Da 5 Bloods
On the Record
I May Destroy You
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A storm blows Cabrini Circus onto agricultural scientist Pee-Wee Herman's (Paul Reubens) farmland and Pee-Wee must help ringmaster Mace Montana (Kris Kristofferson) and the gang overcome the prejudice of the local townsfolk to put on a great show. Circuses have always provided great cinematic fodder, ever since the days of Charlie Chaplin getting caught in a lion's cage sixty years earlier. Unfortunately, placing your characters in the context of a circus doesn't always produce a guaranteed winner.
Pee-Wee's character is much more abrasive in this sequel, particularly when dealing with two old ladies while trying to acquire a cheese sandwich. He's also a bit of a pervert this time around as well. Seriously, he's jumping on his fiancee Winnie (Penelope Ann Miller) every chance he gets and what's with his fetishistic attraction to hair? Even when properly meeting Gina Piccolapupula (Valeria Golino) for the first time, he ogles her cleavage until he passes out! This is not the Pee-Wee I remember from the original motion picture.
"Pee-Wee's Big Adventure" was one crazy set-up after another with very little downtime. "Big Top Pee-Wee" has long stretches where I caught myself glancing at my watch and wondering when the next moderate chuckle would arrive. So much of this film simply falls flat on its face. Vance, the talking pig, didn't seem like a good idea to me when I was young and the movie was newly released - now he's downright intolerable. Jokes about bulimia and sexual intercourse feel out of place in a Pee-Wee film. It's nice to hear Danny Elfman's returning score, but Tim Burton's creativity and outlandish style are sorely missed in the directorial chair. Randal Kleiser certainly wasn't up to the task of filling Burton's boots. Reubens' childlike innocence in "Pee-Wee's Big Adventure" struck audiences as if it were a magical lightning bolt. I guess it's true what they say: lightning never strikes the same place twice.
So a few individual girls growing up in the Seventies wanted to emulate Suzi Quatro and David Bowie and wound up falling in with record producer Kim Fowley (Michael Shannon). The rest, as they say, is history. The Runaways were a famous all-female rock group filled with strong personalities made even stronger by the fact they were all so young upon uniting. Unfortunately, I kept seeing Kristen Stewart and Dakota Fanning instead of Joan Jett and Cherie Currie. I've seen better acting from these women, both before and after "The Runaways"; acting that involved me in their performances, acting that made me forget I was watching actresses and immersed me completely in the characters they were playing. I'm not entirely sure what went wrong on this occasion. All I know for sure is, they both could have taken lessons from Shannon who is ever the consummate professional and disappears into his role of Fowley with ease.
If I had to use a single word to describe this film, it would be perfunctory. It hits all the appropriate notes, but there's no technique. It's just another sex, drugs, and rock 'n' roll biopic in a long line of similar movies. Director Floria Sigismondi has obviously seen better docudramas and tries to duplicate what she saw in them without fully understanding what made the original concepts work so well. The most interesting part is Currie's breakdown and Jett's subsequent coming into her own, but it's handled so ineffectively I felt like I was watching a television movie-of-the-week.
There's nothing really surprising here. There's nothing really inventive here. It's a been there, done that, seen it all before kind of film. The Runaways had some powerful songs during the Seventies and they deserved a powerful motion picture to showcase their legacy. "The Runaways" comes as close to being cookie cutter filmmaking as I've ever seen. Perhaps in more experienced hands, this movie could have etched out a place in my memory as deep as the songs "Cherry Bomb" and "Queens of Noise" did. As it stands, I'm forgetting the film almost as fast as I watched it, which is probably a blessing.
How do you honor a rock god from a cinematic standpoint? Many filmmakers have tried to figure that out over the years and a few have come close to doing their subjects justice. However, none have come as close as Oliver Stone with his near mystical interpretation of Jim Morrison, front man for the titular band, "The Doors." This film traces Morrison's rise from the beaches of California in 1965 to his death in Paris, France in 1971. Six tumultuous years at a time when the world itself was drastically changing and the Doors were there to do their part. Stone's ability to capture cinematographic elegance had only grown since the days of "Salvador" and "Platoon," although "The Doors" could be considered the height of his visual mastery. Storyline wise, Stone lets the myth of Morrison stand on its own accord, examining Morrison's legacy only from the peripheral, which was probably the smartest choice Stone could make.
Almost thirty years after the movie's release and it's still scary how well Val Kilmer stepped into Jim Morrison's shoes. The resemblance is uncanny, from the physical appearance to the voice to the mannerisms. This is as close as any actor could come to actually embodying the masterful Lizard King. Kyle MacLachlan's Ray Manzarek was a nice counterpoint to Kilmer's lead performance. He portrays the intense focus that guides Morrison's free spirit toward destiny. When I first saw this film upon its initial release, I found it remarkable that it didn't try to capture the Sixties. Instead, it felt like it could have taken place in any era. I think that helps to convey Morrison's genius. That it is eternal in its gift. That it defies the boundaries of generation and culture and becomes an epoch of its own.
The ultimate predilection of sex, drugs, and rock 'n' roll in such excess that it doesn't merely elevate but destroys when there is no higher elevation to be obtained is a recurrent theme in the lives of musicians, particularly from the late Sixties. It raises interesting questions, especially in the case of Morrison. Was he a tragic figure or an unworthy icon? Did his fame and indulgence drive Jim insane or did it just turn him into an asshole? It's not a secret that Morrison could be abusive and irresponsible, but did that come naturally from within, amplified by the corrupting influence of celebrity status? Or did the weight of fame crush a sensitive genius until the burden was too much to bear and he had to lash out at those around him? Stone does his best to shine a light on these questions and I personally feel that ensures "The Doors" will remain one of the brightest spots in his own career. This is a movie that is as mind-expanding as the music that inspired its celluloid existence.
Here is a film that gets a really bad rap. Let's get real here, this is no "Citizen Kane," but it doesn't have to be. This is an erotic thriller that knows what it is and gracefully plays within the limitations of its genre. Carly Norris (Sharon Stone) is a book editor who has suffered through a bad seven-year marriage. Now, she's moving into a new apartment building while looking for something fresh and exciting. Enter Zeke Hawkins (William Baldwin), the creepily voyeuristic owner of the building who takes an immediate liking to Carly. But there's also Jack Landsford (Tom Berenger) to contend with: a sleazy novelist bordering dangerously on stalker territory. It doesn't help matters that Carly is a dead ringer for the dead woman who was the previous tenant in Carly's apartment. Both Zeke and Jack each have their fair share of secrets regarding the dead woman. The question is . . . did one of them commit murder and, if so, which one?
While the eroticism isn't nearly as explicit as Stone's legendary "Basic Instinct," it's still quite arousing. Although I must admit, "Sliver" does contain one of the most unrealistic sex scenes ever filmed when Zeke the Wonder Schlong crosses a dark room, lifts up Carly's dress and artfully penetrates her from behind against a circular column quick as a bunny. Seriously . . . what an aim this guy has! Playing "poker" in the restaurant beforehand was a nice touch though.
I'm not going to say Stone was at the peak of her sensuality in this film because, let's face it, folks . . . her prime was still going on when she starred in "Fading Gigolo" two decades later. She has always been one of the hottest women on this planet and director Phillip Noyce knew how to coax a genuinely steamy performance out of her. Berenger is as reliable as ever, adding a nervous energy to his portrayal of Landsford while William (affectionately known as "the other Baldwin" for much of his career) had one of his best roles in this picture.
Noyce makes magnificent use of blue, purple, and black tones during some of the evening scenes. It feels close but not claustrophobic; intimate but not overwhelming. There's some nice tension sprinkled throughout which keeps things interesting. Not really edge-of-your-seat stuff, but good enough to keep the flow of the film brisk. There's even good use of UB40's cover version of Elvis Presley's "Can't Help Falling in Love," which would be the band's last number one single. Overall, "Sliver" isn't going to be mistaken as a masterpiece of the silver screen. But when I want a touch of titillation blended with a decent, almost noir-ish throwback, I can think of a lot worse films I could choose than this.
Paralyzed crime scene specialist Lincoln Rhyme (Denzel Washington) helps up-and-coming rookie Amelia Donaghy (Angelina Jolie) track down a serial killer who harbors an ulterior motive. Okay, so the synopsis for the film is easy to grasp. However, I'm not quite sure what this film wants to be. It's not gruesome enough to be a horror film. It's not structured soundly enough to be an effective mystery. It's both too technical to be a straight drama and too sloppy to belong to the police procedural genre. Director Phillip Noyce was at the helm of much better movies ("Patriot Games" and "Clear and Present Danger" leap to mind immediately) that one would have thought he would imbue his expertise into what could have been a gripping thriller. Sadly, that's not the case at all.
This film features a cast which should have been at the peak of their powers, yet Queen Latifah is highly ineffectual and Ed O'Neill seems to be sleepwalking through his role. Luis Guzman has his usual charm but isn't given enough screen time and Leland Orser . . . well, he tries his best but his character is beyond what Orser is able to convey. Both Michael Rooker and second-billed Jolie appear to be phoning in their roles, and Jolie is the biggest disappointment because she had recently given some incredible performances in films like "Gia" and "Foxfire" - and would go on to give one of the finest performances of her career in "Girl, Interrupted" which was released a few short months after "The Bone Collector." Washington seems to recognize he's leading the cast on his own and simply isn't capable of carrying the entire production on his shoulders.
Another drawback is that the pacing for this film is absolutely glacial. Two hours is about thirty minutes too long for what this screenplay has to offer. Sure, there's a sense of urgency prevalent in many scenes. But that sense of urgency is always doled out in a nice, even, average measure, never heightening even in its final act. I guess that appropriately sums up the picture itself: it's a nice, even, average film and nothing more. It stands on the same level as hundreds of other thrillers from its decade, never differentiating itself from the crowd. Unless you're a Denzel Washington super fan, I just can't recommend "The Bone Collector."