Two Brothers

There’s a scene in Jean-Jacques Annaud’s Two Brothers that exemplifies how wrong-headed this movie truly is.  A French mother is reading her quietly snoozing son a passage from a book about a famous hunter and his exploits in the African jungle.  At one point, she mentions a "tradition" that involves removing the heart from a dead tiger.  (Good thing he’s out cold.)  Meanwhile, in bed with the young lad is a sleeping baby Bengal.  In an earlier scene, he’s about to get killed by a villager when either his mother or father (I don’t know which) jumps to his defence and knocks over the gun-toting assailant.  That’s when that same famous hunter (Aussie actor Guy Pearce trying out his James Bond accent) takes care of the bigger beast.  He discovers the cub close to the body of its elder and takes it with him.  That same cub is given to the young son (the one well away in dreamland) of a French administrator and the minute that gift is accepted you question the judgment and rearing skills of that kid’s dopey parents.

That bedtime sequence reminded me of Buddy, that godawful movie about a crazy rich broad who thinks gorillas make great domesticated slaves.  Anyone in their right mind would want to steer clear of any kind of wild animal, regardless of its size, because inevitably its instincts will take over and it will cease being your pet.

This is one of the most beautiful-looking bad movies I’ve seen lately.  Every scene is lovingly photographed by Jean-Marie Dreujou and I found it so easy to get lost in the incredible, lush scenery.  It’s a damn shame I found the story absolutely depressing and dull.

I didn’t know quite how to react to the Guy Pearce character.  Is he a hero?  A reformed villain?  The movie seems unsure of him and as a result, so do we.  We see him early on during an auction where the crowd refuses to make a single bid on a pair of valuable (and gynormous) ivory elephant tusks which are promptly removed from the sale.  They do, however, go nutso for these rare Buddhist statues that Pearce and his overly eager band of helpful villagers (is there any other kind?) seem to find all over the place.  (How valuable can they be if there are so many of them to excavate?) 

After he kills the mother (or father) of those two adorable tiger cubs (one of which he scoops up for his trip back to the village), we find out that these tigers can’t resist the livestock of the local citizens which is why Pearce is hired to kill them.  He offers the dead tiger to them but they misunderstand and think he’s throwing in the cub as part of a 2-for-1 deal.  After he’s betrayed by the village chief (who’s been corrupted by capitalism) he’s spared much time in jail (for his illegal statue excursions) after the local administrator (Jean-Claude Dreyfus) befriends him and tries to sell him on his "scheme" as he calls it.  The administrator wants to stop the removal of those valuable Buddhist statues and instead build some kind of tourist attraction around them.  He sells his idea to His Excellency (Oanh Nguyen), a would-be hunter who is nowhere close to being the great marksman that his deceased father was.  (In one scene, he thinks he’s killed the other parent of those cubs but he merely puts a hole in its ear.  It quickly flees the scene after an embarrassing attempt to have his photo taken with "the carcass".) In a later scene, he bemoans his underwhelming abilities to one of the brother tigers.

At some point, the two brothers get separated.  One unwittingly becomes a circus attraction learning the deadly art of jumping through hoops of fire, a skill that comes in handy late in the film.  The other briefly stays with the village, then becomes the beloved pet of the Administrator’s son and finally is given to His Excellency who wants to stage some kind of tiger fight for some ridiculous festival he wants to put on to preserve one of his father’s "traditions".

Two Brothers starts off so interestingly with no dialogue and about 10-15 minutes of entertaining footage showing this tiger family in action.  (There’s an amusing scene where one of the cubs is scared up a tree by an animal it should not be afraid of.)  After Pearce and company show up to kill one of the adult tigers, the movie very quickly changes tone and becomes a slow-moving, dour snoozefest.  We’re not interested in the human characters, we only care about the tigers but the movie seems disinterested in all its participants.  But it is in love with its surroundings, easily the best aspect of this disappointing film.

What is the message of this movie, I wonder?  You can kill adult tigers that harm your food supply but you have to treat the cubs gingerly and with care?  Circuses and tiger fights are evil?  Trust no one who’s out to make a buck?  I haven’t a clue and I’m not about to rescreen this mess to look for something I might’ve missed.  The movie ends with an interesting factoid.  About 100 years ago there were 100,000 tigers alive in the world.  Now?  Try less than 5000.  Right there you have a better premise for a movie. 

 
Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Tuesday, August 22, 2006
1:27 a.m.
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Published in: on August 22, 2006 at 1:57 am  Leave a Comment  

Bride Of Chucky

The Scream movies made the combination of horror and comedy look easy.  Bride Of Chucky makes it look difficult.
 
Once again, Brad Dourif, who sounds uncannily like Jack Nicholson, emotes life into his animatronic alter-ego, Chucky.  As you may recall from Child’s Play, the first and only effectively scary movie in this franchise, Dourif played a satan-worshipping serial killer who broke into a toy store and through his power of chanting, was able to transport his soul into a Good Guy doll just before he was taken down by police.  One very unlucky little boy got the scare of his life when his mother bought him this particular doll. 
 
After being killed in 3 movies now, he is resurrected yet again for this fourth movie, the first not to feature "Child’s Play" in the title (although, according to the Internet Movie Database, it was in the working title).  But there’s a twist this time.  His longtime (and remarkably devoted) girlfriend (which is unconvincing), the very sexy Jennifer Tilly (who has amazingly ageless cleavage), misses him so much she picks up a copy of Voodoo For Dummies (good sight gag) and finds the right satanic chant to bring her notorious ex back to life (but not before finding spare doll parts for him and stitching up his face which makes him look even creepier than he did in the earlier movies). 
 
Their relationship is extraordinarily rocky and the movie plays like a more intense, less-funny version of Everybody Loves Raymond.  In the 10 years she has been waiting for this bizarre reunion, Tilly has kept a former nebbish turned goth stud (Alexis Arquette, if you can believe it) on a short leash to do her bidding.  (Arquette tries to fool her into thinking he’s a bad-ass murderer like Chucky but the evidence he shows her is just a picture of himself acting lifeless.)  Chucky delivers his first kill in movie #4 and the lovebirds get reacquainted.  They alternate between screaming and fawning.  When Tilly realizes that Chucky never wanted to marry her like she thought, she treats him like a caged animal and later, offers him a female doll for companionship.  (Do you really want to piss off this doll?  I mean, do ya?)
 
Meanwhile, Katherine Heigl (in a pre-stardom role) is having a hard time hiding her burgeoning (and uninteresting) romance with Nick Stabile (who made his film debut here) from her naturally suspicious uncle, John Ritter, who just happens to be the Chief of Police.  (What happened to her parents?  Were they killed in an earlier sequel?) There’s an unfunny scene where their mutual friend, Gordon Michael Woolvett (who is gay), tries to convince Ritter that he’s the one dating his niece and not Stabile.  Their little scam almost works until a patrol officer (nicknamed Needleneck) pulls over the three friends and stalls for time by making them all do a breathalyzer test.  And then Ritter arrives.  He must’ve gone to the Hulk Hogan school of parenting.
 
Back in Tilly’s trailer, Chucky breaks free from his wooden prison and manages to electrocute his girlfriend while she’s in the tub crying during a TV airing of Bride Of Frankenstein.  Almost immediately, through his chanting ability, he gives her a second chance at life by relocating her soul to that female doll she gave him as a sarcastic gift.  Once she makes the doll resemble her former human self (before the unwanted tub barbeque) the two hatch a plan.  As with all of these movies, Chucky is desperate to find another human body to cleverly conceal his soul in.  He has yet to succeed but this time, it might work.
 
When he died, he was buried with an amulet around his neck.  Apparently, he needs this jewellery for yet another chanting ceremony so he can finally call a living human body home.  (I don’t remember him ever needing this thing before.)  The problem is his body is buried in a New Jersey cemetery.  They need someone to take them by car to this place.  Tilly calls on Nick Stabile, who she’s kinda sweet on (the feeling is not mutual), and offers him 500 smackers to take two dolls to the cemetery.  Without too much convincing, he takes the gig after convincing Tilly to double his fee.  
 
When he goes to pick up Heigl for this spontaneous road trip, he remembers a conversation he had with Tilly when she was still human.  He proposes they leave town together and get married.  She accepts.  Let’s just say she should have refused.
 
Bride Of Chucky was released in the fall of 1998, some 7 years after the third Child’s Play movie which was slightly better than number two, which I consider to be the worst of the franchise thus far.  I admired what director Ronny Yu and screenwriter Don Mancini (who wrote the first Child’s Play) attempted to do here.  Clearly inspired by Scream, they try to combine satire and horror for a new generation of fans already well-versed in the laws and cliches of horror movies.  Sometimes they succeed, mostly they fail.  And unlike the first two Scream films, the movie never really establishes itself as a spine-tingling scarefest.  It seems more interested in having its villains make self-referential remarks than truly scaring the audience.  And without heroes to really care about, there’s nothing here for the audience to get too worked up about.
 
I laughed more than I expected to but not nearly enough to recommend the movie.  And while there are a couple of effective thrills in Bride Of Chucky (one involving an exploding car), mostly, this is routine material.  This is the fourth time Chucky has tried to find a human body for his insatiably murderous soul.  It’s time to find a new plot for this character or drop him completely.
 
When you make a good horror movie like Child’s Play with a winning premise and a memorable villain (plus likeable heroes you can root for), it’s awfully difficult to make it work again.  This is the third bad sequel I’ve seen and I’m not done yet.  Up next is Seed Of Chucky.  Speaking of which, I have a question.  How is possible for two dolls to procreate?
 
Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Wednesday, August 9, 2006
3:21 a.m.
Published in: on August 9, 2006 at 3:28 am  Leave a Comment  

Twisted

When the action in the movie Twisted begins, there’s an immediate credibility problem.  We don’t believe Ashley Judd as a cop.  When we first meet her she has a knife at her throat courtesy of a wormy sicko who simultaneously gets off on taunting her with his creepy sicko voice and feeling her up all over.  Fairly instantaneously, she takes him down through a short series of violent moves, handcuffs him and makes a quick phone call to her patrol partner (Richard T. Jones) to let him know everything’s cool.  I can see Angelina Jolie or Courtney Love easily subduing a creep like this but not cute Ashley Judd in her Wynona Ryder haircut.  I don’t believe toughness is in her constitution.
 
The movie goes downhill from there.  Soon after, she gets a promotion to the Homicide division in the San Francisco Police Department.  This makes the Commissioner, Samuel L. Jackson, especially proud.  Why?  Because he’s her foster parent.  The story goes that her father went psycho and started killing lots of people.  He ended up killing Ashley’s mother before offing himself.  Jackson was her father’s partner and raised her as his own.  But he’s also a walking cliche, a particularly hard-assed career cop who takes numerous opportunities to rake her over the coals for not following procedure among other things.  Jackson does as well as one can in a role which is remarkably predictable in more ways than one.
 
Judd’s new partner in Homicide is Andy Garcia.  Their first case together begins on a night when the Giants are playing a home game.  Not far from the stadium is a dumped body that Judd is startled by.  It turns out the victim was her former lover.  Early on in the film we see her go into a bar and pick up a guy to have sex with at his apartment.  (It’s particularly impressive because the guy was already with somebody before the lovely Ashley stole him away.)  Soon, he ends up dead, too.  Both victims had their faces beaten in pretty bad and had cigarette burns on the back of their hands.  And if that wasn’t weird enough, the way these men were murdered was the exact same way her father’s victims were killed back in the 1970s.  Hmmm.
 
Meanwhile, Ashley is not herself.  She’s a hopeless alcoholic prone to mysterious blackouts.  (Could it be more than just the liquor?)  And yet another former lover, the defense attorney representing the creep she arrested in the first scene in the film, is found dead in his outdoor jacuzzi.  A few of her fellow Homicide detectives are not terribly pleased that she’s still investigating this case when she appears to be the prime suspect.  Good thing she has those sessions with a shrink nicely played by the great David Strathairn.  Like Jackson, he makes the most of his time onscreen and might be one of the few truly intelligent characters in the movie.  But even he can’t make her a smarter cop.
 
I mean, really, I figured out who the murderer was within the first 40 minutes.  It takes Ashley twice as long and when she does finally piece it all together, well, you just have to wonder if she shares a brain with Jimmy Kimmel’s Uncle Frank.  Literally, this woman has to visualize the crucial, connecting pieces of the puzzle before finally taking charge of the situation.  Why would Sammy Jackson be proud of a woman this stupid?
 
Believe it or not, Twisted was directed by Philip Kaufman.  (During the pool table scene, if you look closely, you can see movie posters of The Unbearable Lightness Of Being and The Right Stuff on the walls.  These are two of his most acclaimed successes.)  Even he couldn’t make this stupidly predictable thriller cook and sizzle.  Judd has no chemistry with any of her fellow actors on screen and she is completely miscast.  Not only is her character lacking in the cerebral department (talk about having no instincts for law enforcement other than "processing a room") I seriously doubt she could kick anyone’s ass. 
 
But the movie is beautifully photographed by Peter Deming.  Take the opening titles, for example.  We see the Golden Gate Bridge mostly engulfed in clouds.  A couple of tight close-ups of Ashley’s beautiful brown eyes.  (If you look closely, you can see birds flying through the pupils.)  Then, the knife to the throat.   If only the movie had a compelling story to build on that dazzling, opening set of visuals.
 
When the movie was released in February 2004, critics were not kind.  They effectively killed any chance this movie had of breaking even let alone making a profit.  Having seen it, I can understand the collective, hostile reaction.  That being said, I’ve seen worse.  The film is transparent and unoriginal, unscary and unstimulating, but it’s not awful.  It looks great and has some fine supporting performances. 
 
Let’s be real here. Ashley Judd is a movie star even if she doesn’t always deliver.  As Gene Siskel would say, she looks great in close-ups.  But she is completely wrong for this role which isn’t even that well-written.  As I was watching it, I had forgotten that Sara Thorp, a woman, had written the screenplay.  Why did she make her lead character a drunken, stupid whore?  That’s what I would expect from an untalented mysogynist.  Judd, despite her miscasting here, deserved better writing, as did all the cast members.
 
In fact, all of us deserved a better movie.  Love that title, though.
 
Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Wednesday, August 9, 2006
2:27 a.m.
Published in: on August 9, 2006 at 2:28 am  Leave a Comment  

Bad News: No Sponsored Links

It has been a troubling period lately.  My grandmother suffered a mild heart attack, I’ve been struggling to find work, we’ve all experienced the effects of too much humidity and needless, bloody wars continue to be waged worldwide.
 
If you’ve visited my site in the last month or so, you’ll have noticed the lack of new writing.  As I mentioned previously, I’ve been distracted with the business of advertising.  There are two ways to make money on Spaces.  You can link your book list to Amazon and you can sign up with Kanoodle.com and their BrightAds program in order to have Sponsored Links on your site.  It’s like those Google and Yahoo Ads.  Depending on what you have posted on your Space, the Ads should reflect the content.
 
Anyway, I have still not heard back from Technical Support with regards to my Amazon difficulties.  (For some reason, I can’t link any of the books on my Recommended Books For Sale list to Amazon.ca.)  It has been 2 weeks now and sometime today, they’re going to get a piece of my mind.  I’m fed up with this.  I want it resolved already.
 
As for Kanoodle, I have an announcement to make.  There will be no Sponsored Links on this site.  Not now, not in the future, not ever.  It’s bad enough they take forever to get back to your emails.  (You have to send several before you even receive a single response.)  It’s even worse when you find out that signing up for this program is not free.  I repeat, NOT FREE. 
 
In my previous entry, 3 Weeks Of Total Frustration, I recounted how a representative from Kanoodle was giving me contradictory answers to this question:  Do I have to pay any fees in order to use their BrightAds program?  First, they told me I would be charged a buck.  This was to show I was serious about using their program.  It would be the only payment I would need to make to the company, I was told. 
 
Then, in a follow-up email, they said, "There is no charge to run your Bright Ads campaign."  That was followed by yet another email which said, "When you sign up, you will be asked for your credit card info."
 
Finally, just the other day, they wrote this:  "You pay a one time $1 fee, you will need to have a credit card for the process. There is no additional charge to maintain or run your BrightAds campaign."  I don’t own a credit card, I’m not planning to get one and considering how much of a hassle it has been to get consistently straight answers from this company, I don’t think it’s worth it.
 
Therefore, I won’t be making any money through Kanoodle.  What a waste of time it has been dealing with them.
 
As for my Amazon book list problem, I will post an update once I have more information.  Once that is all resolved, I will get back to the business of writing for this website.  I have a lot of catching up to do.
 
Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Friday, August 4, 2006
6:05 p.m.
Published in: on August 4, 2006 at 6:08 pm  Leave a Comment