funny thing happened on my way to the Electric
Theatre. Seems our little just-between-friends thing we
had going here has gone global. Thanks to Big Bill Hunt, the Electric
Theatre now has a permanent home in cyberspace at The
Digital Bits, complete with a very spiffy new logo. So to
those of you now joining us through the website, welcome and I hope
you stick around and enjoy yourselves. To clarify, while I will be
reviewing the occasional movie I saw on DVD, these aren't proper DVD
reviews. Then again, anybody familiar with my other ramblings for
the site shouldn't expect proper DVD reviews from me.
And what does this mean for the rest of you, oh long-time Electric
Theatre-goers? Will this usher in a new era of
respectability, forcing me to clean up my act and actually put some
thought into these things? Naaaah. Business as usual, I'm afraid.
However, to mark this important new milestone in Electric
Theatre history, I have decided to write this week's
installment while wearing pants for a change.
And now, on with the festivities. Nothing at the Hell Plaza
Octoplex, believe it or not. As a matter of fact, if this were an
ordinary week, I'd have a hard time picking just one movie for the
A-Picture. But this is no ordinary week, cause we've got a
clear winner in...
A-Picture - Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the
The best video store in the world is Scarecrow Video in my old
stomping grounds of Seattle. Last year, they published a very good
book of movie reviews, cleverly titled The
Scarecrow Video Guide. One of my favorite categories in
the book is "Movies you'd have to be kind of an asshole to hate".
Their list includes such worthy titles as Babe,
Amelie and Toy
Story. Add to that list the first feature film from
Aardman Animation's intrepid duo Wallace &
Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit. If you're familiar
with their great short films, you already have a good idea what to
expect and you won't be disappointed. This time out, cheese-loving
inventor Wallace and his silent (and infinitely smarter) dog Gromit
have started a business, the Anti-Pesto humane pest control service.
Their mission: to keep neighborhood gardens rabbit-free during the
weeks leading up to the annual Giant Vegetable Festival. But even
our heroes have trouble with the sudden appearance of the
Were-Rabbit by the light of the full moon. This is, quite simply, a
perfect movie. I loved every single thing about it. It's packed with
humor, charm, and an amazing visual style. And while it would
certainly be possible to clean up the animation digitally, I love
that they didn't. You can still see the animators thumbprints
in the clay. Five years in the making, The
Curse of the Were-Rabbit was worth every minute. It's a
testament to the devotion of everyone at Aardman Animation. They
should be extremely proud of what they've accomplished here.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the spectrum. No one's ever doubted
that Philip Seymour Hoffman is a great actor. He's been terrific in
ensemble movies like Boogie Nights,
Magnolia, and Happiness.
And while only about half a dozen people saw it, he more than proved
he could carry a movie in the terrific and shamefully underrated
Owning Mahowny a few years
back. Even so, get ready for a shock when you see Hoffman completely
transform himself into Truman Capote in this outstanding film.
Directed by Bennett Miller, Capote
follows the author to Kansas as he researches the case that would
become the groundbreaking In Cold Blood.
In lesser hands, this could be painful, making caricatures of either
the flamboyant Capote, the hicks and rubes in the heartland, or
both. But Capote sidesteps all
the traps, painting a vivid and compelling picture of a writer who
thinks he controls his material but finds out his material is
controlling him. This is one of the best movies I've seen about
writing and writers. A friend bet me five dollars that Hoffman would
win the Best Actor Oscar for this. I took the bet, betting against
Hoffman, mainly because I thought it was pointless to make
predictions this far in advance. Now that I've seen Capote,
I hope I lose. (*** ½)
Good Night, and Good Luck
While many (including me) praised George Clooney's directorial
debut, Confessions of a Dangerous Mind,
I suspect a lot of folks thought much of the credit belonged to
screenwriter Charlie Kaufman and not Clooney. With his second film,
Clooney proves that he's, as they'd say in O
Brother Where Art Thou, bona fide. The always-great David
Strathairn plays Edward R. Murrow, taking on no less a target than
Senator Joseph McCarthy and his ruthless search to ferret out
communists wherever they may hide. Clooney wisely keeps the focus on
the newsroom, vividly depicting the hustle of live television and
the risks these men and women were taking in their profession. Shot
in gorgeous black and white, Good Night,
and Good Luck. is like a dramatic version of My
Favorite Year focusing on news instead of comedy. Sure,
the parallels to current events couldn't be much more obvious but
what's wrong with that? I've always liked and admired George
Clooney. He makes interesting choices in the films he chooses to
star in and as a filmmaker, he shows much more talent than many
movie stars who climb behind the camera. And if he wants to let his
work speak for him instead of making tedious speeches on Larry
King Live, good for him. (*** ½)
In Her Shoes
Chick flicks don't get much chickier than this comedy-drama about
two sisters, one (Toni Collette) a responsible lawyer, the other
(Cameron Diaz) a flighty and flirty mooch who can't hold down a job.
When they have a bitter falling-out, Diaz has nowhere else to turn
and tracks down the grandmother she never knew she had down in
Florida. There isn't a chance in hell any single, straight man would
ever watch this by himself but actually, it's not bad for its type.
Curtis Hanson directs with the same eye for realism he brought to
L.A. Confidential, Wonder
Boys, and 8 Mile.
He handles things like Diaz's dyslexia and Collette's low
self-esteem with sensitivity and intelligence. Best of all is
Shirley MacLaine, proving once again that she can be as good an
actress as we have when she wants to. Some of this is a little (OK,
a lot) over-the-top, like the feisty seniors and Collette's
too-perfect boyfriend. But compared to something like Bridget
Jones II: Season of the Witch, this is really quite good.
Not Terms of Endearment level
good, but enjoyable. (***)
Here's another American Movie Classic that I somehow never got
around to until now. Actually, I'd avoided this one, assuming I
wouldn't like it because everything I'd ever heard about this movie
made it sound like the Old Yeller
of westerns. Alan Ladd is the title character, an ex-gunslinger who
throws in with a family of homesteaders. When their land is
threatened, Shane comes to their defense. Most of this movie is
pretty good, although I didn't like it as much as any of John Ford's
great westerns. Ladd doesn't really do anything for me and, as I
predicted, I hated the little kid who comes to idolize him. But Shane
is worth checking out if only for Jack Palance's performance as
Wilson, the hired gun. Dressed all in black with his shootin
hand protected by a single leather glove, Palance is genuinely
menacing and one of the great bad guys in western cinema. Watch it
for him and if you're like me and hope that a stray bullet picks off
that tow-headed little urchin, don't feel too guilty.
Well, with no Hell Plaza Octoplex to heap scorn on this week, I
guess that'll do it. Unless I miss my guess, I believe you'll find
some additional reviews in a spankin new edition of
Bottom Shelf. Click on over to read all about Oliver
Stone's Alexander, Clint
Eastwood's Million Dollar Baby,
Pitch with everybodys favorite Drew Barrymore, xXx:
State of the Union, and Jane Fonda's big comeback, Monster-In-Law.
I'll give you three guesses what I thought of the J.Lo/J.Fo team-up
and the first two don't count.
Thanks for reading and I'll catch you all in fourteen (give or
Dedicated to August Wilson
"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