The New Zoo Film Reviews Coming Right at You!
By S. Lee
OK OK OK so the editor is getting all edgy because I make the Big Lebowski look like John J. Rambo because i keep putting off my responsibility to write about some of the swill, trash, magic, and glory i saw this winter in terms of movies, my second (maybe third) favorite topic in the world - first of all, let me start out by saying that for all you "I Stand Alone" fans, the director has a new savage offering shortly - starring the incredible Monica Bellucci (you saw her in 'Malena,' i saw her in "The Brotherhood of the Wolf'). Also new - it's out - is 'City of God' from Brazil, a Goodfellas-meets-Tarantino story of several decades of drug kingpins controlling the slums they call home. Speaking of Tarantino, who feels a little skeptical about 'kill bill'? i do - but I'm hoping it's going to have all the illmatic shit it looks like it may have to offer - Jackie Brown felt a little bit Xanax-ish after the second hour, so i have high hopes. But back to the beginning of this tundra-type weather -
CUT TO: A man who lives just outside of NYC is going to go see the new 007 flick with Halle Berry......
1) This man is me and he regrets having bought "Monster's Ball" on DVD b/c it's not all that - see what Halle Berry can do? She can impede judgment and that creates problems. However, i did pick up the documentary 'Scratch' on DVD (turntabalism) and i'm very happy with that - also purchased a recent favorite, "Fireworks." It's Japanese, check it out, if you don't know about Takeshi "Beat" Kitano - you should. But "Die Another Day"? Fantastic, for what it was: a Bond film. You're either a Bond fan or you're not. I am one. Case closed. It's the best Brosnan Bond yet - like "For Your Eyes Only" is the best Roger Moore Bond - but yeah, it's not as grounded in reality as that movie. Car freaks, check out the Aston Martin Vanquish, a nice 300K-dollar machine that performs blunted stunts and outlandish arctic action in Iceland; in short, the car IS jiggy.Next.
2) Rented "Signs." Liked it - but didn't expect much, so i wasn't disappointed like a few people i know. I'm a fan of Mel, especially the three Mad Max vehicles, 'Ransom,' "The Patriot," and of course "Braveheart." He is directing an upcoming story on the life of Jesus - The Passion - which is already getting a lot of hype and negative press (gory/violent plus he' going to have the actors use the language of the time throughout the entire film WITHOUT subtitles) - but back to 'Signs' - many flaws and a few holes in the plot, but it still had its creepy moments - M. Night Shyamalam is not a subtle director and that gets annoying after awhile - I was not a big fan of "the sixth sense" - however i did like 'The Others,' the movie with Nicole Kidman that explored similar themes. no i did not rent 'The Mothman Prophecies' although i did borrow 'Joyride' from a friend once - not bad but hey, I wasn't expecting a Bergman movie - plus I'm a fan of Steve Zahn - Next.
3) "Gangs of NY" - wasn't expecting much so again, wasn't too disappointed. Daniel Day-lewis alone is worth the price of admission - his "Bill the Butcher" character is off the charts. also, I feel like i should be loyal to Scorsese and cut him some slack - i don't wanna step on any toes. No, i didn't like "Kundun" - but "Taxi Driver" is my favorite movie. too bad that during the movie i could somehow always sense/notice that it was shot a set - in Rome to be precise. And yes, "Gangs" also suffered from being a bit too long. the book is better and i recommend it - first published in 1928 by Hebert Asbury. the book to me was somehow more real - it's entirely non-fiction - whereas artifice/contrivances/etc. mar the movie. But thats' usually the case, and the same problem with....(Next).
4) The 25th Hour - ditto. The book was better. Spike Lee has a lot of talent but he also gets too cut up and he needs to settle down a little bit and not be so self-indulgent and narrow-minded at times - again, yet another director who can't be subtle (listen up - i loved "Do the Right Thing" and "Summer of Sam" and even the slightly bloated (turgid, even) "Malcolm X" is impressive (Denzel's presence in that one helps alot). I recommend the book, by David Benioff. Let's keep in mind that Edward Norton is always good - as is Philip Seymour Hoffman (see "Magnolia" again if you doubt me, or if you doubt that Tom Cruise can't act circles around so many other Hollywood pretty-boys and dandy fops) and Barry Pepper - Private Jackson, sniper, from Saving Private Ryan. One last thing - the 25th hour goes overboard because in the movie (or through the movie) Spike has decided to tackle some 9-11 issues - it's a bit too clearly a movie by a new Yorker and intended for New Yorkers, and Spike gets heavy-handed (to the point where we see workers raking through the ashes - two main characters view them from a balcony - and the soundtrack at that point gets so mournful and loud that it's a little tacky). The book did not make the same mistake and it ha dht e same lyrical quality that i loved about 'Motherless Brooklyn' - anybody out there now that one? It's written in the first person and the character who's telling the story has Tourette's Syndrome - brilliant. The author's name eludes at this time - perhaps it's the cannabis - but i've seen him write articles for Esquire and Details and Time Out New York very recently. Speaking of magazines - the best overall magazine in film - ever - has got to be the British publication "Sight and Sound." Check it out if you haven't already.
5) Who here doesn't know how to feel about Ang Lee's 'The Incredible Hulk'? Me! He keeps talking about a sequel to "Crouching Tiger" - now that would be fearful symmetry to behold - speaking of sequels, both 'Matrix' flix look good, Terminator 3, who knows, and Mad Max 4 is supposed to be off the hook. Or something like that. and then there is the prequel to 'the Exorcist.' Make sure you've seen the director's cut - i saw it a few years back, in Georgetown, which is where the movie takes place. I was on two hits of Ectsasy and i went to walk the famous evil stairs from the climax when the movie was over. Anyway, I'll end on this note - are you a Polanski fan? If so, go see 'The Pianist.' It's about time this guy made his long overdue comeback. I'll forgive him for "Frantic." even 'Death and the Maiden.' I mean, this is the guy who gave us "the Tenant" and 'Repulsion' - let alone Rosemary's Baby. In the Pianist, you actually feel like you are in the Warsaw ghetto during the holocaust - recall what i said about Gangs of NY. Yes The Pianist is not for the faint of heart. But it's not 'The Piano' - it's the most powerful film I've seen all winter, "Shanghai Knights" being a close second. Yes I'm being facetious. Again - some scenes are very hard to take. But ultimately, the film is uplifting - it reminded me in certain ways of my favorite Kubrick film, 'Paths of Glory' (1957) - which took place during World War I. Everybody, be good, God bless, and have a good time all of the time, without fucking up your priorities and obligations and happiness. Be responsible. don't forget what 'Requiem for a Dream' taught us - don't get cute. Even though very often man makes a beast of himself to forget the pain of being a man. and a man has got to know his limitations - Dirty Harry taught me that. and never forget how good Robert Shaw was as Quint.
S. Lee lives in New York and when not reviewing movies, eats soup and yells at the neighbourhood kids for making too much noise. Ok? Ok? Ok?