|KEX'S AMAZING WORLD|
|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|
Most Tim Burton films are a lot like being dragged through someone's nightmare. You aren't sure you really want to be there, but they are too interesting to leave. Edward Scissorhands at least has the attraction of some color: Most Burton films are dark and subdued. Okay, most old silent movies have more color contrast than a typical Burton film.
But when Burton decides to add a little color to his productions, boy does he add color. It must have cost the studio a small fortune bribe the residents of an entire subdivision to paint their homes in assorted dayglows and pastels. The entire film looked like comic book panels from hell.
I'm guessing that just about every dried up English literature teacher in America had exhausting orgasms watching this film. I'm trying to remember a single story I was ever force fed in my high school and collegiate career in which some character in the film, usually the protaganist, wasn't portrayed as an inevitably martyred Jesus figure. Clearly Edward is one, in such an in-your-face fashion that he might as well have worn a flashing neon sign around his neck that says "inevitably martyred Jesus figure."
The film stars Johnny Depp, in one of his first major Hollywood roles back in the early 90's. He plays the role of Edward Scissorhands, apparently an android created in the lab of Vincent Price, a sort of stererotypical mad scientist. The scientist dies before he can fashion the android with real hands, and he must endure his existance with a set of scissorlike appendages.
Edward is saved from his lonely existance by an Avon lady (Dianne West), who takes him into her home as a member of the family. Somehow, Edward must learn to live amongst normal people, a task that ultimately proves impossible, less because of his physical handicaps than his innocence. His love interest is a young Winona Ryder, still early in her career, before she got the idea that looking line a beanpole was somehow attractive.
I hear that Burton is considering creating a sequel to this film, which will be based on the life and trials of the winner of the 2000 presidential elections. Fortunately it won't matter all that much which candidate ultimately prevails. The film is going to be entitled Edward Shit-for-brains. Note: yes, I did this entire review just for that one-liner.
Last Week: Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust:
Breaking new ground is always important here at K.A.W. So for the first time ever, the new review is a Japanese anime. True, I have previously done reviews of Pokemon, but that really isn't serious anime. Pokemon is a children's cartoon series. In Japan, serious anime is adult oriented, and becoming increasingly popular here in the U.S., so its an artistic force that can't entirely be ignored.
Anime is important in Japan largely because its about the only really legitimate expression remaining in a nation's cinema that is otherwise artistically, intellectually and mostly financially bankrupt. Besides, the anime form allows moviemakers the opportunity to film all sorts of smut that the otherwise painfully polite and somewhat repressed Japanese society would never tolerate. Further, its much easier to animate than create special effects, so on the whole, its a cheaper way to do movies.
My personal favorite among the animes I have seen is the Petshop of Horrors series. It reminds me a great deal of the old Fantasy Island T.V. show. You all remember Fantasy Island. Every week you'd see some group of rich people with unfulfilled lives travel to an island owned by the enigmatic Mr. Rourke (Ricardo Montoban).There they would attempt to live out some fantasy alterative to their otherwise pathetic lives.
Rourke took considerable pleasure in twisting and perverting their fantasies in such a way that returning to their real lives suddenly seemed really great. At least, I suppose, until a few weeks passed and they begin realizing, once again, that their lives sucked, an old Rourke had swindled them. I watched the show week after week hoping a former guest would return and kick Rourke's ass, but alas, it never happened.
Fantasy Island did make one important contribution to culture. It provided vertically challenged people like Herve Villachez an opportunity to draw a paycheck in showbusiness in a venue that did not, in any way, involve a tent. So next time you are watching any one of the current myriad of prime time series that feature one of the wee folk, you know we have Fantasy Island to thank for it.
Pet Shop of Horrors was similar. People with some problem in their lives would visit the owner and purchase a bizzare pet that was somehow supposed to solve their problem. But there was always a string attached. There was some weird ass instruction involving the pet's care that the owner could not violate lest grave circumstances result. Naturally, the temptation was always too great, and the owner would violate the rule, and terrible things happened.
Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust is similar to a lot of anime in that it is visually striking, but not terribly well animated. That sounds like a contradiction, but it really isn't. This movie is a lot like walking through an art museum and studying a series of paintings that tell a particular story. One of the problems is that its awfully easing to get so caught up in LOOKING at this movie that you tend to stop WATCHING it, and you miss out on what is going on. Its a difficulty not uncharacteristic in anime.
The main character, known only as D, is an enigmatic, Clint Eastwood type action hero of few words. He is a vampire human hybrid. Dad was a vampire, Mom was human. That leads to all sorts of tortured personality traits, as well as bad jokes too numerous to even begin to attempt.
Charlotte, the daughter of a wealthy rancher has been kidnapped by a powerful vampire, Meier Link. He hires D to retrieve her. But competing with D is another group of high tech vampire hunters, the Markus brothers.
Eventually D learns that Charlotte is not entirely an unwilling victim. Further, the actions of just about everyone are being manipulated by an even more powerful evil. Ultimately, D is faced with an overpowering moral conflict, again characteristic of Japanese anime plots.
Study of Japanese anime provides a compelling glimpse into the difference between the way Japanese and Americans tend to view the world. While we often attempt to compartmentalize everything into frequently errant slots of black and white, the Japanes are much more willing to accept the more accurate plethora of shades of grey. The reality is that good and evil can easily be juxtaposed by merely changing the location of your seat. We Americans might do well to consider such viewpoints, especially lately.
A final note of caution. This film is violent, rather gory, and definitely not for children. Finding it may be a challenge. It was released in Japan a couple of years ago, but made its American premier at the UCLA film festival late last October. After failing to win a release deal, its now making the rounds in art house theaters.
Previously: White Oleander:
Michelle Pfeiffer as Ingrid was supposed to be the one paying her debt to society in this movie, but we were the ones who suffered. I don't know how bad things are in a women's prison. I do know how bad this movie was. If a movie in which Michelle Pfeiffer stars can come dangerously close to putting me to sleep, you know it is seriously flawed. Heck fire, I could normally watch Pfeiffer clip her eyebrows for two hours without getting bored, but this movie sent me into spasms of ennui.
Perhaps the single biggest problem with this movie was Pfeiffer's lack of serious participation. She is listed as the film's top billing, but appears for no more than 10 minutes out of the two hour run. Not that more Michelle would have really helped much, but then again, it sure couldn't have hurt either.
White Oleander is the story of a single mom artist, Ingrid, who has an apparently successful life bringing up her daughter in Southern California. Its not that she seems to participate all that much in her daughter's life. In fact, the kind of upbringing daughter Astrid (Alison Lohman) is getting gives us a clue where the kind of women who appear on those "compete to marry a total stranger" TV shows come from.
Ingrid gets involved with some guy we never really see (Getrid?), which doesn't matter a whole lot because she offs him within the first ten minutes of the movie. After popping over to his house unannounced one afternoon, Ingrid leaves Astrid sitting in the car while she enjoys a quicky in her boyfriend's house. THEN she has the gall to get indignant when he informs her that he has a date later that evening.
So Ingrid, who seems to have a bit of a problem with proportional reaction, erases some important writing off of his hard drive, then eventually murders him. Shortly thereafter, Igrid gets sent to the slammer, leaving Astrid more or less orphaned. You see, Astrid never really met her father, and has no idea who he is, or where he is. So she gets sent off to a foster home.
The first couple she is sent to live with have about as much chance of becoming foster parents in the real world as George W. Bush has of winning a Nobel Prize in Physics. But this is a movie, and not reality. The couple isn't married, and she is a self-serving Bible thumper. He seems like a decent enough guy, leading us to wonder why they are together in the first place.
Eventually Astrid's awakening hormones bring he to seduce her foster father, leaving the Bible thumping bitch in an Old Testament rage. After a drunken argument between Astrid's foster parents, good Christen mom grabs a gun and takes a pot shot at poor Astrid, leaving her with a badly wounded shoulder. The couple runs off, and Astrid is sent to something roughly equivalent to a teen orphanage.
There she pursues her interest in drawing, and falls in love with a creepy guy who draws comic book art. We figure he has a sterling future, so Astrid bags him too. But her fortunes take a turn for the better when she is taken in by a couple of aspiring actors, Claire Richards and her husband.(Renee Zelwegger and Noah Wylie). It would seem that living with Dr. Carter from ER would have a certain amount of security, and Astrid and her new Claire become fast friends. But bitchy Ingrid feeds Claire's insecurities about Dr. Carter's likely infidelities, and she commits suicide. Back to the can for Astrid.
Astrid ends up in yet another weird foster home, and gets completely screwed up. As if she wouldn't have anyway spending the intervening years with Ingrid. That is really the central point that destroys any tiny amount of credibility that this film attempts to muster. No matter how shitty Astrid's life was after Ingrid got sent up the river, I doubt that it would have been a whole lot better had she not O.J.ed her boyfriend. The worst part of the whole endeavor was, we were never given a real reason to care one way or another.
The only lucky figure in this whole ordeal was Ingrid's boyfriend, who was put out of his misery early. The audience had to endure another 110 minutes. Pfeiffer got off pretty easy too, because she really was only a shadow in the background for most of the action. The real loser here, apart from the audience, was poor Alison Lohman who will be haunted by the spectre of this film for the rest of her acting career. Hell, even Ingrid wasn't even that heavy of an albatross around Astrid's neck.
Last Week: Scary Movie 3:
The good news this week is that I can safely review this movie without risking another pissing contest with the Wayans Brothers. There was a little exchange after the first Scary Movie a couple of years ago. Scary Movie was little more than a make work project for the collective Wayans Brothers, as well as the Wayans sisters, cousins, aunts, uncles, in-laws and various hangers on. I thought it should have been entitled Stupid Movie.
Then along came Scary Movie 2. I didn't review that one here, although it was a considerably more amusing project than the first one. I think that had a lot to do with the fact that the Wayans brothers farmed out a little bit of the project, and some fresh viewpoints gave it a noted infusion of life. There were actually a few jokes that didn't involve private bodily functions, which notably improved the scale of humor.
Now along comes Scary Movie 3, the third installment of a license that originally promised no sequels. So much for that. The pendulum swung clear to the other side on this one, as the brothers Wayan had no real involvement beyond driving to the bank to cash a royalties check. Admittedly, their input was missed in the project. There were scenes in which their infusion of urban humor could have helped things along significantly.
Fans of the first two probably won't even recognize this one as a true part of the series. Absent the Wayans brothers, the project is completely the handy work of David Zuker. You'll all remember him as the driving force behind the Airplane and Naked Gun films, along with just about everything else that has kept the rapidly aging Leslie Nielsen in front of the camera for the past two decades.
Some of the critical review out there hasn't been too kind. Roger Ebert has gone on record stating that the genre of Airplane style satirical humor is dead. I'm guessing that Zucker probably has a similar attitude toward Ebert. But he'd be wrong about that. Last I checked, Ebert is alive and well. He has even shed enough mass to get himself removed as an official entry in the Rand McNally World Atlas.
No, its an easy enough mistake to make. There is still a lot of confusion. Siskell is the one that is dead. Ebert is still hanging around, generally providing such totally irrelevant and off-base remarks in his reviews that I often wonder if he actually saw the movie in many cases.
Much like its two predecessors, Scary Movie 3 is a sendup of recent, and a few past films in the horror genre. That is almost unnecessary, since the genre has become so bankrupt that the films being generated these days are frequently self-parodies anyway. The principle targets this time around were Signs, The Ring and Eight Mile. The latter mentioned was not, of course, strictly from the horror genre, unless you were unfortunate enough to actually have to sit through it. By my way of thinking, just listening to rap crap is horrifying enough. Who wants to see a film about it?
Charlie Sheen plays the Mel Gibson role as a former priest turned farmer who's farm is the target of crop circles. Simon Rex takes on the Eminem role as a white boy rapper. Ann Ferris is one of only two cast members from the earlier Scary Movie films to make an appearance. She plays Cindy, a TV reporter who is trying to uncover the secret of a deadly videotape, and a possible alien invasion.
Leslie Nielsen makes his obligatory appearance as the President of the United States. That denied an obvious opportunity to cast Sheen Sr. in the film in the same role. That might well have blown the budget to hell, but it sure would have been amusing. Too bad Zucker didn't think of it. Frankly, Nielsen isn't that funny anymore. In fact, watching him onscreen is sort of pathetic.
I'll admit that inspite of my less than enthusiastic ultimate rating for this film, it had a lot of funny material. Some obvious jokes were missed, but Zucker and company nailed a few things pretty tight. Unfortunately, they made some glaring mistakes as well, which cost them any chance for a smiley rating here.
I appreciated the distancing from gross out humor, but there were still some bits that were not only wildly over the top, but just plain uncomfortable. Even in this degenerating society, some things just aren't funny. Then there is the fact that a widely played trailer scene didn't even appear in the film. As the regulars here are well aware, that kind of thing is just the kiss of death at K.A.W. It is sort of a cinematic version of false advertising, and I don't take kindly to that. But I'll end up with one more point of good news. I really doubt that the Wayans brothers need a paycheck bad enough to cash in on Scary Movie 4.
Last Week: Finding Neverland:
I wish somebody could explain to me what the hell it is that possesses women to want to go to movies that make them cry their eyes out. They just love that. Its really a mystery to me.
You never see a bunch of men walking out of a movie wiping their eyes with a look of satisfaction that could only come from having just single-handedly erected a 30 story skyscrapper. (Field of Dreams) It never happens. (Big Fish) It probably never will happen. (Where The Red Fern Grows)
This is one of those really good girly crying movies. At least I gathered that is was. There were so many tear ducts flowing full force around me that I thought I was going to need oars to get out of the damned theater. I was about to check my seat cushion to see if it could be used as a floatation device.
My wife rates movies on some sort of hanky scale. The more Kleenexes she soaks, the better the movie. I don't really get it, but I think about a box of tissue paper sacrificed its existance for this one. I don't think as many overjoyed females have walked out of a theater since the day Oprah gave away cars.
The star of this film was a relatively unknown actor who might have some promise someday, with a few lessons and a little experience. I think his name was Dip, or Deep or Dweeb or something like that; halfway decent looking too, for a guy.
Okay, before the mass contingent of my female readers out there blow out my email box, Finding Neverland starred Johnny Depp. I can fully understand why he is so popular. In the first place, if I were female, the guy could use my body like John Goodman uses Winchells for nourishment. In all honesty, I probably wouldn't say "no" out of hand if he offered, even being male.
Right there you can see why this review site is becoming so popular. You can come here for some real honesty. You won't see Roger Ebert penning a line like that. Of course, I doubt that Roger Ebert would have to consider that much.
So Johnny Depp is a knock out good looking guy. I'm secure enough to admit that. But beyond that admission, the man is a damned fine actor. No, let's take that a step further. He is very probably the finest all around actor in the business today, bar none. No single performer in the motion pictures today has taken on more diverse, and even landmine loaded roles and pulled them off so magnificently.
In Finding Neverland, Depp takes the role of J.M. Barrie, who wrote the play Peter Pan. This story is "based on true events," and we have discussed that kind of statement before on this page. That particular notation is well below some wimpy claim like "inspired by a true story." In fact, its about 3 levels below "this story is abject bullshit."
What I can tell you about the plot is that J.M. Barrie really did live, he really did write Peter Pan, and he was married to a prissy bitch who probably never put her hand on a broom for any reason other than to take a spin around London. Sadly, I'd have to note that almost everything else in this tale is as fanciful as Barrie's most successful work.
Nonetheless, I enjoyed this film, even allowing for having to snorkle my way out of the theater. It was reasonably entertaining, and Depp gives his usual good performance. Kate Winslett was even tolerable, and the compliment of child actors didn't manage to sink it. In fact, they were pretty good as well.
But I'll provide my usual caution. Don't be suckered by the title of this film. Its not a fairy tale, its not really a family movie, and the kids probably won't enjoy it a whole lot. That said, most adults probably will, and the ladies will enjoy it more than a little. In other words, guys, if you have some hope of getting some tonight, this is one of the year's truly promising date films.
So now, I'm going to vent for a moment. In another section of this page, there is a guest editoral from a British editorialist commenting on our recent elections. I could probably pause for a moment to note that the citizens of Palestine, an entirely fictious country, actually get to vote for their national leader whereas we Americans don't, but we'll be discussing that at length in the future.
I'm more inclined to note his charge that over 100,000 innocent citizens have died as the result of our President's war on terror, particularly in Iraq. That claim is disputed, although it may be pretty close to the truth. No one can say with certainty. However, I was looking at a website today that attempts to keep accurate count of civilian deaths in Iraq.
Their authenticated claims are in the range of 15,000 to 17,000, considerably less but no less horrible. For one thing, its a butchery of innocent life at least 7 times greater than what we experienced from 9-11, and Iraq didn't have anything to do with that attack.
Worse still, Iraq has a much smaller population that the U.S. If a comparable disaster were to be visited upon us, 450,000 American civilians would be killed. Folks, that isn't the answer to anybody's problems. Let us not forget that those aren't people who were terrorists, nor were they thinking about becoming terrorists. Probably a lot of the relatives they left behind are though, at least now. As far as I'm concerned, the man that more than half of you wanted to continue leading us for the next four years, based upon "moral character," is nothing more than a butchering war criminal. Let the emails flow.....
I can only leave you tonight with the thoughts from one of the greatest thinkers our nation has ever produced:
I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just; that his justice cannot sleep forever. -- Thomas Jefferson
Last Week: Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire:
The principle problem with trying to adapt a book that encompasses 734 pages into a 2 and a half hour movie is that you have to leave a lot of stuff out. In fact, you have to leave so much stuff out that most of the people who haven't read the book are probably going to be hopelessly lost trying to decipher the plot.
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire seems a lot less like a continuous story than a series of barely connected episodes, most of which are little more than appallingly tedious blabfests. Sure, there are some interesting, even exciting scenes in this film. And like its predecessors, some of them are absolutely magnificent to look at.
The problem is that four episodes into the series, we've accumulated so many characters that some of them have very little to do except put in an appearance so that we won't have forgotten them if they play a key role in the next story. Worse still, characters that were apparently signficant in earlier episodes of the book are now being summoned up, seemingly out of the director's ass. But those of us who haven't invested the time to read the books don't have clue one who they are or why we should give a flying flip about them.
The most signficant plotpoint of Harry Potter 4 is that Hogwart has been chosen as the site of the Tri-Wizard tournament, an event that pits the champions from three wizardry schools against each other, with the winner becoming a legendary hero or something. I had a bit of trouble figuring out what the fuss was all about.
Worse still, the movie seemed to imply that the event was held with some regularity. I just learned from reading a review of the book that this tournament is only held once a century, so its signficance becomes more profound. That rather important tidbit of information didn't make the editing cut in the film, leaving me to wonder what other similarly important tidbits I wasn't privy to.
The rules state that no one under the age of 16 can participate in the tournament. Since Harry is only 14 in this film, that seems to leave him out. He isn't all that interested anyway. But at this point, the length of time it is taking to make these films is beginning to have an impact. Daniel Radcliffe, who passed 14 a couple of years ago, is already looking a bit long in the tooth for the role.
I half expected a scene to come along that played like this:
Ron: Hey Harry, wanna go cast a see through spell on Hermione's dress?
Harry: Not now Ron. I have to go catch a shave.
In order to enter this big tournament, would be contestants have to cast their name into a goblet of fire. Guess what? That is where the title comes from. Just before the tournament begins, the goblet casts out the unburned names of the champions from each school. Out comes the three names, all contestants over 16. But just as the ceremony is about to end, the goblet casts out one final name. Guess who's name it is?
Yep...our boy Harry is magically entered. So he has to compete in three trying events. None of them are even half as trying as sitting through this film, but nobody gave the audience any prizes when it was over.
There is also some big to do about a Wizards ball or something, and everyone has to get a date. Harry has his eye on a cute little classmate, but when he finally gets the nerve to ask her, she sadly tells him that she already has been asked. So poor Harry has to go take a cold shower.
The extent to which I'm making that up is only a very small degree. If you are unfortunate enough to have to sit through this film, you'll see what I mean. There is a bath scene involving young Harry and some very horny female spirit. This particular scene comes the closest to kiddy porn that I've seen presented in a major motion picture since American Beauty.
The ending of this film entirely baffled me. I don't think I'd be giving away the ending by saying that Harry wins this once a century tournament, but doesn't seem to be handsomely rewarded, as was implied. Instead, he still seems to be sort of a afterthought among the Hogwart students.
There are a couple more episodes left in this movie series, but don't expect to see them reviewed here. Barring my actually breaking down and reading the books, an event about as likely as Paris Hilton being nominated for an Oscar this year, I have no intention of investing anymore of my life watching Harry Potter movies.
Last Week: An Inconvienent Truth:
It isn't the things we don't know that end up hurting us. It is the things we are sure of that just ain't so. ~Mark Twain
And for a very long time now, we have been callously performing an uncontrolled experiment on climate change on this planet, without the slightest regard for the potential consequences. We have foolishly assumed that our actions are incapable of bringing out change to a fragile system we barely understand.
Since it began flying a little over 25 years ago, the space shuttle program has suffered two catastrophic failures for a simple reason: The problems that led to the failures were well known and documented in both cases. But since neither problem ever resulted in a major problem until they led to a major problem, they were systematically ignored. Our stewardship of the planet follows precisely the same cavalier reasoning.
It has long been said that a picture is worth a thousand words. For something different in this review, I'm going to save a lot of words and show you a lot of pictures and graphs. If you want to see a lot more, equally disturbing, I recommend strongly you see this film.
The first image I would like to show you is a graph representing CO2 concentrations as measured in the atmosphere since 1955. As you can see, there is a seasonal peak and drop yearly. When it is summer in the northern hemisphere, CO2 levels in the atmosphere drop, since the greatest land concentrations on the planet are in the north. Since most plants grow on land, more carbon dioxide is taken out of the atmosphere. When the northern plants drop their leaves in autumn CO2 levels naturally rise. However, as you can see, CO2 levels are consistantly climbing annually. This is not a natural cycle:
The next graph will require American readers to toss out their normal convention of reading graphs left to right. It shows annual carbon dioxide variatons over the past several hundred thousand years. The measurments are taken within Antarctic ice bubbles in ice layers. As you can see, CO2 levels have hit a 650,000 year high. The upper graph shows the general trend, projected out 50 years at present emission levels.
This third graph shows the increase of catastrophic weather events over the past 4 decades. A predictable consequence of global warming will be a rise in violent weather patterns:
Next, I would like you to take a look at an image of Mt. Hood taken in August of 1984. Following will be an image taken on the same August date in 2002:
The next image shows comparisons of Pasterze Glacier, one image taken in March 1875, the other in March of 2004:
Finally here are comparative photos of the Portage Glacier in Alaska, one taken in 1914, the other in 2004:
Finally, here are some morons who would like you to believe that black is white:
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