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Spirited Away

As if you didn’t know, it’s the new record-smashing award-winning film from the god among anime, Hayao Miyazaki. You might remember that other recent flick from him, “Mononoke Hime” (or “Princess Mononoke” for those of you with only the memories of Billy Bob Thornton and Claire Danes massacring that beautiful work of art), which until “Spirited Away” was the biggest film ever in Japan. And then they dubbed it and waited a long ass fucking time, and released it on us poor American saps. This time, they’re not waiting a long time, but they are dubbing it.

Honestly, I didn’t know much about it, but thought there was no way he could top “Mononoke Hime.” From the poster, it looks like a weird movie about a girl and some pigs. Boy was I ever wrong.

Note: If you’re deathly allergic to spoilers, go elsewhere now while you can.

The movie starts with Chihiro, a 10 year old girl who is not happy about moving to a new crappy town with her parents. The father, trying to find their new home, ends up going up a desolate dirt mountain road, that ends at an odd looking tunnel within a building. Against Chihiro’s vehement warnings and fears, the parents’ curiosity wins out, and they abandon their car to explore the tunnel.

When they emerge, they are in a new but old building that leads to a large grassy field with small buildings in the background. Chihiro’s ever-wise parents (that’s sarcasm, folks) assess that it must be an abandoned amusement park. They explore more, until they enter the abandoned little village, and find delicious food sitting out at a small cafe. The parents pig out (You’ll get the joke in just a minute), while Chihiro explores the rest of the village. She gets to a bridge that leads to a palatial building. There, she sees Haku, a young boy of 12, who warns her that they all must leave before the sunset.

Suddenly, the bright afternoon turns to night, Chihiro runs back through the village, which is now filled with ghastly figures, and discovers her parents have, appropriately enough, turned into pigs. She tries to come back across the grassy field, to discover it has become a vast sea.

Stop right there. What the hellrr

This is when I realized that this little girl is exactly like I was at that age. Put into the same situation, I was horrified to realize that I would behave the same way. I’d like to think I’d be strong, and just jump into that damn sea and swim for the other side, or go back and start kicking some ghost ass. But I wouldn’t.

Chihiro is aided by Haku, who is a lot more than he seems in this world filled with monsters and witches and gods. He is a young apprentice to the witch who rules over the village, and much more. To keep her from turning into a pig and to help her save her parents, he helps her obtain a job in the bathhouse of the gods.

Stop again. Bathhouse of the godsr You’re kidding, rightr

Nope.

The place where Chihiro (who is now called Sen, since Chihiro is too grand, or so says Yubaba, the big-headed witch) works is the bathhouse of the gods. Thousands of gods come to relax and get their strength back. Pretty trippyr You bet.

Through many trials, Chihiro dives right into her new job, and through a disgusting and cringe-worthy first task, earns the respect of all of her peers.

But she’s not as strong as she wishes she could be. After Haku takes her to see her parents, she breaks down, crying, scared. Hell, wouldn’t your

It goes without saying that the animation is breathtaking and total eye-candy. The characters in this alternate world are rich and full of life. Even the characters you briefly glimpse will leave an impression on your mind that most films can’t establish with their heroes.

Sen/Chihiro’s quest to return home with her parents takes her to many levels of her own self, not to mention far off places. She befriends several other characters, including the oversized overprotected baby of the witch Yababa, who has been turned into a rat by Yababa’s good twin sister. And the No-Face spirit that only wants to be by Chihiro’s side. Not to mention of course Haku, who we discover has a deeper connection to Chihiro then either of them ever knew.

In these days of such drab and uninteresting films, watching “Spirited Away” gave me a much needed injection of hope. A film not only great for adults, but one that children will love as well. How often does this happenr

See this as soon as you can. See it in theatres. Send a message to Disney that Americans want anime, and they want it now!

This has been an over-excited rant by Long Island Lolita.

Rating: A+
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XXX

Preshow: The only trailer worth noting was “8 Mile.” It looks better than I hoped it would be. Love Eminem, he’s incredibly gifted. This is probably the only flick this fall I’m looking forward to.

Show: Starts off with a jab at all the James Bond flicks, with a dapper man dressed in a tux stealing something from another man, then running into a very loud concert/club and getting shot in the midst of it. I could never stand James Bond, everything is too formulaic and dull. Even with fucking Sean Connery as Bond, I could never get into it. That’s why this is the spy film for me.

Oh, and did I mention Vin Dieselr

Excuse me while I drool, remembering last night. Oh dear!

Some actors are born to be huge stars. And Vin is one of them. He has a charisma I haven’t seen in film in something like 50 years. Not to mention, the body of a god!

To briefly, and hopefully non-spoiler, summarize, Vin plays Xander Cage, an extreme guy in an extreme world. He’s got a deathwish, and he uses it to make a point everyone in the world. Driving off a bridge, sky diving, jumping over barns in a motorcycle, he does it all.

He’s recruited by NSA Agent Gibbons, played by Sam Jackson, who has a wicked scar on his face. Xander’s (or you can call him X) training is a crock. They knock him out and set him up in controlled, or uncontrolled situations, and judge the decisions he makes. Of course he makes all the right ones, he’s a smart guy.

All his lawbreaking has earned him 3 strikes, and in California that’s a scary thing. So Gibbons offers him a choice (as so many other movies have done before): Jail, or become a secret agent. Guess what X pickedr

So he goes to Prague to infiltrate a group called Anarchy 99, and get information. There, he falls for a skanky, dirty girl named Yelena, played by Asia Argento. This disappointed me muchly. X doesn’t need a dirty-ass girl like Yelena, what he needs is a gorgeous redhead, with perfectly milky white skin, and big blue eyes. No, not Nicole Kidman, me! Fuckers, I guess I’ll wait for the sequel.

So anyhoo, X figures out what Anarchy 99 is up to, and ends up saving the world in the end, like all good secret agents do.

My favorite parts:
– When he has no shirt on. MMMMMMmmmmm. Want to lick that man all over.
– The avalanche. If you haven’t seen this film, go see it right now. Trust me.
– X’s coat. Want it. Very cool.
– His car. Makes Bond’s car look like a Kia.

There are a ton of others, but I don’t want to spoil anything. Let’s just say this movie will keep you on your toes. There’s always some huge grandiose thing happening so it never has a chance to slow down.

What needed to be changed:
– Yelena. Stupid bitch.
– The dialogue. Some of it was a bit too cheesy for me.
– The music. I can only take earshattering heavy metal for so long.

This is not a genius piece of filmmaking. It was never intended for this purpose. It was a very enjoyable, interesting and fun action spy movie. And a great star vehicle for Vin Diesel.

Will most definitely get it on DVD. I’m hoping for another masturbation-worthy commentary with Vin.

Ta!

Rating: B
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Birds of Prey (Pilot)

Seriously. The Batman Universe has some of the greatest female characters ever. Batgirl. Harley Quinn. Poison Ivy. You get my picture. Not that the men are sub-par, but the women outshine them in every instance they possibly can.

For me, the definitive Batman is the animated series. That IS Batman. The style, the tone, the writing, the characters: perfect. Mask of the Phantasm is the best Batman movie. Not that I’m ragging on the live action films. The 2 films (and yes, there were only two films. “Batman” and “Batman Returns,” understandr) They were decent, but they were always lacking in some areas.

When I heard about “Birds of Prey,” I got totally psyched. Totally. A show about female characters from the Bat-verse. I thought it was a wonderful idea.

In case you haven’t been up on the latest news, let me run down the basics for you. “Birds of Prey” is about 3 chicks fighting crime in Gotham City. Oracle (as some of you will know her better as Barbara Gordon, and the original Batgirl), who is stuck in a wheelchair up in a clocktower, where she masterminds all the crimefighting going on. Huntress (originally not one of the BoP, but added to TV-up the comic), or Helena Kyle, who happens to be the daughter of Catwoman and Batman. Trippy stuff. And finally Black Canary, or Dinah Lance, who is this weird 16 year old who has weird psychic powers. Together they fight crime, and do other stuff.

I got ahold of the pilot script. Read it hungrily in an instant. I thought it was a wonderful script. There were a lot of unanswered questions and liberties taken with the source material, but other than that, it was solid.

And then I saw the cast.

Oh.

My.

God.

I have never been so disappointed in my life. Completely.

They have Dina Meyer as Oracle. While she might have been “great” in “Starship Troopers” she is completely wrong for the part, save the red hair. Then, they have this skanky looking chick named Ashley Scott for the part of Huntress, whose only other roles were a 2 episode stint on “Dark Angel” (gag me, please) and “Gigolo Jane” in “AI.” And last, and certainly least, is Rachel Skarsten as Black Canary, whose only other roles were bit parts in movies you’ve never heard before.

My main argument is not that they don’t have enough acting experience to play these roles. It’s that they look completely wrong! What can I expect though, this is a WB show, after all. They need skanky/somewhat attractive girls to put in their promo shots. God forbid they ever cast normal looking people. That would be beyond their scope of reason.

Then you have the role of Dr. Harleen Quinzel. Yes, that sounds familiar, you know her as Harley Quinn. The IMDB claims that Sherilyn Fenn will play her, but my sources tell me they’re still looking for someone to fill this role. Apparently Ms. Fenn didn’t cut it.

And the humdinger of them all, is the Joker. Played by Roger Stoneburner, a stunt man. Voiced by Mark Hamill. Okay, they got half of the Joker right. But look at this picture, and tell me that isn’t the most gag-worthy thing you have ever seen. Carrot Top would have been a better choice, yeck.

So I’ve done a lot of bitching and moaning, well here’s the good stuff.

What I would do, if I were making this show.

I’d have it be animated.

Damn right.

But since they would never put an animated show in a prime time slot, I have to settle for live action. Here’s my vision:

Gotham City of the near future maintains the dark, seedy look of its previous incarnations. The sky is bloated and blood red, the shadows dark and covering nearly everything. The buildings are impossibly tall, and seem to touch the sky.

The characters are as they have been described. Barbara is trapped in two worlds. Part of her is still the well-oiled ass kicking machine she used to be, and the other part is the new Barbara, the genius computer hacker, perched up in the clocktower overseeing everything. She is not overly gorgeous, and she is not ass ugly. She is fairly attractive, but there is a tiredness about her that comes with the line of work.

What little I know of Huntress is this: she’s a smart ass hardcore bitch. Think Faith from Buffy the Vampire Slayer crossed with Spider-Man. She roams the city wearing party clothes, shunning the costumes her parents hid behind. She is mischievous, and also troubled, from watching her mother murdered in front of her. She should not be a hardass wearing leather and carrying a whip around. There is a middle ground, and she needs to find it.

Black Canary, or I guess she’s just going by Dinah now, is also all wrong. This Rachel girl they cast looks albino and stoned perpetually. This girl was written as somewhat naive, but also a risk taker, someone who moves from her safe small town to a big unknown city just because of a vision she had seen 7 years before. Get someone more innocent looking, and someone who looks relatively sober.

Ways this can go even worse

– Cheesy CG. I really hate CG, for the most part. Not to mention those goddamn digital cameras. All of them. Give me an SLR any day.

– Too campy. Remember the 60’s Batman showr We don’t need another.

– Not recasting the Joker. This guy is just bad looking. He looks like some Bozo who has had a little too much to drink, not the Clown Prince of Crime, and Batman’s most arch of his arch-enemies.

– Detective Reese. Total Mulder clone. As if we needed another dumbass “believer.”

– They need to lose all the “sly” comic references. I counted several, including Dark Horse, Supergirl, and Spider-Man.

– Bad fight scenes. This could make or break the show. Continuity

Anyone who has seen the “Batman Beyond” show, and the movie, “Return of the Joker” will know that they have thrown out this entire aspect of the Bat-verse. Completely.

Also, Harley Quinn has been drastically changed. In the animated series (where she was created) her transformation from Dr. Quinzel into the right hand gal of the Joker is shown during the breathtakingly incredible episode Mad Love. Bits of it are also shown in a few of the Harley Quinn comics. My main point: she stopped being Dr. Harleen Quinzel when she became Harley Quinn. And she became Harley Quinn lonnngggg before this show starts. So how is it that Barbara Gordon doesn’t know that the shrink she is sending Helena Kyle to see is Harley Quinnr Hmmmr Perhaps I’m missing something.

As I mentioned before, this show is based on the comic series, Birds of Prey. In the comics, the characters are much different from their portrayals in this show. This is all fairly understandable, things have to be changed for TV.

One very welcome (I hope) addition to the show is the character of Alfred Pennyworth. Alfred has always been one of my favorites, and it was a pleasant surprise to see he shows up.

Also I have found that Bruce Thomas will be playing Batman. You may recognize him as Batman from the Onstar commercials, as well as the UPS guy from Legally Blonde. Very good choice for this one, although Kevin Conroy will always be Batman.

I actually think I’m finished with this “article.” I guess it’s more of a late night rant then anything else, but who gives a fuck, rightr For now, I must content myself with my 1 DVD of Batman Animated episodes, and hope and pray that they release the others soon.

Ciao!

Rating: B-
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Harvard Man

Yes, you heard right, my birthday. Your Little Long Island Lolita took the plunge into the murky uncertainty that is post-teenager life. And so far it completely rules. Everyone wants to give me a credit card, which I promptly max out. Which is always fun.

Back to the movie. It starts in my kind of way, with Alan Jenson, played by Adrian “Uni-brows rule!” Grenier, banging Cindy Bandolini, played by Sarah. The first sounds you hear are her moans. Awesome. Then it cuts to a split screen credits, with them going at it, and also scenes of a Harvard basketball game starting.

Alan and Cindy finish up and rush to the game, where Alan plays basketball for Harvard, and Cindy is a cheerleader for Holy Cross, their opponents.

Then it basically all goes downhill.

In a forced and very uninteresting turn of events, we find out Alan’s parents’ home was destroyed by a tornado, and he fixes a game with Cindy betting on it to get the $100 grand he needs to give to his parents, who don’t even want the money. Oh, and Cindy is the daughter of a big mafia boss. Oh, and Alan is also banging his philosophy teacher. Who happens to be Joey Lauren Adams. Because that sounds right, Joey Lauren Adams as a philosophy teacher. And if you don’t think it sounds too unbelievable, wait until you hear her lecture her class.

Among cringe-worthy aspects were Rebecca Gayheart as a pseudo-lesbian bitch who also happens to be an undercover FBI agent (gotta love this casting). And the above-mentioned Joey Lauren Adams.

What I totally dug, but which gave me a nasty headache, was the 20 minutes or so that Alan stumbles around after taking wayyyyyy too much LSD. Trippy goodness. You feel as if you’re going insane with him, and when all the voices are finally quieted, you feel at peace, just as Alan does.

I was initially pissed that they got this heinously fugly guy to play Alan, when they had Leonardo DiCaprio lined up a few years ago. After seeing him in the entire movie, which he was pretty decent in, I still wish they had cast some other hunky young heartthrob. Or at least plucked this guys’ eyebrows. It was nasty as hell.

Sarah was very good, of course, but in the scene where Rebecca Gayheart overtakes her and pins her against the table, I was pissed she didn’t smash her head into that bitch’s. I was practically yelling “Goddamnit Buffy! Kick her ass!” I’m not used to Sarah playing weak little girly girls.

Like the title of this review states, this was an interesting failure. It could have gone either way, and it ended up staying mostly in the Lame as Hell section, instead of creeping into the Buy it on DVD section as I had hoped it would. Ah well, there’s always next time. At least the Jerk paid for the movie and took me shopping at great bookstore nearby. I wasn’t able to talk him into getting me the $150 “Some Like It Hot” coffee table book, but I’ll get it from him soon enough.

Rating: D+
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Cat’s Meow, The

The only thing I had to sacrifice was three hours of my life, (112 minutes for the movie, almost a bloody hour standing outside waiting to get in).

The movie is based on the true story of the death of Thomas Ince. Or, according to this film, the murder of poor old Tom. Which also happens to take place on William Randolph Hearst’s yacht. During a birthday celebration for Mr. Ince. Where his mistress is present, along with other notable names such as Charlie Chaplin, Marion Davies, Louella Parsons, blah blah blah. Sounds like a lot is going on rightr Murder, sex, betrayals, affairs, oh my! You could not be further from the truth. Marion Davies, those of you geeks like FilmJerk who actually watched the other disc that came with “Citizen Kane” know, was the mistress of big Willy Hearst. but also was fooling around with Mr. Chaplin on the side. There are scenes that stretch on and on, with Willy watching Marion and Charlie dance together, giggle and stare at each other. This basically makes up half the damn movie. Establishing that Hearst knows, is pissy mad about it, yet does nothing about it except fume and huff and puff on his own. We get the picture already!!

This film also wins the “Steel Magnolias” award for Most Annoying Female Cast of the year. Instead of shooting poor and totally cute Wesley, I wish Hearst would throw all these chicks overboard. Especially Jennifer Tilly, who brings her patented ingratiating whine and psychotic hyperness to Louella Parsons. Kirsten Dunst is tolerable in some of the scenes, but it’s basically only because she has such great costumes. All the other bitches (who I won’t even bother to name because I’m trying to forget them) were seemingly told “See if you can out-annoy nails on a chalkboard.”

And the most yicky part of the movier Edward Herrmann canoodling with Kirsten Dunst. I just kept thinking, “Geez, Marion is like the same age as Rory Gilmore. Stay away from Rory! Stay away from your granddaughter! EWWW!”

My favorite part had to be after Willy has had a breakdown, and is sitting, shocked with Marion after, you know, THE INCIDENT. Willy starts to overdramatically sob like FilmJerk did after “Monsters, Inc.” and clings to poor little Marion. “You’re my entire world!” I could not stop myself from laughing hysterically, earning me several evil glances from some of the snobbish Chelsea pseudo-bohemian bitches in attendance.

Like “Gosford Park,” another boring murder mystery which took too damn long to get to the murder, I came away from this film with very bad feelings towards the makers of this overwrought shelf sitter which should have premiered on American Airlines flight 33 instead of preying on the weak minded who think “Oooo, indie film about Hollywood must be good.” I guess they figured they might be able to get some residual fans from “Bring It On” who might want to see Kirsten Dunst in some sexy flapper costumes, who wouldn’t care if the acting is uneven or just plain bad, and we have a story so lame and boring that it makes “What Women Want” seem it was from the pen of Dylan Thomas.

As the FilmJerk tried to follow me home, and I prepared to ditch him in the crowds, he said aloud what I had been thinking the entire time: “And they don’t let me make movies whyr” I thought about it for a good fifteen seconds, then realize both the film and Filmjerk’s chances to ever make a movie were worse than Chris Klein’s entire filmography, save “Election.” So I kicked him in the balls, laughed as he fell to the ground and hailed a taxi to take me back home.

Rating: D-
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