Count of Monte Cristo, The

I don’t know. But it did. Now, I got some spoilers here so watch out. Bare bones review: the movie is pretty solid and I would recommend it.

For all you illiterates and twelve year-olds out there, “The Count of Monte Cristo” is based on the classic (and really fucking long) novel by Alexandre Dumas who also wrote “The Three Musketeers” (and if you ever get the chance–there is an excellent stage adaptation written by Charles Morey that is the best version of the story I have ever seen). “Monte Cristo” was made into a Richard Chamberlain movie which I slept through in English class and is often described as the mother of all prison break movies. This version stars Jim Caviezel as Edmund Dantes, a naive sailor, and Guy Pearce as Count Mondego, a fellow adventurer and Edmund’s best friend. The movie opens with Jim and Guy landing on the island of Etta. Their ship’s captain has a “brain fever” and they are desperately looking for a doctor. Complications arise from the fact that Napoleon is being held prisoner on the island and, fearful of a possible prison break, his British captors have been ordered to shoot on sight anyone who sets foot on the island. Thus is set up our first big action scene and it’s poorly staged and confusingly edited and I was pissed as hell, cause it looked like I was going to be in for a long night.

In fact, the whole first act feels clipped and rushed like they new the film was long (this cut came in at about 130 minutes), they needed material to excise and the set-up was chosen to go.

Now, Dumas wrote really complicated plots so I won’t go into detail how or why Jim is set-up for treason by Guy and sent to an inescapable island prison, but suffice to say when Jim does get imprisoned, the movie starts to pick up steam. Jim is befriended by an old, wrongfully imprisoned priest played by Richard Harris who is much better and more lively here than he was in Gladiator. Dick teaches Jim all about mathematics, how to play swords and most importantly the location of a huge Spanish treasure. This is easily the best section of the movie, interesting and full of suspense and if it feels derivative of The Mask of Zorro… well, motherfuckers, guess who ripped off who. After Dick dies, Jim escapes the island and runs into a group of smugglers. Luis Guzman is one of these smugglers and he is set-up as one of the world’s greatest knife fighters and Luis is going to fight Jim to the death and if he doesn’t…the smugglers will kill both of them. So, there’s this great set-up for what will be a great action set-piece…only it never happens. Jim disarms Luis in about two seconds and then tells the smugglers that he refuses to fight and the smugglers say, “Okay. Come be a pirate with us.” The fuckr Look, you could have just put up a title card that says: “Jim meets a gifted minority actor who agrees to be his manservant and comic foil.” Lazy. And Luis Guzman is too good for treatment like that. Seriously, every time he was on screen I saw the audience lift themselves out of their seats so they could better see what he was doing. Dude’s got talent and charisma and even with the shitty material he had to work with, was quite good.

But enough negative remarks about the writing. One thing I really loved about this movie was the depth of characterization. Guy has his own petty, selfish reasons to do what he does, but we totally buy into it. And while he did fall into some mustache twirling shenanigans every now and then, most of the time Guy was quite human and very believable. Jim was even better, depicting a character who starts off as innocent and naive then becomes a shell of his former self: hollow, haunted, consumed with revenge. I thank Terry Malick and The Thin Red Line for introducing us to this actor. It’s great fun to see Jim reinvent himself as the Count, and begin his exacting revenge on his former captors. There’s also a nice little love story between Jim and newcomer Dagmara Dominczyk, who plays Mercedes, Jim’s former fiance who has since married Guy. The climax of the movie is a little goofy. Does Jim really have to go “mano a mano” with Guy even after he has taken Guy’s family and money and exposed him as a murdererr I don’t know, it seemed kind of liked, “Hey, Gladiator had a big swordfight at the end, maybe we better have one, too!” I guess you do need one, but the motivation behind it didn’t seem so strong to me (shit, there I go talking like a creative exec again…). Oh, there’s also this one really lame character sub-plot about Jim losing his faith in God, but then he finds it again, I guess, by ramming steel rods through people’s chests and breaking Dorleac’s (Michael Wincott) neck.

This movie is better than any other big studio Hollywood action picture I’ve seen this year. The fight scenes may not be as flashy as what we’ll get in “The Musketeer,” but the story, characters, acting and visual design is all there. Solid filmmaking. I recommend it.

Rating: B+

American Pie 2

This guy almost… almost… ruined the film for me, as he did the first one. You see, the “American Pie” movies are not documentaries, and are not rooted in reality. When I see a film like this, I want hot guys. I want N’Sync. I want hot chicks, like Destiny’s Child. I want some hot ass flesh. And Jason Biggs is just about the nastiest, most repugnant creature to ever grace the screen. I won’t go into his Ed Wood-level acting skills — but his charismar This moron makes Freddie Prinze Jr. look like an A-list superstar! His greasy hair and pit bull’s face leave me with the desire to tear him a new asshole with my stiletto heel. Every time he was onscreen, I tried to choke on my popcorn. Jason Biggs might represent the ‘every-boy loser’, but you know what, I can see that looking out my window. If I’m gonna pay my hard-earned dollars to visit the cinema, you bet your sorry ass that I’m going to see six-packs and zit-free skin.

But enough about that. Your Lolita had a marvelous time ogling the other boys. Chris Klein just gets better and better, surpassing even his wonderful role on “Here on Earth.” He’s so adorable, oh my God he is sooooo cute!!! I have had a thing for Thomas Ian Nicholas since he played the kid with the killer fastball in “Rookie of the Year.” Seann William Scott is back as Stifler, the jock with the shit-eating grin you know you want to nail. And finally, rounding out the babelicious guys is Eddie Kaye Thomas. There was just something about him, the refined, mature attitude, the suave way he spoke and acted. The kid wouldn’t last a day in my world of pleasure and pain, none of ’em would, but hey, a girl can dream, rightr

I guess I should also mention the girls: Alyson Hannigan, Mena Suvari, Natasha Lyonne, Shannon Elizabeth, and Tara Reid. And Jennifer Coolidge, of course. I’m not going to get into the girls, because they really aren’t what gets me hot: I need dick for that. Except maybe Stifler’s mom. MILF! MILF!

The main difference I noticed between the movies: the pathetic antics by pathetic virgins have become pathetic antics by non-virgins. Nothing has changed much. Jim is still f-uuuuugly. Oz and Heather are wasted, used only for some boring phone sex scenes. (If you Hollywood boys need a consultant, I am most available.) Kevin and Vicky: wasted! The only characters to get any decent scenes and play were Stifler and Finch, in my lovely opinion.

By the way — they were dropping some serious homo innuendo for Stifler. I was afraid they’d turn him into some gay guy in major f***ing denial, but luckily, the two “lesbians” dashed that possibility into pieces. Not that I have a problem with gay men, they usually are quite obedient… but Stifler is MINE. Once my leash is around his balls, the only dick he’d ever get is when I strapped it on.

And Finch, who learned Tantra and Japanese over the year, remains the most desirable. Who wouldn’t want to screw for daysr It’s so hard to find someone so disciplined and ambitious as he was. Plus, they should have used more of Klein. They are just so cute and adorable! And some N’Sync music would have helped. I love them! JC is so gorgeous!!!

Until next week, I’ll be listening to N’Sync and writing fan letters.

Lolita out.

Rating: B-

Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back (Snapman)

While I bet it sounded very funny on paper, and maybe if done in separate sketches some of the scenes alone might be funny. This was an hour and a half of combined sketch comedy that I rarely found amusing.

I can enjoy a comedy that has no real plot, one that’s sole purpose is to go directly for a laugh and not worry about what it has to do to get there. In order to enjoy a movie like that it has to be able to make me actually laugh, and often. This film just could not manage that task. I laughed during Sean William Scott’s cameo, and Will Ferrell caused me to laugh a couple of times, but these laughs were few and far between. Major cameos in this movie happened so often that after a few minutes the neatness of seeing someone make an appearance lost its appeal. Instead of being surprised when another famous person makes an appearance it was more like “huh… that’s Judd Nelson… OK, whatever”.

I can hear the initial story being laid out… Jay and Silent Bob leave New Jersey to stop the movie about their characters, then hilarity and crazy antics ensue. The problem is they forgot the hilarity in the equation, there were a lot of ridiculously crazy situations that occurred, but they weren’t very funny. This movie relied too much on being obscene for shock value, and not enough on actually translating its humorous ideas into funny scenes.

Having now seen this film and “Dogma” I must say I am not terribly impressed with Smith’s talents. This is just another gross out comedy like all of the Farrelly Brothers movies; the only difference is this one has a ton of cameos. I still plan on checking out Smith’s other films, but because of my overall dislike of this film it will probably be awhile before I can bring myself to rent one of his films.

Rating: D+

Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back

The film begins with an “origin” story for Jay and Silent Bob. Sadly, the comic “payoff” in this scene is simply a baby saying “fuck” several times, which doesn’t do it. Then, Randal and Dante (from “Clerks”) call the police and get a restraining order against Jay and Silent Bob, preventing them from staying at their post outside the Quick-Stop. They then go visit Brodie (from “Mallrats”) at his comic store, who tells them that a movie is being made based on the “Bluntman and Chronic” comic book. As usual, Jason Lee is brilliant in this little bit. So, they visit Holden McNeil (from “Chasing Amy”) who tells them that the movie is being made, and introduces them to the “Internet”—where people say nasty things about Jay and Silent Bob. Because nasty things are being said about them, Jay and Silent Bob head off to Hollywood.

The next act has some serious problems, and makes no sense from a narrative standpoint. There’s a lot of sketch-y type stuff going on—a long bit involving “the rules” of hitchhiking, a completely out of place Scooby-Doo parody, until finally, at a “Mooby” restaurant (one of the few “Dogma” references in the film), Jay and Bob meet Justice (Shannon Elizabeth) and her friends Chrissy, Missy, and Sissy (Ali Larter, Eliza Dushku, and Jennifer Schwalbach Smith). They, along with an animal-loving troubadour (Seann William Scott) are going to Boulder, Colorado, allegedly to free animals from a research lab.

We get to Boulder, and it’s revealed that Jay and Bob have been set up as patsies by the girls. They will break into a lab and liberate monkeys, while the girls perform an elaborate diamond heist across the street. I’m unclear on exactly how the heist is performed, but it requires all the girls to get dressed in skin-tight leather catsuits and perform strange martial arts maneuvers. Needless to say, things go wrong, but everyone escapes, just barely—the girls with the diamonds, and Jay and Bob with a monkey. Jay and Bob then, with the monkey, finally make their way to Hollywood, where the final act occurs.

In Hollywood, Jay, Bob, and the monkey, pursued by Federal Marshal Willenholly (Will Ferrell) and an overzealous security guard (Diedrich Bader), go on a wild romp through the Miramax lot, and everything climaxes in a shootout and everyone getting down to the music of Morris Day and the Time. Obviously, the plot really doesn’t matter that much. It’s all an excuse for bizarre comic set-pieces and speeches.

The film is intermittently hysterical. Basically, once Jay and Bob get onto their first movie set, there’s a 10+ minute stretch of the film that’s non-stop laughter as they’re chased through various movie sets. After then, we move into closing the film’s “plot,” which takes far too long for its own good, including a 3 minute montage of Jay and Bob kicking people’s asses. There are a lot of good jokes and solid laughs throughout the film (with Affleck and Lee giving the most laughs per time), but there are times when the film is just DEAD.

The film has substantial problems as well. First is its inaccessibility. There are LOTS of lines that are fairly obscure “View Askew” jokes—like “Affleck! You were da bomb in Phantoms!” and brief appearances by just about every major character from Smith’s previous films who still exists on Earth. Most of the audience isn’t going to get those. Second is the film is way too self-referential for its own good. Lines like “people act like this in movies!” are uttered, and then the characters stare out of the screen at the audience. Hilarity allegedly ensues. Also, the film relies on an on-screen caption to make a joke at one point that stops what could have been a clever comic sequence dead in its tracks. Third, the film’s jokes often are too dated. The “jewel thief” sequences are obviously intended to be a parody of “Charlie’s Angels,” but as that film indulged in self-parody, it’s very hard to parody it well. Finally, the film doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, and isn’t really ABOUT anything, unlike Smith’s more recent and more impressive films.

So, in summary, “Jay and Silent Bob” is a good way to while away a summer afternoon, at least if you’re a fan of the View Askew universe. Just don’t have your expectations too high. I suppose it brings the characters of the “Jersey Trilogy” to a close. I just hope Smith can leave them behind now, and move to something new and different. He obviously has talent as a writer that I think can transcend these narrow characters.

Rating: C+


But if Blonde looks like too much of a chick flick to you then why the hell haven’t you seen “The Others” yetr It’s well-acted, great to look at and has some of the scariest set-pieces since “The Changeling.” What’s that you sayr You don’t like going to a theater full of chattering monkey fucks to see a movie where the silent scenes are just as important as the loud onesr Well, brother, I agree with you, but that heavyset Korean-American gentleman who sat behind me during the 2:00 screening of “The Others” at the Northridge 10 last Saturday certainly does not.

Motherfucker was yammering away throughout the entire film, the most insightful of his comments being, “I wouldn’t go in there if I were her” or “This kind of reminds me of The Sixth Sense.” I shushed the fat ass twice and when I finally turned around and yelled “shut the fuck up!” he seemed to think I meant “please be quiet for the next fifteen minutes, but feel free to resume talking during the climax.” Seriously, that was the third fucking time I asked the cunt wart to zip it and by then…well, it’s either murder the guy or vent about it on the Jerk. Anyway, see “The Others” at a mid-week matinee or on video so you won’t be bothered by these shoulda-been abortions. And bring an extra pair of pants. It’s that scary.

Gosh. Look at that. I’ve written over 500 words on “Legally Blonde” and “The Others” in what was supposed to be a script review for “Lymelife.” Probably because I enjoy writing about movies I like over ones I don’t. “Lymelife” is written by Derick and Steven Martini. The draft I snatched was dated May 15, 2001 and went 113 pages. The Martini brothers, one may recall, got some heat from a movie they co-wrote and starred in called “Smiling Fish & Goat on Fire.” It was a big hit at the Toronto Film Festival and won something called the Discovery Award. Some critics and filmgoers really enjoyed the film. Others described it as warmed-over “Brothers McMullen.” I myself never saw the film because the trailer was shite even for an indie trailer and that’s saying something. Anyway, this new script of theirs (apparently it was workshopped at Sundance over the summer) is best described as plodding “Ice Storm.”

It’s a coming-of-age story about Scott Bartlett, a 14 year-old boy living in 1981 Long Island. Scott loves “Star Wars,” his older brother Jimmy who is in the Army and his father Mickey, a successful real estate developer. Scott is also attracted to his blossoming 15 year-old neighbor, Adrianna who–in the script’s most clever description–“is at that ‘come here, go away’ stage.” She’s a constant tease to poor Scott. Getting him drunk and kissing him then telling him he’s like a brother to her and that she only likes older guys. So as Scott starts to learn exactly what those erections are there for, his parents deal with some marital problems. Mickey, it turns out, likes to fuck around. Right now he’s fucking Adrianna’s mother, partly because Adrianna’s father was bitten by a tick during last year’s deer hunt and has contracted lyme disease. Apparently this makes him lie about going to his job in the city and then sneaking down into the basement to smoke weed all day. I think his lyme disease is supposed to be a metaphor for suburban malaise and the decay of the social fabric being depicted which is a good theme and one that’s never been touched on in film before. Except for the aforementioned “Ice Storm.” Oh, and “American Beauty.” And last year’s “Virgin Suicides.” But other than that, no other film–oh wait, I think “Ordinary People” may have dealt with this subject as well. Same with “Happiness” and on a more fantastical level “Edward Scissorhands.” See where I’m going with thisr And that’s just major American films in the past few years.

It’s not merely the familiar territory being explored that turned me off. It’s that nothing in the movie really happens. “Lymelife” is supposed to be Scott’s story, but…he doesn’t do anything. He gets beaten up by a bully, but lets his older brother kick the bully’s ass. He wants to sleep with Adrianna, but never makes a move for her. Does he want to keep his family her togetherr There are some allusions to that, but he never attempts to soothe his parents’ relationship. Does he want to kick his father out of the house for sleeping aroundr Maybe, but he doesn’t move toward that either. Now, I don’t want to sound like some buzzword spouting suit, but if Scott were a little more “pro-active” then at least maybe something would happen in this script. Scott just kind of stands around and watches other people do shit…and the shit they do ain’t so interesting. It should be interesting: infidelity, madness and first love should all be interesting…but it’s presented so coldly and off-handed here that is just becomes fucking blah. This is one of those slice-of-life movies like “You Can Count On Me” which I deeply disliked–but if Lonnergan’s saga was your cup o’ tea then maybe you would like this script. Come to think of it, I bet “The Ice Storm” looked pretty vanilla on paper, but that movie was shot gorgeously, had a to-die-for cast and some very good direction. Maybe that’s all “Lymelife” needs to be good. Or maybe the workshop process will improve the script. But in its current incarnation, I can’t recommend it.

Rating: D

Rat Race

This film follows the same pattern that many other comedies are taking as of late; it seems they work hard developing around fifteen to twenty minutes of scenes that are quite funny. Mix in another forty minutes of mildly funny scenes, then add another thirty-five minutes of awful filler and weak plot development. Put all that together and you have “Rat Race,” as well as a number of other recent comedies.

There were a number of entertaining performances in this film lead by Jon Lovitz (of course), John Cleese, Vince Vieluf and Dave Thomas (of Strange Brew “fame”). But, just as there were a couple of very entertaining actors their were also some on the opposite end of the spectrum. Whoopie Goldberg, Rowan Atkinson, Wayne Knight and a bus full of Lucy impersonators were downright awful. Not once were they funny and more often than not they were less entertaining than watching paint dry. The scenes with the Lucy impersonators were so repulsively bad I considered walking out of the theater and waiting until the scene was over.

I hate to see such a large cast of (arguably) respectable actors and actresses waste away in a mediocre comedy. But, waste away they did and this film makes me wonder again and again why if one can put together a half dozen good jokes, why can’t they spend the time and stretch it throughout the whole film. This could have been a very funny film with more effort to fill the gaps between the big gags, but it didn’t and the film suffered because of it.

Rating: C-