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page created: 10/12/05
originally published: 8/3/05





Jahnke's Electric Theatre

Jahnke's Electric Theatre #13
No Beast So Fierce


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Greetings, thrill-seekers! Welcome to the lucky 13th installment of Ye Olde Electric Theatre. Sorry for the brief delay in getting this out to y'all but circumstances beyond my control prevented this from being produced on its usual Tuesday. Anyway, there's a bumper crop of movies new and old to get to... from big-time Hollywood blockbusters to at least one oddity that gives new meaning to the word obscure. But first, this guy goes into a talent agency...


The A-Picture - The Aristocrats

It has been suggested that once you begin to analyze a joke, to take it apart and dissect what makes it funny, it immediately ceases to be funny. So by that token, Paul Provenza and Penn Jillette's documentary The Aristocrats should be the least funny movie ever made. Just the opposite is true. Over 100 comedians discuss, reminisce, critique, and tell variations of the same joke, an old vaudeville bit known by its punchline, "The Aristocrats". The result is a fascinating look at how comedians’ minds work, what makes each one unique, and possibly the most profane and filthy movie you'll ever see. Oh, and it's also absolutely fall-down, bladder-releasing funny. You will never look at Bob Saget in the same way. You'll gain newfound respect for Gilbert Gottfried. And you'll see without question the funniest mime act ever courtesy of Billy the Mime. If you don’t like dirty jokes, stay way the hell away from this movie. But knowing the degenerates who receive these biweekly e-mails, I am fairly confident that you'll all think The Aristocrats is hysterical. Ya bunch of twisted freaks. (*** ½)


Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

First off, this could easily be this week's A-Picture itself. No question that it's technically far superior than the shoestring-budgeted Aristocrats. But I figure you've all known all about this for weeks now, whereas The Aristocrats you might never have heard of before. At any rate, in case you just got back from a three-month abduction, this is Tim Burton's interpretation of the classic Roald Dahl book with Johnny Depp putting on the top hat originally worn by Gene Wilder back in 1971. Now, I'm a big fan of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, so perhaps the highest compliment I can pay Burton's movie is that it made me think that Willy Wonka... maybe ain't all that great. This is one of Burton's best movies, right up there with Ed Wood and Edward Scissorhands. Depp once again delivers an indelible performance that could have come from absolutely no one else. Danny Elfman's music is his most enjoyable in years and the look of the movie is simply gorgeous. And while Tim Burton may well be the only person in the world who cared how Willy Wonka got that way, the dimestore psychology is forgivable because it gives Christopher Lee an excuse to be in the movie. (It also gives us a pretty funny flags-of-the-world joke that could have come straight from Pee-Wee's Big Adventure.) Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is highly entertaining, winning over even a doubter like myself who really didn't think the movie needed to be remade. Turns out, it really did. (*** ½)


The Island

Some folks love Michael Bay's brand of big-money, bigger-explosion, no-brain blockbuster. Some folks think he's the fourth horseman of the cinema apocalypse. I'm somewhere in between. I like The Rock well enough, think Armageddon and Pearl Harbor are both big stinky turds, and have so far managed to live my life quite well without having to watch either entry in the Bad Boys saga. Bay's latest, The Island, has pretty much tanked at the box office but it's not that bad. Ewan McGregor and Scarlett Johansson play starry-eyed young clones, grown to maturity in a huge complex sealed off from the rest of the world, awaiting their chance to go to "the island". What they don’t know is that being called to the island means it's time to harvest their organs for the benefit of their sponsors outside. Most of the movie keys into the 70s paranoid sci-fi vibe of Logan's Run, THX 1138 and Soylent Green... at least until it turns into a big chase scene. The action, as in all of Bay's movies, is big and mighty but the movie doesn't have a clue how to deal with some of the weightier issues is brushes up against. And you'll need to suspend your disbelief from a long, long rope when the clones fall from a skyscraper inside a giant metal and glass corporate logo and walk away with only the most carefully applied cosmetic scratch above the eye. Still, the movie is kind of fun for what it is and is a marked improvement over Armageddon. Damning with faint praise, perhaps but... (** ½)


Safe Conduct

I have nothing to back this up but I'd be willing to bet that there are more movies about World War II than any other war. Bertrand Tavernier's 2002 film Safe Conduct shows a war story we actually haven't seen on film before: the story of French filmmakers trying to do their job during the Nazi occupation of France. This is a long, deliberately paced movie and I'll admit that it took me more than one attempt to get in the mood to watch it. But ultimately, it's a very rewarding film made all the more fascinating once you realize it's all true. (*** ½)


Seven Brides for Seven Brothers

I actually enjoy musicals and every film book I've ever read raves about this 1954 movie from Stanley Donen but boy, I just didn't get it. Howard Keel stars as a mountain man who comes into town to take a bride (literally take), gets one, then encourages his six brothers to kidnap girls of their own. Kind of like The Abduction of Kari Swenson but with tunes. There is one impressive scene in this but for the most part, this is far from the classic I understood it to be. None of the songs are particularly memorable and the characters are all irritating at best. And yet it's beloved by many, so maybe I'm just missing the boat. (**)


Taboo

Japanese filmmaker Nagisa Oshima directs this fairly dull story about barely repressed homosexual desire in a samurai academy. It's a good-looking movie and the always-cool "Beat" Takeshi is good as one of the teachers. But it's agonizingly slow and surprisingly tame coming from the director of In The Realm of the Senses. (**)


Valerie and Her Week of Wonders

Just when you think you've seen it all, along comes this dreamlike 1970 fantasy-horror-erotic drama from Czechoslovakia. Valerie is a teenage girl living with her grandmother. A troop of actors come to town and Valerie's week is disturbed by vampires with jagged, uneven teeth, pervy missionaries looking to feel her up, witchburners and assorted other oddities. What does it all mean? I don’t have clue one. But it looks incredible and the images, music and narrative cast an almost hypnotic spell, making it virtually impossible to turn away even when you're totally lost. A good movie for jaded film-lovers to save for days when they think there's nothing new under the sun. (***)


Wedding Crashers

Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn are a pair of good-time Charleys who cruise weddings looking to pick up hot chicks. They crash the gala wedding of Treasury Secretary Christopher Walken's daughter and meet their match in two of the bride's sisters. Inexplicably, this movie is raking it in and leaving audiences in stitches. I had no idea people were so easily amused these days. This isn't a terrible movie by any stretch of the imagination. I could probably rattle off a couple dozen comedies infinitely worse than this without even trying. But while I smiled a few times and maybe even chuckled once or twice, I never once laughed... really laughed... during this entire movie. But millions have, so maybe it's just me. I don’t think it is but maybe. (** ½)


And that'll bring us to the thrilling conclusion of Jahnke's Electric Theatre the 13th: Jason Lives. See you all in two weeks when, unless I have actually been strapped Clockwork Orange-style in front of the screen, I will NOT be reviewing The Dukes of Hazzard. I encourage all of you to do the same.

Adam Jahnke
ajahnke@thedigitalbits.com


Dedicated to Eddie Bunker

"Electric Theatre - Where You See All the Latest Life Size Moving Pictures, Moral and Refined, Pleasing to Ladies, Gentlemen and Children!"

- Legend on a traveling moving picture show tent, c.1900


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