Starsky and Hutch (2004):
You may love Ben Stiller or you may think he sucks,
but irrespective of your feelings about his comedy, you have to
concede one thing - the man has a tremendous work ethic. In 2004
alone, he has had starring roles in five comedies
Meet the Fockers
Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story
Starsky & Hutch
Along Came Polly
In addition, he will have a role in the
The Story of Frank Sledge, and he made a cameo appearance with
his usual comedy buddies in
Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgandy
His five major roles encompass a pretty good
variety of films. Meet the Fockers and Along Came Polly are
mainstream films, essentially romantic comedies, Dodgeball and
Starsky & Hutch are somewhat edgier "pure" comedy, and Envy ...
well, Envy was just a very bad mistake. Throughout most of his
career, Stiller has made an entire career out of just three roles: Mr
Furious, the guy with too much caffeine, Mr Clueless, the guy with
an IQ in single figures, and Mr Average, the guy who represents an
average schmoe like us. I prefer Stiller when he works in the normal
range (There's Something about Mary, Meet the Parents), or when
reaches into Mr Clueless to create a character (Dodgeball,
Zoolander). I like Mr Furious the least. In fact, I am sick of Mr
Furious, and Stiller
reprises that one yet again in Starsky & Hutch, this time playing
the wound-too-tight cop who has to follow the mandatory "mismatched buddy" path by
partnering up with a laid-back guy who has a somewhat relaxed
attitude toward crime, paperwork, and even showing up for work.
I liked the film best when it messed
around with cop clichés. Starsky almost kills himself and the
suspect in a wildly uncontrolled interrogation. We are reminded of
necessary disguise details that Serpico conveniently ignored. When they lads go undercover in disguise, Starsky asks Hutch "who's your wigmaker?". Starsky
admonishes Hutch for stealing his cool character voice instead of
getting his own cool voice. The bad guys always say
things like "hey, that's a false moustache!".
There are about three
very funny moments in the film, but they were not inspired kinds of moments,
just standard sitcom stuff - for example, when the uptight Starsky gets a
bad tip about a drug shipment and ends up riddling a pony with
bullets, or when Starsky tries the ol' "drive the car off the pier
onto the boat" trick and misses. Unfortunately, all of those great moments
were trailered, so the pleasure of surprise was lost in
the actual screening.
Starsky is an average film, a mediocre comedy which will give you a
few laughs, and will bore you to tears with its predictability in
other scenes. It's OK, a pleasant comedy, but just OK, no better. If you want to see
Stiller's funniest comedy of the five, head out to Dodgeball, which
truly has some inspired, off-the-wall moments and some sustained lunacy. Starsky is basically a
slapped-together one-note comedy. You don't need to rush out to rent
this one. It can wait for your attention until it comes up on
the HBO rotation.
The Door in the Floor (2004):
I guess I could tell you all you need to know about The Door in the
Floor by telling you that it is quite an effective interpretation of
a John Irving novel (actually part of an Irving novel called "A
Widow for a Year").
If that doesn't really mean anything to you, I may have to bore you
a bit by discussing the form of the 19th century novel. Ya see, it's
like this. Modernism changed the novel into something approaching
the random nature of life itself - realistic, chaotic, often
uninteresting. The novel format was not always so. Back in the day,
novels were supposed to be more orderly than life. Characters were
supposed to interweave cleverly with other characters. People always
seemed to deliver those lines we wish we had thought of. Tiny
details from one sub-plot would appear coincidentally and
fortuitously in the main plot. The novelist's entire world had a
population of not billions of people, but only dozens. If you had a
long-lost sister, you could be absolutely sure that the only true
love of your life, found two continents away from your home, turned
out to be that very sister, thus causing you both untold grief. If
you were cruel to a beggar, you could rest assured that it was no
ordinary beggar, but perhaps the king in disguise, testing the
generosity of his subjects, or perhaps even your own father, whom
you thought lost at sea. This type of contrivance, which was then
considered to be highly "literary", is now more commonly known by
its modern term, "crap".
The true novel of the literary tradition was really one big steaming
pile of lies that bore almost no resemblance at all to human life.
It was meant to be an entertainment, to draw people in and help them
escape from life, or to improve their minds more than simple life
could do. Thomas Hardy insisted that novels had to be far better
than life in every way - more eloquent, more complicated, more
entertaining, more interesting, more emotional. The sobs of the
characters should be deeper than our sobs, the guffaws more robust.
Above all, Hardy's vision of the novel required it to be more
connected, and neater than life. The details and characters not only
needed to be neatly intertwined, but all that twine had to get tied
up into a neat little ball at the end, to offer the kind of closure
rarely offered in real life stories.
In my opinion, Thomas Hardy could not have been more wrong if he
chose Moe and Curly Howard to host a royal tea party, but there have
been many great thinkers who agreed with his conception, and there
are many who still do.
John Irving is one such person. He still writes 19th century novels.
His characters are bigger than any people we have ever known. They
suffer grander tragedies than we do, and they react with deeper
emotions. Your vision of hell might well include being reborn as a
parent in a John Irving novel, because:
You will surely lose a child or several children in tragic
incidents, possibly to suicide.
You will probably be squarely to blame for their death. If not, you
will find a way to blame yourself through some concatenation of
circumstances in which you were a key link.
Years after the tragedy, you will not be able to forgive yourself,
your spouse will not be able to forgive you, and many incidents
throughout your life will somehow spring from the seed planted when
you caused your child's death.
A perfect example of a John Irving (slash Charles Dickens)
contrivance is found in this movie. An author/illustrator seduces
women by persuading them to pose for his books, gradually nudging
them toward nude sketches, then finally making pornographic drawings
of their open genitalia. He has just come from a confrontation with
one woman (Mimi Rogers) who is at the end of the cycle. She has
nearly killed him, and has ripped up all the obscene drawings and
scattered them to the winds. Scant hours later, he is in the car
with his next prey - a widowed mother and daughter who are to be
inducted to the beginning of the cycle. Interested, but cautious,
mom asks, "Just what kind of drawings are we talking about?"
At that very moment, the winds decide to scatter one of the author's
detailed, sketch-pad drawings of Mimi Roger's pussy onto mom's
That's how Irving's plots work. He would probably call that
"multi-layered invention", which is a fancy literary way of saying
Not that there's anything wrong with that.
After all, the English literary tradition, and the form of the
pre-modern novel in Europe in general, are based on ridiculous
contrivance, and it's worked just fine for us for a long time.
In fact, that moment I described was a very, very funny moment, and
it would not have been possible without the preposterous and
So maybe Thomas Hardy was onto something. Maybe a novel should be
bigger than life and better than life. It certainly seems to work.
To tell you the truth, I'm not really knocking the literary form,
I'm just preparing you for what you will get in a John Irving novel
or a movie made from an Irving novel. Raunchy, ribald laughs
juxtaposed with the tragic loss of children. Situations which are
much larger than life, coupled with people who overreact to them
(yes, even beyond the reactions which such momentous events should
produce). Big tears. Tragedy. Bald sentimentality. Big laughs. Lots
of sex. Dancing bears.
Yeah, I don't get the bears either, but Irving always seems to find
a place for them. Just think of it as the literary equivalent of
Hitchcock's inserting himself briefly into every film.
Some people love the characters and situations Irving creates. He
also has his share of harsh critics. Some people who love his depth
and sensitivity are offended by his raunchiness. Some people who
love his crude humor are bored by his corny sentiment. The way I
look at it, great writers should use all the colors in the human
palette, so there's really no problem combining suicidal children
and raunchy sex jokes, because human lives can include both.
I think I can sum up my feelings toward Irving in one long sentence,
as follows. Although I have never believed one thing he's ever
written, I find every single situation he's ever created to be
dripping with inauthenticity and contrivance, and I've never found
one of his characters to bear even the slightest resemblance to any
human being I have ever met in my far-flung travels, I still love
what he does.
What else can I tell ya?
Well, I love it all except, maybe, for the bears. I can do without
Jeff Bridges plays a writer whose marriage is in the process of
dissolution. He is shamelessly involved with other women, but we
don't really know whether that is because his wife is a veg, or
whether he just is that way, and such behavior helped turn his wife
into a veg. The wife's near-catatonia (which sometimes becomes true
catatonia) was triggered by the loss of her two sons in a tragic
accident some years earlier. After the tragedy, the couple had a
late life baby to try to rebuild a second life, but that just didn't
work out, and the wife is a neglectful mother to the girl, even
though she seems to be a sweet person, because she's trapped in her
The writer coldly and calculatingly inserts a young assistant from
Exeter into their lives, knowing that the boy looks like their
oldest son, and that his wife will form a strange bond with the lad.
Apparently he expected that bond to become intensely sexual, and it
does. The story goes on from there, focusing as much on the child as
on the parents. (Irving's novel carries on into the girl's
adulthood, but the film is about her first memories - a single
summer when she was four years old.)
The plot is suffused with moral ambiguity. Should we blame the
writer for his womanizing, or should we just shrug it off as the
same thing any of us would do if we were a sexy, admired writer with
a vegetative wife? Is he the cold man who manipulates his lover and
attempts to seduce other women callously, or is he the gentle man
who writes children's stories and truly seems to care for his
daughter? Did he bring the young assistant into his wife's life to
help her heal, or did he hope he could use his wife's pedophilia
against her in a custody battle? Does Ted write children's books
because he loves and related to children, or does he write them to
pick up the pretty young single mothers who are the actual retail
customers for his books? The script is non-committal, and we are
left to make our own interpretations of these actions and
The Door in the Floor was not scripted by Irving, but it may the
best-ever attempt to capture all of Irving's calculated excesses on
screen. I haven't seen Simon Burch, but it seems to me that Door in
the Floor catches his literary flavor, his abrupt tone shifts, and
his bittersweet sentimentality as well as or better than any of the
previous attempts that I have seen (Cider House Rules, Garp, Hotel
New Hampshire). I would have liked more of the humor, which doesn't
really show up until late in this film, but I liked the way the
director handled as much comedy as he attempted, so maybe a small
and effective dose was better than having many clumsy laughs destroy
the delicate balance between raunch and tragedy.
Jeff Bridges was an inspired choice to play the amoral writer,
because he managed to make a potentially monstrous character
likeable without being too likeable, sympathetic without being
empathetic. Irving tends to write his characters too "big" and too
affected, but Bridges is always natural, and about the least
affected actor I can think of - he's The Dude, fer Chrissakes - so
he managed to sand off the hard edges of the affectation and bring
Ted down to earth. When are they going to give this guy an Oscar?
What a career he has had. For thirty something years - in comedies,
dramas, and thrillers - he's been a great leading man, a loveable
rogue, a baddie, and a character actor. He's been Redford and Cary
Grant and Michael Douglas and Dustin Hoffman rolled into one, but
he's rarely mentioned when people tick off the great actors.
Kim Basinger? Well, she had to deliver two things in this role:
First, she had to be a 50 year old woman so beautiful that a high
school kid could want her real bad.
Second, she had to be deeply wounded, so wounded that her lover and
the audience could think she must be a good person no matter how
many bad things she did.
I don't think there is any doubt that Kim is capable of delivering
on those two counts. In fact, I can't imagine that they could have
considered anyone else for the part. Even at 50 years old, she may
still be the most beautiful woman in films, and she could play a
thirty year old if she had to, assuming the cinematographer knew
what he was doing.
What else can I tell you? Sure I found parts of it artificial and
cloying, but I laughed out loud a couple of times, and my eyes
seemed to get a little moist a few times. I wished I could take
their daughter away from both of them. I wished it could have been
me in that bed with Basinger. Isn't that kind of involvement what
effective filmmaking is all about?
I don't have any pics from this film yet. I have not
seen a screener - I actually went to a theater to watch it! But
here's the nudity summary. There's lots of great nudity, but it is
all from people in their 50s. Well, in theory. Mimi Rogers is
supposed to be 48, but ... um ..., I think I've told this
story enough times already. Short version: she graduated from high
school in 1970, so she can't be 48 unless she graduated at 14. I
pointed this out about six years ago, and the IMDb bio promptly
changed - not to correct her age, but to claim that she DID graduate
at 14! (Hey, at least somebody at IMDb reads our page.) Her bio
still claims that, so it is fair to say she is 48 if she graduated
from high school at 14.
- Mimi Rogers does very clear full frontal and rear nudity,
occupying the full frame, in natural light. (She is posing for a
drawing.) Her public area is also exposed very briefly by a gust
of wind in a subsequent scene.
- Jeff Bridges is seen naked from the rear twice, the second
time at medium distance, outdoors, in daylight.
- Kim Basinger is seen partially naked in three sex scenes with
young Jon Foster. She looks slim and beautiful and young, but the
exposure is not very explicit. Her breasts are visible in the
first scene, but one is not really aware of them because of the
camera's position and distance from her. Her bum is shown for a
split-second in the second scene.
- Jon Foster jumps off Basinger when he is surprised while
taking her doggy-style. I guess there must be some pecker wood
exposed, but it happens too fast to see exactly what the exposure
might be, except for a fleeting look at his butt.
Fan spends $25,000 for 6000 tickets, in hopes of Bonds home run
ball. You have to hope that Barry takes those two
Britney appears in a new t-shirt in Santa Monica.
Parents were sent tapes of their kids in a ballet show with
hardcore porn recorded on the end. I don't know. I
think they should have known better when they enlisted their
girls in something called the Roman Polanski Ballet Academy.
Catwoman makes its debut on the IMDb Bottom 100
Moore's "Fahrenheit" passes 98.6. Million, that is.
A South African soccer referee shot a coach dead and injured two
players for questioning his decision to hand out a yellow card.
- Wow, that is strict. No wonder Earl Weaver got out of
- The best part of the story is this "The referee whipped
out a shotgun and fired a shot". Whipped out? How do you hide
a shotgun in a referee's uniform? "Say, Mr Referee Man, is
that a very large pack of yellow cards in your pocket, or are
you just happy to see me?"
The Diana/Charles divorce left him penniless?? "I
stopped being his personal financial adviser because he had no
personal wealth left. She took him to the cleaners."
FilmJerk.com's Early Report for July 25, 2004
Jews say - "move aside, Italians and Cubans, we killed Kennedy,
too". That should give them some street cred at the
Axis of Evil convention.
Bourne opens at $53 million
- Spidey hits $328m, Shrek 2 $429. Shrek needs only six
million more to reach #3 of all time, which is where it should
- There are four wide releases opening next week, and those
new flicks will take 10,000 screens away from the current
films (there are about 30,000 screens in the total count)
- I, Robot dropped 58% from last week. That's steeper than
the normal rate of decline. (The last three wide releases
Up from the ooze, into the mud -- the evolution of American
John Kerry laments automotive jobs lost overseas - while issuing
a picture of a Rolls-Royce on press credentials
Mobsters stand in line to turn State's
Prostitutes and strippers flock to Boston. Hey, they
heard Bill Clinton would be there with a wad of cash. Anybody
got fifty ones for a fifty?
"if you are gay, you should be able to get along with just two
branches of government"
Entertainment just doesn't get any better than Happatai singing
Yatta on Jimmy Kimmel's show.
I'm pretty sure this guy is going to get disqualified
London's double decker buses will be gone by the end of 2005.
Gone from regular service, that is. "Some Routemasters will be
retained on an unspecified heritage route"
Lance wins his 6th Tour de France
- This is incredible:
watch a SOHO movie of the sun rotating for the last five days or
NY Times Op-Ed: Honorable Commission, Toothless Report:
"Americans owe the 9/11 commission a deep debt for its extensive
exposition of the facts surrounding the World Trade Center and
Pentagon attacks. Yet, because the commission had a goal of
creating a unanimous report from a bipartisan group, it softened
the edges and left it to the public to draw many conclusions"
- NFL shocker!!!
Miami Dolphins running back Ricky Williams has told the team he
plans to retire now, after only five seasons in the
Jason Bourne kicks ass at the Friday box office as well as on
- Bourne beats the next three films added together.
- Catwoman checks in at #3, behind I, Robot, but ahead of
- I, Robot causes some worried investors when it drops 62%
from last Friday.
Other Crap archives. May also include newer material than the ones above,
since it's sorta in real time.
to submit a URL for Other Crap
are the latest movie reviews available at scoopy.com.
- The yellow asterisks indicate that I wrote the
review, and am deluded into thinking it includes humor.
- If there is a white asterisk, it means that
there isn't any significant humor, but I inexplicably determined
there might be something else of interest.
- A blue asterisk indicates the review is written
by Tuna (or Junior or Brainscan, or somebody else besides me)
- If there is no asterisk, I wrote it, but am too
ashamed to admit it.
Okay, we’ve all asked for it and now it’s
here. A fag hag relationship set to music.
The Linda Lee – Cole Porter relationship has
been scrutinized and speculated about for decades, and now it’s
shown for the first time in a biopic that has basis in fact. Never
mind the Cary Grant – Alexis Smith offering of the fifties that
glossed over the real nature of the Porter – Thomas relationship.
It didn’t even come close to accuracy and was shamefully saccharin.
The new movie can be candid because "fag hags"
are out of the closet. Today there are clubs and associations for
the ladies who prefer the company of homosexuals. Maybe there are
still whispers, but not nearly so many as in the twenties and
thirties, the period of De-lovely. And perhaps today’s whispers are
more like brief acknowledgements of things suspected. Nowadays,
Carrie, Madonna, and Liza conduct their choices with only the
softest murmurs from the press and the public.
The Cole Porter – Linda Lee Thomas relationship
was kind of ordinary by today’s standards of public behavior. She
was the older and stable female, a wealthy woman who need not ask
him for material things. She was a woman offering to mother and
nurture him through his many moods and emotional swings. He was
obviously no sexual threat to Linda because ... well, you know. It
was a reciprocal feeling. She may or may not have been asexual but,
in any case, she was not a sexual threat to Porter in their daily
lives. She even, at times, facilitated and encouraged his liaisons.
Together, they thoroughly enjoyed their celebrity and the social
whirl that accompanies success in the arts. And (how lucky can we
be?) their life is now set to music.
I probably liked the film better than most who
have seen it, mainly because I count the music of Cole Porter among
my favorites. Avant-garde for its time, the music is a little light
in spots today but deep and complicated in other spots. He collected
all his emotions and wove them skillfully into his music – gayety
(watch it), sadness and passion constantly found their way into his
melodies to accompany all the other feelings he would touch from
time to time. And the best of his work will last forever. The words
are especially memorable. Cole Porter not only soloed in writing his
music, he wrote all his own lyrics. He was a master of the interior
rhyme and used it often.
If the director, Irwin Winkler, intended a
musical review, why did he have Kevin Kline sing? We’ve been told
that Kevin Kline, who played Porter, had to sing worse than is his
want, because Cole Porter had a voice that could scatter music
lovers. Maybe. When you see the movie, stay to the end, and you'll
hear a recording of the real Cole Porter during the credits, and he
sounds a helluva lot better than Kevin Kline. Fortunately, not all
of the songs were sung by Kline. We’re willingly captured by some
people who can sing, including Elvis Costello, Alanis Morrisette,
Robbie Williams, Natalie Cole and Sheryl Crow in some fine
performances. Jonathan Pryce even cuts loose with surprising gusto.
Good non-Kline singing? Porter's music and
times? So what’s wrong with the movie? Why didn't I like it more? It
lacks life. There is life in the music, but not in the story or in
the characters. Even when Porter is trolling for male flesh, Kline,
a fine and capable actor who gave us such a sensitive performance in
“In and Out”, isn’t permitted to act eager, passionate or
Nevertheless, the music is magic and the guest
performances are de-lightful, so De-lovely is awarded two and a half