Paul Verhoeven has returned to the Netherlands and has finished
a new collaboration with Gerard Soeteman, who scripted all of
Verhoeven's great Dutch-language films in the seventies and early
80s. This one is about a German Jewish girl who tries to survive
the German occupation of the Netherlands during WW2. Based on the
trailer, I'm definitely interested.
I like just about everything Verhoeven has done, in his Dutch
period as well as his Hollywood years (Robocop, Total Recall,
Basic Instinct, Starship Troopers).
He's either made good films or fun films, and he has almost always
filled them with female flesh. And, of course, he also made
Showgirls, which has ridiculous plotting and dialogue, but is
filled with beautiful photography of hot naked chicks.
His new star is Carice van Houten.
Beautiful woman. Here's the film clip (actually the film's trailer,
Here are the collages:
Carice van Houten
Inside Man (2006):
There is no nudity in Inside Man, but if you're looking for a
good movie to rent, this is absolutely terrific. It's a
mystery/thriller about an elaborate bank heist.
It's a Spike Lee film, but I think you'll like this even if you
don't like Spike's films. The essence of the film is the story. It
has some social consciousness, but whatever points it wants to
make about racism, New York, or the disparity between rich and
poor are simply buried inside the context of the story by the
interaction of the characters. There is absolutely zero preaching.
The film is technically adroit, the tension is maintained
perfectly, the characters are interesting, and the secrets are
neither obvious nor spoiled too early. The story had me so
engrossed that I ignored the entire world while I watched it
straight through (something I almost never do). The Spikester also
demonstrates his usual excellent visual sensibility, using the
images to dazzle the senses, but also using them to make the
logistics of the heist clearer, and to define the social status of
the various characters. Just a kick-ass piece of filmmaking.
I am not going to tell you anything else about it, because
whatever I write might be a spoiler, and this is one film that you
do not want spoiled at all. Just pick it up if you like this kind of
Summary of results:
A major hit ... $180 million, split about evenly between
domestic and overseas. Those are big numbers for a March
release. Domestically, it had the 11th best March opening
weekend in history.
A major critical success ... 89% positive reviews. Based on
that figure, it is the second-best non-documentary of the year,
only 1% behind United 93. (Little Miss Sunshine will pass them
both if it holds its 91% when it goes wide.)
These factors make it a strong B+ on our system, close to an A.
It is the only film of the year which has been such a combined
critical and box office success. (The closest contender is a
chick-flick, The Devil Wears Prada, with 77% positive reviews and
$113 million in world-wide grosses.)
I'll be briefer than usual because, frankly, I'm tired of
writing about the movies of Lars von Trier. Unlike other
directors, he never learns from the mistakes he made in earlier
pictures, so a critic can review a new one by doing a
search-and-replace on reviews of the old ones.
Like the other ones, this one suffers from pedantry,
artificial-sounding dialogue, staginess, a puerile and simplistic
weltanschauung, long stretches of tedium, technical
indifference, and characters which represent archetypes rather
than credible individuals. Like the other ones, its strengths
reside in its willingness to test the outside of the envelope when
it comes to confrontational and provocative ideas, whether about
cinema or the real world.
Manderlay is part two of the Dogville trilogy, using the same
main character and presented in the same manner as the first part,
which is to say by basically filming a stage set, using the twin
conventions of minimalist theater and WKRP in Cincinnati. In other
words, the actors are on an indoor stage which has rectangles
painted on it, and those rectangles have labels like "Bill's
house" or "Sammy's cabin." They may have a chair or two "inside"
as well. When the characters enter those spaces, they cannot
simply walk through the invisible walls, but must respect the
imaginary barriers and pretend that they are entering real houses
and cabins, as the other WKRP employees were required to do with
Les Nessman's imaginary office. Is this an effective way to
present the ideas? You bet! Come to think of it, all films should
be shot this way. Look at all the money Peter Jackson wasted on
that Rings trilogy when he could have filmed it all right in his
house, simply writing "Frodo's house" or "Sauron's castle" on the
garage or kitchen floor.
It kales place in the 1930s. Our oft-abused heroine and her
father end up taking control of a Southern plantation where
slavery continues. This is not as far-fetched as you might think.
It may not have happened in the United States because of the
dramatic and violent way in which the States finally closed the
book on slavery, but such circumstances actually did happen
throughout Russia. Czar Alexander abolished slavery about the same
time as it happened in the United States, in the 1860s, but Russia
is an incomprehensibly large country, about as large as the entire
continent of North America, filled with many remote areas, and its
communication links to the provinces were extremely weak in the
mid nineteenth century. Furthermore, there were many powerful
aristocrats whose authority challenged that of the Czar himself
and who complied with his declarations in a manner diametrically
opposed to his intentions. (They "sold" off tracts of land to the
peasants and turned them into "debt slaves" - and life continued
as before.) Alexander may have officially declared the slaves to
be free, but it was decades before the declaration was meaningful.
It would, therefore have been perfectly possible to imagine a
remote Russian estate in which serfs were still virtual slaves or
possibly even actual slaves in the early 1900s, living the same
lives their grandparents had lived as the legal chattel of the
nobles in the 1850s. Essentially, that is the Manderlay scenario -
an "evil Brigadoon" frozen in the 1850s.
Given the power, Grace decides to free the slaves, educate
them, and ... well, after 139 minutes of yakking about it, nothing
turns out quite like she planned. An important point of the film
is that the legacy of slavery is enduring, and that's a point
which is really impossible to contest.
Whatever else von Trier may accomplish, he stirs up controversy
and gets people discussing important issues. I think that is a
good thing. I just wish he could do it in a much shorter time
without requiring the actors to play Les Nessman's Office. It's
amazing that such a controversial guy can make such unwatchably
tedious films. Von Trier really needs a collaborator. He needs
somebody like Oliver Stone, a man who knows how to add life,
imagination, and emotional punch to radical opinions, rather than
just stating them outright in stagy speeches and flowery
Moist of von Trier's movies are C+ on our scale. This one,
however, would be a C- in that even the critics who normall praise
his movies were indifferent to this one. It's a 46 at Metacritic.
It was also a box office zero. It grossed only $500,000 in the
entire world. Lacking both critical and popular support, this film
is only for van Trier's ardent fans.
Grace is played this time by Bryce Dallas Howard
instead of Nicole Kidman, which worked out quite well for
the perverts among us, because Bryce is younger and
fresher, and was willing to spread her legs on camera
while the cameraman shot directly up her crotch. Ya gotta
believe Nicole might have taken great pains to avoid that.
"NOTE: This column resulted in Paramount banning me from their press screenings, and using their muscle to get me banned from a few other studios' screenings, too. There's more about the fallout on my blog, but read this first."
The (frankly kinda crappy) trailer from Catacombs, a horror thriller from the producers of Saw.
"Victoria (Shannyn Sossamon, star of 'A Knight's Tale') heads to Paris to visit her wild sister Carolyn (Alecia Moore, a/k/a music superstar Pink). One night, Victoria is swept into the Parisian underground rave scene, literally under ground - into the city's Catacombs. It is here--among the bodies of the dead which have rested undisturbed for centuries - that the easily frightened Victoria finds herself lost in the darkness, pursued by someone or something more terrifying than she could have ever imagined..."
"A tough young Midwesterner is determined to learn the truth behind the increasingly terrifying supernatural visions that have been haunting her. Joanna has made a successful career for herself, as sales representative for a trucking company. But her private life has been difficult; estranged from her father (Sam Shepard), stalked by an obsessed ex-boyfriend (Adam Scott), and with few friends, Joanna fears that she is losing control. She sees and feels the brutal murder of a young woman she's never met, at the hands of a heartless killer - a man who appears to be making Joanna his next target. Determined to fight back, Joanna is guided by her nightmares to the murdered woman's hometown. Once there, she will discover that some secrets can't be buried; some spirits never die; and that the murder she is trying to solve may be her own."
Yellow asterisk: funny (maybe). White asterisk: expanded format.
Blue asterisk: not mine. No asterisk: it probably sucks.
Headhunter is an ultra-low budget horror offering shot on High Def video
for the home market.
Benjamin John Parrillo is a successful insurance salesman who feels
like he is in a dead end job. His wealthy client, Mark Aiken, gives him the
name of headhunter Kristi Clainos. He meets her in her office late one night,
and she quickly finds him a job for a much bigger salary, but with an oddity.
He will be working graveyard shift in an office. Two things happen
immediately:, he realizes there is something odd in the office, and Clainos
seduces him. He eventually figures out that Clainos has been dead for ten
years, but is missing her head, and hence can't rest in peace. Parillo must
find her head, and return it to her body, or he will die, and become trapped
forever in the office building.
IMDb readers say 4.8. The few reviews tend toward positive, calling it a
good enough horror effort, especially given the budget. This is a C-.
Kristi Clainos has a sex scene in which a body double,
Linda Rochelle, shows breasts.
Tate in Valley of the Dolls
Stevenin in Cold Showers
in Hellraiser 3
Pat's comments in yellow...
The Choson Sinbo newspaper of Japan reports
that dog meat is becoming increasingly popular among North Korean women
because they believe it prevents wrinkles. While dog meat is a Korean
delicacy, animal lovers have been trying to make it less popular. But a
chef in Pynongyang says more and more women are ordering it because they're
convinced the nutrients in dog improve skin tone and make it fine and
* I guess they're never seen a Shar-Pei in North Korea.
Arthur Hawes, the Church of England's Archdeacon of Lincoln, suggested
that for the convenience of parishioners who have to drive a long away from
rural areas, churches should install cash machines
* Or for
a human touch, they could hire moneychangers.