I finished the first season of "Entourage" this afternoon. I still hold with my original opinion after watching the first two episodes -- that it's a shallow depiction of the life of a star and his hometown hangers on with unappealing characters -- but I as the first season ended with Eric's change in title (and Eric's the only character I don't mind), I'm interested to see how he does next season. Also, the whole Aquaman saga and all of the James Cameron cameos have me interested in the second season. Damn them all. They even have clever ways to make me want to watch so-so television.
Anyway. I've been at my brother's place in Alpharetta the past couple days. Patty's a busy guy. Gets up a couple hours before dawn, gets home 12 hours later, goes to sleep a little while after that. And because he's naturally slobby, not having enough time to keep his place up has resulted in a stunning degree of squalor in an otherwise nice apartment. So I volunteered to help him out. So, Wednesday and Thursday, while he was at work, I did a bow-to-stern cleaning. And when he got home, he helped out, letting me know what went where, what was good to throw out, etc. So now, two days later, the place is 100% better than before, and he can see once more how cool a place he's got. At the very least, I think he has a good starting point from which to maintain a decent level of bachelor-level cleanliness. Anyway, after we were done last night, we watched a movie I'd wanted to see in theaters but missed called Hostage.
It's not a bad movie, nor is it particularly good. There's a lot of violence, and it's pretty visceral and disturbing to begin with, but as the Raoul of this movie (the quiet, sadistic member of a crew of criminals) becomes more and more psychopathic with each successive reel, and his killing proficiency becomes more in line with a high-priced hitman, the violence gets grislier but more cartoonish, and thusly less affecting. Silly, even. Also, the fancy house up in the suburbs of Los Angeles where the action is set apparently has a lot of ductwork that allows any character to secretly get from one part of the house to another. I know. What bullshit. And I thought even Hollywood had gotten the point that no one actually believes that crawl-through-the-ducts crap anymore. Guess some scripts fall through the cracks. On the plus side, Bruce Willis turns in some good acting work here.
A week ago I saw Clerks 2 at the drive-in. For some reason, I see almost every Kevin Smith movie, often in the theater. But I look back on his movies and the only one I liked even a little, (and I did only like it a little), is Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back. Just because it had some decent laughs in it. I think he may be one of the few filmmakers who make movies designed for one viewing and one viewing only. Because everytime I've seen a Kevin Smith movie a second time, I've hated it. Dogma is a perfect example. What an embarrassment. I'm embarrassed for everyone who had anything to do with that movie. Anyway, Clerks 2 is along the same lines. Same tin-eared dialogue as usual -- the kind that sounds like Smith wrote it on MS Word an hour before the day's filming, and the same awful, awful cinematography. But, as always, there are some laughs. Mostly from Jason Mewes' character, as usual. They do a riff on Silence of the Lambs that nearly killed me -- and the donkey show was kind of funny. But what's worst about Clerks 2 is that the heart of the story is so fundamentally ridiculous. For the movie to work, we have to accept that it's real and not ridiculous, which is impossible. The ridiculous thing is this: Brian O'Halloran, the guy who plays Dante, is in love with the manager of the fast food place he works at, Rosario Dawson. Sure, I buy that. Who wouldn't be? But here's the ridiculous part:
She loves him, too.
That's some fantastical BS right there, no? And why does Kevin Smith expect us to swallow this crap? Is it because the schlubby Kevin Smith managed to marry someone who's moderately good-looking (Jennifer Schwalbach Smith, who is also in the movie playing Dante's "hot" fiance)? If the schlub aspect is the common denominator, the difference between a famous movie director schlub and a guy who works at a fast-food joint schlub is so vast as to render the two schlubs members of different species. The bottomline on Clerks 2 is that there aren't enough jokes, and it takes itself too seriously for a movie that doesn't strive to be serious, or even good. And Randal's jailhouse speech to Dante at the end of the film is so gay and sappy and overlong and poorly-acted, I just thought, "This seals it. Kevin Smith sucks as a writer-director." Smith seems like a really nice guy, and he's smart and he can be pretty funny, but I think he should stop inflicting his movies on people like me, who'll go and see damn near anything because we're helpless not to. Please, Kevin. Stop. Just stop.
Immediately following was You, Me, and Dupree. Peggy and I watched that for half an hour at the drive-in and then we did a drive-out. As bad as you've heard it was, it was worse. I'm really tired of Owen Wilson coasting on his "type". Every movie he does these days he's just this easy-going, nice to a fault, slightly-eccentric surfer dude, and it's just tired. I think, if Owen's got a brain in his head, You, Me, and Dupree should represent the end of his coasting-on-his-good-personality phase. Because if he's not careful, he's going to go the way of Meg Ryan, who also coasted for too long on her on-screen persona and now currently resides in a state of hasbinnery. He needs to do an edgy indie movie again, or just something against type, because he's wondered a long way from Bottle Rocket.
On Sunday we went to the Tara and saw Woody Allen's latest offering, Scoop. You could safely sum up this movie as a kind of comedic version of Match Point, which was a much better film. Same setting, same lead actress, same upper-crust milieu, and there's murder to boot. Scarlett Johannsen has not lived up to her hype. Everytime I see her in a movie post-Lost in Translation, her failure to raise her acting level to the actors around her seems to get worse. I think it's just a problem of talent. She's just not good. In some scenes in Scoop, you can almost see her remembering the next line to recite as the other actor's finishing their line. She's gorgeous, so she'll keep acting for a lot of years, but it won't be because a director says, "We need a great actress for this part. What's Scarlett doing?" It'll be because a director says, "We need a hot chick for this role. What's Scarlett doing?" I think that if Scarlett's eyes were 2 millimeters further apart and her lips slightly smaller, straight-to-video Eric Roberts movies would be the best work she could hope for. As for the movie, I wasn't impressed. I was hoping that filming in England had put him on a new hot streak, and he could go out as the aging auteur, but Match Point looks to have been just a fluke. Oh well.
And finally, I saw Hustle and Flow on DVD on Saturday night. It's an excellent film. I had low expecations going in, what with that awful rap song from the movie winning the Oscar back in February, but all the praise it's had heaped on it since it blew up at Sundance was deserved, I think. Terrence Howard is fantastic. He's got amazing presence on-screen in addition to exceptional acting ability, and as good as the script and the direction is, Hustle and Flow requires the lead actor to carry this movie on his back, and he does it. The film's about artistic expression, the impulse to share one's vision of the world with the rest of its inhabitants, and the extraordinary meaures people will take to see that their voice is heard. The film tells the story of a rural Memphis-area pimp who works to record a demo track of rap songs. It has the feel of the first halves of Ray and Walk the Line, in that we're watching music history happen in front of our eyes, but Hustle and Flow's best scenes feel more vital, more intense than those other movies because the odds for Terrence Howard's DeeJay character seem so much longer. In their films, failure for Ray Charles and Johnny Cash meant dropping into lives of obscurity and stifled creativity, but with DJ, you feel that if his one shot at success doesn't work out, in his line of work, obscurity will be the least of his problems. Anyway, I enjoyed the hell out of it.
Up this weekend is The Descent and Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Jimmy Bobby. Early word is that they're both good, so I'm optimistic. Anyway, next week will be a fuller blogging week. Have a good weekend er'rybody.
PS. Quick note: Peter and Daniele are traveling out to the West Coast today. Just wanted to say have a good trip guys, and breathe in a deep lungful of Los Angeles air for me.