September, everyone. Yes, we've almost made it through another
summer of space mutants, car chases and troubled young superheroes.
And like many of you, I'm pretty burned out on being entertained so
relentlessly all season. So this is a fairly abbreviated edition of
the Electric Theatre this
week. Only half a dozen movies, only one of which is actually now in
theatres. But it's a good one, maybe one of the best of the summer
so far. Therefore it should come as no surprise to discover that it
is this week's...
A-Picture - The 40 Year-Old Virgin
A while back, a friend and I were discussing movies and he put
forth a distinction between "professional" comedy and "amateur"
comedy. At the time I didn't really understand what he was talking
about, mainly because I disagreed with his examples, but now I get
it. A couple weeks ago I saw Wedding
Crashers, a blockbuster that seems to please audiences
everywhere except for me. That movie is an example of amateur
comedy. The filmmakers' idea of humor is just to let Vince Vaughn
and Owen Wilson ramble along and riff and do whatever comes to mind.
The 40 Year-Old Virgin, on the
other hand, is professional comedy. The people who made this movie
actually worked hard on it and their attention to detail pays off
handsomely. Steve Carell (who also co-wrote the script) stars as
Andy, a painfully shy and awkward collector of comic books and
action figures. He starts to hang out with some co-workers at the
electronics store where he manages the stockroom and naturally, they
make it their mission to get Andy laid. Not much of a plot,
admittedly, but great comedies have been built on much less. This
works because Carell and director Judd Apatow have written a really
good script, one that doesn't make fun of the way Andy's chosen to
live his life. They sidestep easy cliches (for starters, Andy
doesn't live with his mom like you might expect) and populate the
film with funny, well-rounded, sympathetic characters that are easy
to believe in. Carell's performance is outstanding and he's
surrounded by equally good actors like Catherine Keener, Paul Rudd
and Seth Rogen. TV vet Apatow proves himself to be a sure hand at
film directing. It takes a lot of confidence as a filmmaker to end a
movie as relatively realistic as this one on such a giddy note of
absurdity. The 40 Year-Old Virgin
is smart, hysterical and easily one of the best mainstream comedies
I've seen in years. (*** ½)
After the Sunset
Every so often you'll see a movie and you just know that the only
reason it was made was so the stars could have a working vacation on
location. Ocean's Twelve is
kind of like that. After the Sunset
is even more so. Pierce Brosnan and Salma Hayek star as a pair of
jewel thieves who have retired to an island paradise after one last
big score. But as fate would have it, an even bigger score is going
to be on display on board a cruise ship docked at that very island.
Woody Harrelson, as the FBI agent who's been after Brosnan for
years, doesn't think that's just a coinky-dink and shows up to
guzzle umbrella drinks and engage in some amazingly stupid
homoerotic horseplay with Pierce. You can throw a rock into a video
store and hit a more interesting heist movie than this one, although
there's no denying that the scenery is gorgeous.
The Bad News Bears
With the release of Richard Linklater's remake, I realized that the
last time I'd seen the original Bad News
Bears I was about 8 years old. One DVD rental later, I'm
pleased to report that it's just as good as it ever was. Maybe
better. Walter Matthau is in rare form as Buttermaker, barking
orders at a well-cast team of misfit and loser kids. The movie is
refreshingly unsentimental. Even when characters redeem themselves
or (god forbid) grow, it's handled in a understated way. I still
haven't seen the remake, though I hear it's pretty good and I hope I
still have a chance to catch it. Even so, it has some pretty big
shoes to fill in the original Bears.
Where else are you going to see Matthau throwing a beer at young
Tatum O'Neal as a reality check?
Walter Hill is one of my favorite directors and while Undisputed
is a far cry from being among his best work, it's a good example of
why I like him so much. In anybody else's hands, this movie would be
colossally stupid and probably about half an hour too long. With
Hill, it's still pretty dumb but it's enjoyably dumb and, clocking
in at a brisk 94 minutes, it does what it came to do and gets out.
Wesley Snipes stars as a convict serving a life sentence for murder.
He was arrested just as he was about to become a pro boxer and now
he's the prison champ. Suddenly there's a new champ: Ving Rhames as
the heavyweight champion of the world doing time for rape. Peter
Falk is an aging mobster who arranges to pit the two against each
other in the ring. It's pretty routine but it's a good routine,
staged with style and conviction by someone who knows how to get the
most out of a B-premise. (***)
Ewan McGregor stars as a mysterious young man who takes a job with
a family working on a barge in the rivers of Scotland. McGregor and
boss Peter Mullan drag the corpse of a young woman out of the water
one morning. While Mullan enjoys his minor celebrity as the
discoverer of the body, McGregor initiates an affair with his wife
(Tilda Swinton). Young Adam is
a slow, rather downbeat movie that, if you can get into it, does
reward your patience. However, the pace is so deliberate that I
couldn't blame you if you gave up after thirty minutes. I stayed
with it and I'm glad I did. McGregor is very good and David
Mackenzie's direction is excellent, with a number of startlingly
original scenes. However, I'm not ashamed to admit that I am not
smart enough to have any idea what the title is supposed to signify
apart from serving to call my attention to it on the list of new
Playing at the Hell Plaza Octoplex - Sextette
OK, folks. Everything else that has been in the Octoplex has been a
warm-up. Every single movie I've bashed in this part of the Electric
Theatre has been Citizen Kane
compared to the jaw-dropping horror that is Sextette.
Mae West's final film, released in 1978, is like nothing else you've
ever seen. Completely ignoring the fact that she was about 80 at the
time, Mae stars as her usual sexpot character, freshly married to
her sixth husband (played by Timothy Dalton, of all people). But all
her ex-husbands keep showing up during the honeymoon and they
include Russian President Tony Curtis, German filmmaker Ringo Starr,
and presumed-dead gangster George Hamilton. But wait, there's more!
You also get Dom DeLuise as Mae's manager, Regis Philbin and Rona
Barrett as themselves, Keith Moon as a flamboyant dress designer,
and if you can make it through to the very end, Alice Cooper as a
singing waiter! In my favorite scene, Timothy Dalton and Mae West
sing a duet of "Love Will Keep Us Together". Of course in
the original song, the words go "someday your looks will be
gone" so Dalton chivalrously changes them to "your looks
will never be gone". Sextette
is an insanely bad movie and I know full well that some of you may
actually want to see it now out of morbid curiosity, just as I did.
Go with God, my friends. You will not be disappointed. (*)
Obviously I've got to stop it there this week. How can you top Sextette?
Beats the holy hell out of me but I've got two weeks to figure it
out. Until next time, have a holly jolly Labor Day. Jahnke out.
Dedicated to Robert Moog
"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