground.” And by cavemen, I don’t mean hunchbacked Neanderthals with unkempt hair…I’m talking about creepy, mutilated creatures with blood on their breath and bloody murder on their mind. It almost seems as though director Neil Marshall has subjected his characters to his theory of evolution and watched them suffer to keep their place on the food chain. And by theory of evolution, I mean Darwinism on crack. Claustrophobic, horrifying and highly enjoyable.

Read Full Post »