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Nine times out of ten, in the arts as in life, there is actually no truth to be discovered; there is only an error to be exposed. -- H.L. Menken

The Rating System

Kex Liked It:
It Sucked:
It Really Sucked:
It Sucked as bad as Eyes Wide Shut:

It Sucked badly enough to bring the world to the brink of apocalypse:



The Perfect Storm
Last Week: The Perfect Storm:

Okay, we haven't had a sing along for awhile. You all know the tune:

Just sit right back and you'll hear a tale,
a tale of a fateful trip,
that started from a New England port,
aboard this tiny ship.
The mates were experienced fishing men,
The Skipper used to be Batman,
They sailed back in a vicious storm
Just getting home was the plan. The weather started getting rough,
the tiny ship hit a swell,
If the fishing crew hadn't lead with greed
They'd never have gone through hell.

Umm, I can't think of a way to do the last stanza without giving away too much about the movie, which I actually don't want to do, so we'll just save it for the future archived edition of this review.

In October of 1991, and unprecedented series of weather events converged that formed the basis for the story of this movie. As Hurricane Grace pushed northeast up the Atlantic seaboard, already itself a category 5 storm, a cyclone developed off the coast of Novia Scotia which pushed in a southerly direction, energized by a powerful low pressure Arctic cold front that swept out of the northeast. The 3 events converged near the Grand Banks area off the coast of Massachussets, producing the most violent meterological event ever witnessed by humans on earth.

Just about everyone with meterological equipment and data at their disposal watched this event in sort of a horrified fascination. It was the kind of thing no one had remotely witnessed in our atmosphere before. It was simply incredible to watch it form.

I had a lot of difficulty deciding just how to review this film. I already knew how the central events of the story turned out, and I didn't want to give it away for the bulk of the gentle readers who may not know what happens. So, I'm just going to say this: go see this movie. The Perfect Storm will blow away all its summer competition. For a summer movie, The Perfect Storm is nearly the perfect movie. Yes, it has some faults: There is Practicallv no character development, the first hour is a bit directionless and tedious and there are really too many characters to try to get to know.

On the other hand, the special effects are spectacular. This movie places you right into the situation, to the point you may feel a little seasick at points. Rather than attempt to summarize the plot, which can't be done without giving away the ending, I am simply going to offer you the Kex Perfect Storm Survival Kit before you attend :

1. For the ladies in the crowd, don't bother to have your nails done before you see this film. You won't have any by the end anyway.

2. This one is a case-o-Kleenex job. Be prepared.

3. Go to the bathroom BEFORE the movie starts. Its 2 hours long, and very intense. You won't want to be leaving during the second half. All that water really gets the old bladder singing too.

4. Leave the preteens at home. The first hour of the movie is too slow moving for kids to enjoy. The second half is too intense.

5. Just go see it!

Previously: Shadow Of The Vampire:

Okay, somewhere around 80 years ago, or a thousand years ago or something like that, a director named F.W. Murnau made a film called Nosferatu. It was supposed to be loosely based on Bram Stokers novel, Dracula. Well, actually it was more than loosely based on the book. It was the first filming of the story, but Murnau had a bit of a problem.

Apparently the people who tended to the late Stoker's estate, mostly his widow, refused Murnau permission to actually film the novel, so he merely changed the name of the vampire from Count Dracula to Dr. Orlock, and just proceeded. Its probably a good thing that he decided to pull that one in 1920's Germany instead of modern America, because that is a good formula for getting your ass sued off. I guess the world has changed.

Its not that legal issues didn't arise surrounding the film. In fact, it became more resilient than its undead subject. After premiering in 1922, Stoker's widow demanded that all copies be turned over to her, and the studio complied, or so she thought. More copies turned up in the mid-thirties, but again, Ms. Stoker demanded possession, and burned them at first opportunity. Someday I'm going to have to do a search on her, because unless she was a sight younger than old Bram, she had to have been about 100 by then. Maybe it would be more interesting to create a film speculating on the nature of her longevity.

Murnau's Nosferatu became something of a forgotten silent classic, until some prints resurfaced yet again in the late 50's, and it became something of a cult classic. A fully restored edition was put together in the mid 80's, and made the rounds in art house theaters. The couple of hundred people who saw it agreed that it was a good film for its time, but a bit pedestrian by modern standards. Consequently it was released on video, where it tends to remain mostly ignored on the shelves of rental stores these days. If you happen to be a true blue vampire movie fan, you have probably attempted to watch it at some point. Otherwise, you most likely never will. Actually, you don't even have to rent it. You can download it on the net.

So, along comes E. Elias Merhige with a weird idea for a movie. Suppose that Max Schreck (Williem Dafoe), who starred as Dr. Orlock in the original, had really been a vampire, and suppose that Murnau (John Malkovich) knew it, but never told the other members of the cast, because he wanted to make a really socko vampire flick? Okay, suppose there is a single human being on the planet today who actually gives a flying flip whether or not Shreck was really a vampire? Would anyone have seen this movie?

Probably not. This film originally played to the arthouse theaters, much like the re-release of Nosferatu, and the same couple of hundred people who saw the restored release of the old silent went to see this movie too. Most of them were film critics who left the usual stick up their ass at home that day, and nearly all of them raved about Shadow Of The Vampire.

Consequently, folks from the studio got some weird idea that the American public actually gives a rolling shit what the likes of Roger Ebert,  Peter Travers, and Lael Lowenstein think, and they put this film out for general release. It still didn't do crap at the box-office, although the attending publicity of this film rising above its humble beginnings probably helped get Dafoe an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting actor.

Lest we forget, I predicted on this page that he would probably win the award due to the signficant publicity, but I made that prediction without actually watching his performance, since I hadn't seen the movie. I came very close to making a last minute change Oscar presentation morning, but I figured that would be unfair, so I stuck to my guns. I would now like to let the readers know that I will never make a mistake like that again, because Dafoe definitely didn't deserve the statue. He probably didn't even have the nomination coming.

Now, it occured to me after viewing this film to run a search on Schreck, just to brush up on his filmography, and note if there was any special reason why anyone might have come up with the brilliant idea that he was really a vampire. After wading through several pages of references to the lame character that Christopher Walken portrayed in Batman II, I finally came upon a few enigmatic bits of information about him on pages related to the movie site.

Apparently, prior to the filming of Nosferatu there is really no information about him. Chances are he was a relatively unknown stage actor. He made a few unremarkable films after, then more or less disappeared. No official biography of him exists, at least that I can find. Curiously, his name, in German, means "fear." Maybe Merhige was onto something afterall.

Or maybe Shreck was just the first in a long line of rather creepy actors who made careers by portraying Count Dracula. We think of Bela Lugosi, who became a huge star in the 40's portraying the old blood-sucker, only to find himself so desperately typecast that his career hit bottom  when the public tired of the license. He ended up scratching out a living doing dubious roles in Ed Wood films until the end of his life. They buried him in his Dracula cape, although I have no idea whether or not it was by his request.

Frank Langella burst into stardom with the role, only to spend a career doing bit parts and B-Films thereafter. Similarly, John Carradine was a pretty good Dracula, but was king of B-films otherwise. So the memo to young aspiring actors out there is to avoid taking the lead role in a Dracula movie.

As for Shadow Of The Vampire, I suspect it is going to prove to be less resilient than the movie its subject matter celebrates. Apparently Max Shreck left behind no offspring to sue over the content, or attempt to burn the prints. I suppose there is the offhand possibility that old Max himself may resurface and exact some revenge on the guilty parties, but we probably couldn't get that lucky.

ADDENDUM: I almost forgot to note that this was a production of Saturn Films. Hey, kissing up is all well and good, but making a decent film is the best way to endear yourself around K.A.W. Try that approach next time.

POST SCRIPT: The investigation into the life of Max Shreck continues, and is interesting to say the least. As I suspected, his acting origins were apparently on the European stage, although there is no real information about his stage career. There seems to be general agreement that he was born in 1879 and died of a heart attack in 1936, although I've encountered some inconsistancies in the date. Curiously, there is also notable disagreement as to whether the proper spelling of his last name was Shreck or Schreck. One way or another, it seems to have been his real name. I've also established that he appeared in a film called Die Strasse in 1923, as well as a comedy entitled Die Finazen Des Grossherzogs. But little else is known about him, and what is known is aggravatingly inconsistant.

Last Week:The Sum Of All Fears:

Somebody asked me a day after I saw this movie if it would have been as impactful had it been released prior to 9-11. Its worth noting that the questionee was a member of Generation Y. I could only note that the subject matter was obviously on the mind of Tom Clancy 6 years or so ago when he first wrote this book, and he wasn't exactly marching arm and arm with those of us who were protesting the extreme dangers of nuclear proliferation back in the early 80's. For that matter, nuclear terrorism was on the mind of another writer about a decade before Clancy, when he wrote an insightful and frightening political thriller called The Fifth Horseman.

So to suggest that this film has any exploitational air is more than a little unfair. In fact, significant changes to the script of this film were made post 9-11, precisely to avoid any feeling of exploitation. The bad guys are neo-Nazis, rather than Arab terrorists as in Clancy's book. Clancy was even involved in the process, as the one of the film's executive producers.

The film has a few more puzzling changes, however. In Clancy's book, the nuclear terrorism event takes place at a Super Bowl game, hosted by Denver. Clancy wrote the book prior to the construction of Denver's new football stadium, and he envisioned the city building a domed stadium. Denver did in fact build a new stadium, but it doesn't have a roof. Perhaps a lot of locals read Clancy's book and chickened out. Early plans for the new stadium included a retractable roof, but they were set aside sighting cost. That is understandable. It costs a hell of a lot of money to rebuild a city the size of Denver if a nuclear devise goes off half a mile from downtown.

The movie version is set in Baltimore instead of Denver. Baltimore has a domed stadium in the movie, relieving Denver of the necessity of being blown up. Apparently the producers envisioned Baltimore building a domed stadium instead, after Denver passed on the idea. For the record, Baltimore didn't even have an NFL franchise at the time Clancy wrote the book.

An interesting footnote here is that the NFL has held some discussions about holding a Super Bowl in a cold weather city for the first time in the next few years. But league officials are discussing an event hosted by New York City or Washington D.C. But Denver, which always has to toss its hat in the ring for everything, is adopting a "me too" attitude about the whole affair. City and Bronco team officials are already proposing a possible Super Bowl in Denver sometime in the future, should plans go forth for a New York or D.C. event. Needless to say, NFL officials are rightfully lukewarm about the idea, sighting that 1. The D.C. or New York Super Bowl would be a special one time thing, and 2. Nobody wants to risk a Super Bowl in a late January Denver blizzard.

Some folks in Denver have countered that January is typically one of the drier months of the year in Denver. Right. Its probably also one of the drier months in Seattle, meaning that it only rains 29 out of the 31 days instead of 30. If the NFL people want to hold a special Super Bowl in New York City, that's just fine by me. But lets not play it in Denver. It would just inspire the construction of 800 more sports bars a few months before the game, and heaven knows we have 500 too many of those already.

Oh yeah, the movie. The principle lesson from this movie is that nuclear weapons are terrible and dangerous. Unfortunately, I don't think that revelation is going to stir up a lot of appropriate action from the general public. Back in the early 80's, when the whole revelation of the possibility of nuclear winter was introduced to the world, it didn't really shake the public into unprecedented action in opposition to the construction of nukes. Even back then, most people already knew that nuclear weapons were bad, and all that really happened was that a new opportunity came about to remind the public what they already knew.

Consequently, Ronald Reagan and company were able to piss away hundreds of billions of dollars expanding our nuclear arsenals beyond any reasonable levels, and the public sat back and allowed it without asking any significant questions. Little did it matter that at the height of the Reagan build-up, and the subsequent Soviet attempts to keep pace, the numbers of strategic nuclear weapons on the planet bloated to about 50,000. Note that the number only includes strategic weapons, which mostly exist for the purpose of targeting cities and military instillations. Less powerful tactical weapons, which generally only have a yield of a few hundred kilotons were never considered in the debate.

Ultimately the situation became akin to the scenerio of two deadly enemies locked together in a room, waist deep in gasoline. One of them had 8000 boxes of matches, and the other had 10,000 books of matches. Instead of seriously discussing whether or not it might be more rational to do away with most of the matches and soak up as much of the gasoline as possible, the two sides were mostly locked in a pissing constest about who had, or should have the most matches. It was a sterling time for rational international discourse in human history.

The evil genie of nuclear annihalation is still very much with us. Current policy makers are at present seriously discussing the potential benefits of spending additional billions of dollars on a space-based defense system against nuclear missles. Little regard has been given to the simple fact that the vast majority of scientists in the country consider such a system to be unworkable, vunerable and a gross waste of money and effort. Hardly anyone is discussing spending even modest amounts of money to figure out how to avoid a nuclear war in the first place. Further, a space-based system would be utterly worthless against a nuclear device smuggled into the country by terrorists and detonated at ground level. If there is a nuclear strike against the U.S. anytime in the next few decades, that is a considerably more likely scenario. However, our contemporary policy makers have little regard for reality.

Oops, back to the movie. I liked it. Well, mostly. I say that within context of the fact that whenever I see Ben Affleck in a movie, I get the creepy feeling that the terrorists have already won. And just to help my little bleeding liberal heart beat a little easier, can somebody give Morgan Freeman a role, just once, where he gets to kick some novice white guys ass just for fun? Morgan has to be awfully sick of the wise old mentor role by now. A note to his agent: Try something different, okay?

Last Week: Finding Nemo:

I could probably start off here by just admitting that you could easily save yourself about eight bucks and just go spend an hour and a half in a pet store watching the salt water tanks instead of seeing this movie. Even one of those aquarium videos you can buy and play on your TV has about as much of a plot, assuming you are too dedicated of a tight wad to just go out and actually invest in an aquarium.

All that said, this is a really cool movie to look at. In fact, looking at it was just about all I really had a chance to do, since the near constant din of 400 squirming and gabbing three year-olds pretty much drowned outany chance of actually hearing what was going on. But you have to hand it to those computer geeks at Pixar. All of those lonely Friday and Saturday nights at home during their high school and college years have really paid off. Nobody can computer animate like those guys.

This movie starts off with a rather famous dramatic ploy used years ago by the folks at Disney; kill mom clownfish off as soon as possible. So dear old dad clownfish has too look out for his only remaining offspring after 400 of his sibling eggs are eaten up as well. With a plot like that slapping us in the face within the first five minutes, you just know you are in for one entertaining afternoon.

The guess here is that the folks at Disney Studios actually let the same geeks who animated this movie write is as well. Consequently, the pathetic dependence of cybergeeks on mom's apron strings infects the movie very early. Then as Nemo, the baby clownfish grows older, it is time for him to go to school...that is a crappy pun. But of course dad is a bit overprotective, leading little Nemo to rebel.

So what happens? Nemo strays too far from the school just to piss off dad, and ends up getting netted by divers and dumped in a dentist's aquarium in Sydney, Australia. Once again we see here the psychological fears of technogeeks played out on the silver screen. While they love school and learning, they know that going to school is inherently dangerous. Around every corner lurks a group of jocks just waiting to beat the living crap out of them and stuff them in their own overpacked lockers.

Dear old dad clownfish sets off on a desperate mission to find and rescue Nemo, with the help of a lady bluefish with a short term memory problem. She is voiced by Ellen DeGeneres, probably to piss off the Republicans. At least that is as good of a reason as any. Along the way they run into a group of sharks attempting the kick the fish eating habit. The biggest and baddest of the group is named "Bruce," in a lame nod to Steven Spielberg who did for shark's public image what Nostrodomus and his followers do for frantic bullshit.

Meanwhile, little Nemo is wiling away in the aquarium, trying to hatch escape plots with his fellow fish. Getting him out is somewhat of a priority, since he is earmarked to be a birthday present for the dentist's niece. She is a sadistic little hellion with braces. If Nemo ends up in her clutches, he is destined to ride the great porcelain eddy belly up into eternity.

Nemo's dad also meets a group of sea turtles who talk and act like surfer dudes. Somehow that connection didn't really register with me, until I started considering the geeky origins of this entire project. To the technogeeks, subcultures like surfers are really just weird, mentally slow beings with little purpose or direction. Actually, they pretty much are on target with that one, but the symbolism is probably a little provocative.

Here is a shocking bit of news: Everything eventually ends happily in this film. I don't think that really constitutes a plot spoiler, because afterall, we are talking about a Disney film here. Besides, we have already figured out that this was a technogeek project from beginning to end, and we see a representation of their view of life. Sure, childhood might have been tough. But now, they are adults with kijillion dollar a year jobs doing animations for Pixar. They are making bucks right and left entertaining the children of the dull-witted jocks that used to wedgie them into hell daily.

For those of you that aren't aware of this, Cal Tech has a football team. No kidding. Its a crappy team to be sure. I'm not sure if they have ever won a game or not. I think the average score of their games is about 83-0 in their opponents favor. But the student body supports the team fanatically. Sort of. They have a cheer they chant every time their opponents score, which is pretty often every game. It goes like this: "That's all right! That's okay! You'll all work for us someday!" It probably doesn't help them win, ever, but it does eliminate all motivation for their opponents to beat them 137-0.

There is a pretty cute short subject that precedes this movie. According to the caption that introduced it, the short was done several years before Pixar released Toy Story. I guess it has just been laying around on the shelf for several years. But it provides another interesting insight into geek psychology. It shows how even if a pretty girl falls in love with one of them, their own environment will doom their efforts to actually get laid. The experience of seeing Finding Nemo is truly a fascinating psychological revelation.

Last Week: Spiderman 2:

There are three reasons why Doc Oc stands alone and unchallenged as the absolute worst movie villian in the history of the super hero genre. Lame as Jim Carrey was as The Riddler, he can't come close. Terrible as Arnold Swartznegger might have been as Mr. Freeze, he can't even pose a serious challenge. Doc Oc was beyond them all because he was totally clueless, totally planless and totally shirtless.

I want to deal with the latter first, because it swamps the others. Quick show of hands here, how many ladies out there, or guys if you feel the need to participate, have ever thought to yourself, "wow, I'd sure like to see Alfred Molina shirtless?" Not one of you. I thought so. Let's do a quick contrast here. How many guys out there, or girls if you feel the need to participate, have ever thought to yourself, "wow, I'd sure like to see Kirsten Dunst shirtless?" Okay, its unanimous.

Clearly, by acclaimation, if the audience wanted to see anyone in this movie running around topless, it was Mary Jane Watson (Dunst) and not Doc Oc (Molina). So why did the people who made this movie pulverize us with scene after scene of Molina sans shirt? I guarantee you, it isn't getting people in the theater, or bringing them back.

Incidentally, among the people who would desperately love to see Mary Jane sans blouse is our hero, Peter Piper (Toby Maguire). As this second installment of the movie begins, we see poor Peter struggling with his duality. Being Spiderman is truly an upright and respectable pursuit, but it just doesn't bring in a lot of scratch. Further, it tends to really jack a guys academic career, and make it nearly impossible to hold down a job. In the first scene of the movie, we see old Peter getting canned from a job at a third rate Pizzeria where I probably wouldn't even want to use the restrooms, let alone eat.

Not only is Peter struggling with the burden of being Spidey, but he is also pining away for M.J., who is now a successful Broadway actress. It couldn't be any more clear that Peter would love to rip off M.J.'s clothes with his teeth and have mink-in-heat-on-viagra sex with her for a solid week. And M.J. would be more than willing to let him do it. Unfortunately, Peter is worried that if his enemies ever find out about his true identity, M.J. could become an easy target. That is why Peter goes to the elaborate lengths of wearing a mask that could blow off in a stiff wind.

Peter's yearning for M.J. is so utterly pathetic that even Dr. Phil would probably just stand up, bitch slap him silly, and tell him to run home and bone her good. But being a man of principle, Peter can't just give in to temptations. So he decides to take another approach to the problem. Instead of giving up M.J. and letting her marry the handsome young astronaut she is now dating, he decides to give up being Spiderman, and become a good student and try to actually hold down a job.

His angst goes somewhat beyond M.J., because his dear old widowed aunt is about to be foreclosed out of her house and on to the street. Apparently her late husband's insurance policy came to about 68 cents. Her capability of providing for her own survival on the planet seems to be giving piano lessons.

But just when it seems that Peter is going to be able to give up the Spidey gig and become a real, responsible human being, along comes a new super-villan. He is Dr. Octavius, a brilliant research phycisist who is attempting to develop some great new energy source that relies on an element so scarce that only about 20 ounces exist on the planet. Yup, that sounds like the answer to our future energy problems.

In order to demonstrate the new energy source, he invents some sort of weird rig with 4 formidable arms equipped with artifical intelligence of their own. Fortunately he has a microchip in the device that allows his own intelligence to control the arms. I'm not sure why he couldn't have just used his own brainpower to control them, or why he decided to invent such an ass-rammed contraption in the first place, but if he had, we wouldn't have had a movie. Thus, the cluelessness of Doc Oc. I could probably also toss in that by the end of the movie, he was the only person left in New York City that hadn't seen Spidey without his least until Peter pulls it off for him. Anna Nicole Smith has never taken off her blouse as often as Peter Piper pulls off his mask in this film.

As you might guess, things go awry, that the control microchip is destroyed. The arms take over Octavius, and he goes on rampage. Well, sort of. Out of a movie that runs just over 2 hours, Doc Oc has about 6 minutes of screentime. That isn't really a tragedy, as we become weary of seeing his portly torso early on. But the arms seem to just want to create a larger device for Doc Oc's energy source, so his aims don't seem all that wildly evil. It's just that he has a bit of a temper control problem.

We spend most of the film listening to tedious dialog about Peter's problems, and wondering if he is ever going to get to introduce M.J. to the old pants python. Hey, folks, the guy walks around saying, "I'm Thpiderman!" I don't believe its going to happen either. I'll give the movie credit for one thing. The effects of Spidey swinging around New York City are downright thrilling, much better this time than last. But next time, give us a villan that at least seems to have a real chance of kicking Spidey's ass, and give him a fair share of the screen time. Next time Peter is having angst problems, just send him to Dr. Phil and get on with the damned movie.

Last Week: Charlie and the Chocolate Factory:

Tim Burton may have finally overcome his fixation with poorly lighted sets, but he has so many others still working and fully on display that we can't help but wonder if the man's penchant for making films isn't just a thinly veiled exercise in chasing his own psychological demons. Along the way, he has a cast of actors that play foil to his ongong mental exorcism.

First of all, Burton has an obsession with winter weather that leaves us to wonder if he didn't spend half his childhood being buried in snowbanks by bullies. Roll this movie alongside Batman 2, and I guarantee it will be close to 10 full minutes before you can figure out which film is which. Of course, it doesn't help that Burton brings along his favorite cinematic score composer, Danny Elfman, to provide the mood music. Talk about a guy who has the softest gig in the history of the universe: Burton has yet to figure out that Elfman has composed exactly the same score for every film Burton has hired him on.

Next we have Burton's most faithfully recurring security blanket, Helen Bonham Carter, landing yet another role in one of his films. Ok, sure, she is his wife, but the symbiotic professional relationship they share borders on manic nepotism. The suspicion here is that she can't land a film role outside of his tortured universe, and he couldn't get laid in a Tijuanna whore house unless he creates opportunites to add to her cinematic resume.

Then, we have the star vehicle provided for Johnny Depp, who has now appeared in five Burton films, and who's likeness and voice will accompany the lead character in The Corpse Bride, set for release in September. Curiously, Depp almost seems to be taking offscreen instruction from PeeWee Herman, who was more than a little conspicious by his absense in this movie. Its a little hard for me to believe that he was actually too busy to join the cast. Maybe Burton just didn't want to sink the production by hiring on a convicted sex offender to appear in a children's film.

Speaking of Depp, I recently caught his appearance on Inside the Actor's Studio, where he revealed that his dream role would be to play a woman. The guess here is that his bizzare cinemtic fantasy has finally been fulfilled. Depp's androgenous portrayal of chocolate magnate Willy Wonka not only reeks of PeeWee, but leaves us wondering of Depp didn't do a lot of character research in the Tenderloin.

The plot of this remake follows the book from which it is derived reasonably closely. Incidentally, remaking old films is becoming yet another Burton fetish. Young Charlie Bucket (Freddie Highmore, who recently worked with Depp in Finding Neverland) dreams of the opportunity to meet his hero, Willy Wonka (Depp). But since his family is dirt poor, it seems that no opportunity will ever avail itself.

That is until the mysterious Wonka announces a contest in which 5 children will win the opportunity to tour his factory, if they happen to find a gold ticket in one of Wonka's chocolate bars. One of the five will also win a super special prize. Naturally, Charlie ends up finding one, because if he hadn't the film would have been about 30 minutes long and carried a different title.

Charlie's companions on the tour are 4 obnoxious brats, the stereotypical products of all sorts of parenting faux pas. We have the fat kid from Germany who wiles away all his time eating chocolate. There is the British daughter of millionaires who is spoiled so rotten we want to see her slapped silly just for laughs. We have the mother-daughter clones from Atlanta, current residence of Patsy Ramsey, America's living monument to psychotically obsessed parenting. Finally, there is the violent at heart, video game obsessed boy who happens to come from Denver the metropolitan area that brought you one of America's worst school shootings.

During the course of the tour, each of the little brats is given an appropriate comeuppance, sufficiently intellectually satisfying to make the journey worthwhile, quiet apart from Burton's borderline nightmarish visions. The tour through Wonka's candy paradise is nothing short of Disneyland gone to and through hell.

Early on, Burton can't even resist the temptation to offer a quick but amusing salute to his own filmography. In a flashback where Wonka opens his factory, we see a quick shot of Wonka/Depp cutting the factory ribbon. Depp is using a large pair of scissors, which appear to constitute his right hand.

Now comes the punchline/surprise, which isn't really a surprise if you paid attention to the rating symbol next to the title. I liked this movie, which was just weird and quirky enough to keep the audience guessing what might come out of left field next. This definitely isn't the passive and innocent vision of the original. This version is considerably edgier. And I'm also a little sick of hearing comparisons of Depp's portral to Michael Jackson. I personally didn't see it. I think some people just miss the trial so much that they are being swallowed by personal obsessions even more than, well, Burton.

Previously: Invincible:

This is one of those "based on a true story" movies, which means that there are two ways of looking at this thing. First of all, we can acknowledge that there really is a National Football League team called The Philadelphia Eagles, and back in the late 70's, they had a player by the name of Vince Papale, and leave it at that. Or, we can view it from a broader perspective, and offer that Hollywood once made a "based on a true story" movie about my life called Superman.

Allow me to offer some degree of justification for the latter:

Superman: Leaps tall buildings in a single bound.

Kex: Successfully gets out of bed almost every morning by 8 A.M.

Superman: Changes the course of mighty rivers

Kex: Added a gallon of fresh water to his aquarium this morning without spilling a single drop.

Superman: Bends steel in his bare hands

Kex: Killed a snake with a stick once.

Superman: Faster than a speeding bullet.

Kex: Able to piss off thousands of people with a single sentence.

Superman: Fights for truth, justice and the American way.

Kex: Votes almost every year, and rarely makes stuff up in his reviews.

See? The character of Superman was almost certainly based on me. No doubt about it. Especially when you consider how "similar the real Vince Papale was to his movie counterpart:

Movie Vince Papale: Nobody bartender

Real Vince: Was working as a bartender, but HAD made something of a name for himself playing a couple of seasons with the WFL Philadelphia Bell.

Movie Vince: Won an opportunity to play at a public tryout.

Real Vince: Was invited by the Eagles to a private tryout.

Movie Vince: Mark Wahlberg, 5'8" and weight unknown.

Real Vince: 6'2, close to 200, about average for an NFL wide receiver vintage 1976.

Movie Vince: Recovers a fumble and scored a touchdown that won Dick Vermiel's first game.
Real Vince: Recovered a fumble that set up the touchdown that led to Vermiel's first victory.

See? The degree of similarity is about the same.

This is yet another in a long line of "underdog makes good" sports movies that Hollywood loves so much. Vince is tending bar and substitute teaching whenever the opportunity arises. But cutbacks cost him his teaching gig. Then his wife leaves him, and he finds himself unable to meet the rent. Instead of cashing in and bailing, Vince decides to try out for the Eagles, which is pretty much the equivalent of suicide.

But things do start to get better for him. Vince's boss at the bar introduces Vince to his beautiful cousin Janet (Elizabeth Banks), fresh from New York, and a Giants fan to boot. Immediately Vince is smitten. Still Vince believes that she might provide too much of a distraction since he actually appears to have a chance to make the team, so he tries to break things off.

Vince beats the odds and becomes an Eagle, then tries to reconcile with Janet, but she rejects him. But, as you might guess, after a night of male rebonding with some of his old bar buddies, Vince comes home to find Janet sitting outside his apartment wearing a "PLEASE DO ME NOW YOU EAGLE STUD!" tee-shirt. Vince takes the hint and does her.

The following Sunday, Vince helps his team to victory, and sticks three seasons with the team. Dick Vermiel (Greg Kinnear) goes on the lead the Eagles to Super Bowl XV (the year after Vince leaves the team) where they were solidly trounced the the Oakland Raiders. It took them somewhat over 20 years to get back to the big game, and they got beat again. Vince married Janet, they had two kids and now live in New Jersey, which doesn't really qualify as a happy ending in my view.

This film is off to a promising box-office start, already outpacing Snakes on a Plane, but that isn't exactly a more promising victory than any the Eagles managed in 1976. The guess here is that within two weeks, Invincible is going to be Invisible.

Last Week: Michael Clayton:

The following is not really a plot spoiler. This movie ends with the title character, Michael Clayton (George Clooney), handing a taxi driver a $50 bill and telling the driver to take him for a ride equivalent to the value of the bill. I'm not sure how long of a taxi ride that will get you in New York City, but I'm absolutely positive it would be a lot shorter and a hell of a lot more interesting than this movie. A $50 paddleboat ride with Bill O'Reilly would be more entertaining and interesting.

This movie was somewhat of a surprise nominee in the Oscar Best Picture race. What is really surprising, and more than a little sad is that out of 300 some movies released this year, this one could by any stretch of the imagination qualify as one of the 5 best. That just shows what a lame-ass year it has been. The nomination also demontrates that Hollywood has a reverance relationship with George Clooney that can be appropriately described as craven bootlicking.

Michael Clayton received 7 nominations from the Academy. It might be interesting to consider them briefly. Three of the nominations were in acting categories...Clooney for Best Actor, Tom Wilkenson for Best Supporting Actor and Tilda Swinton for Best Supporting Actress. I don't have much of an argument with the nomination of Clooney. His performance was decent in an otherwise dreary exercise. The other two are more puzzling. Their total screen time might add up to one normal supporting role. Individually, they barely qualify as walk-ons. Swinton's longest appearance was onscreen for a couple minutes near the end of the film. Beyond that, her total face time probably doesn't approach two minutes.

The films other nominations included Best Director, musical score, Best Picture and original screenplay. We've already touched on the Best Picture qualifications, and the most complimentary term I can give to direction would be "plodding." I'll return to that in more detail in a moment. I saw this film less than an hour ago, and I can't tell you jack crap about the musical score. I honestly don't remember a single bar of music in the movie, which might be why it was nominated. As for writing, I guess what passes for originality in Hollywood these days is simply anything that isn't a remake.

This is one of those movies that starts out somewhere in the middle, then stops and flashes back to the beginning of the story, then catches back up to where it was, makes us go through that 10 minutes a the beginning of the movie all over again, then finishes the story. That alone should provide a hint as to why I don't think this film is particularly qualified for an Oscar either for direction or writing. That particular narrative device only tells me someone wanted to bore the audience even more than they already were for an additional ten minutes. Geez, you've already soaked us for the price of admission. Why make our butts buzz another 10 minutes worth?

Michael Clayton is some sort of legal investigator, trouble shooter and probably donut boy for a big New York City lawfirm. The firm he works for is handling a class-action lawsuit against some mega-giant agricultural chemical company that has been dragging on since about 6 days before the Titanic sank. But the lead attorney (Wilkerson) for Clayton's firm melts down and decides that the chemical company is actually liable (something they pretty much already knew) and decides to help the plaintiffs.

Clayton is assigned to get him back in line, but when the chemical company discovers that the attorney has the goods on them, they bump him off and try to make it look like a suicide. Clayton figures the situation out, and finds himself on the endangered list as well. This sets up what might sound like a promising game of cat and mouse between Clayton and the corporate giant, but in actuality, it's all about as interesting as watching Fred Thompson get a haircut.

I only mention Fred Thompson here to note that he dropped out of the Presidential race this week. I further note that he is the only Republican candidate that actually has an honest paying job to go back to now that he is no longer trying to be President.

Michael Clayton first opened in theaters back in mid-October and despite a generally enthusiastic endorsement from critics, pretty much did a stinging belly flop at the box-office. It only managed $10 million and change it's first weekend, and had a domestic gross of about $36 million. After a few lackluster weeks it was dispatched to the second run joints, and would have been left to its fate as a rental property in a couple of weeks had the Oscar nomination not materialized.

But with that windfall in hand, it was re-released to theaters this week, and appears to be doing fairly well. How it will fare in the Best Picture race is less certain, but considering the weak field and lack of a clear favorite this year, anything can happen. The view from this corner is that regardless of which of the five nominees is elevated to cinematic immortality this year, nobody will remember it or be watching it a decade from now.

Overall, this is just another opportunity for Clooney to tell us that there is a lot of evil in the corporate world. Wow, what a revelation. Thanks George. By the way, I'll save you the effort of investing in your next movie: We already know the sun rises in the east.

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