A day or two after Whitney Houston’s death I asked a friend if he felt there was any rational basis for not concluding that she died from drugs. His response was basically “I don’t know, possibly but who knows? I think we all need to hold off until the facts are in.” Today I sent him the news about the L.A. coroner’s report saying that white powder was found everywhere, etc.
Me: “Is it safe to say now that Whitney died from drugs, or should we continue to reserve judgment?”
Friend: “Not just drugs alone. She drowned — drug-related, no doubt.”
Me: “‘Drug-related’? You don’t want to go out on a limb.”
Friend: “It’s kinda like dying of pneumonia when you’re riddled with cancer. Her cancer was a drift back into drug addiction but to say she died of drugs alone, I don’t know. Do they say it was the amount of coke she was doing that actually killed her — or was it the drowning itself? In other words if she wasn’t in the bathtub, would she still be alive?”
Me: “You may be on to something. It was the water that killed her.”
Friend: “Take it up with the coroner.”
Me: “By the same token, a woman jumps from a ten-story building and people ask if the fall killed her. No, you would say — the pavement did. Or in Collateral when Jamie Foxx looks at the dead drug dealer who’d fallen out of the window and onto the trunk of his cab, and then asks Tom Cruise, ‘You killed him?’ And Cruise says, ‘No, I shot him. The bullets and the fall killed him.'”
I’m sorry to be the bearer but Jon Hurwitz and Hayden Schlossberg‘s American Reunion (Universal, 4.6) isn’t funny. I sat there like a granite tombstone on a cold and windy November afternoon in a cemetery in Falmouth, Massachusetts.
Give the fans the old raunchy humor that they loved and responded to in ’99. But keep in mind that the characters (except for Seann William Scott‘s idiotic Stiffler) have to face up to reality and offer a semblance of maturity and reasonable behavior in the third act and blah, blah. This is one of the most tediously constricted exercises in conservative, ultra-white, suburban middle-class humor I’ve ever seen.
This movie is so constricted and afraid of itself and so white-knuckle terrified of how sexual desire can upset the social apple cart that Rick Santorum would probably find it amusing and agreeable. That’s because underneath the dick and poop and semen jokes it’s very pat, very safe, very middle-class, very “right down the middle.”
American Reunion is terrified of going in a truly perverse direction. It’s very, very concerned about propriety and observing limits and living up to community values and ideals. The term “anarchic” is not in the filmmakers’ vocabulary. Reunion hasn’t even a fraction of the truly twisted and surreal humor that you can find in parts of 21 Jump Street. And none of the wit.
The film doesn’t have the courage, for example, to allow Jason Biggs to have a moment of weakness and let the teenage girl next door fellate him a bit. Because he has to be guilty and conflicted about it, you see. A little action on the side if all he’s dreaming about night and day with he and his wife (Alyson Hannigan) having almost no sex with the kid and all, and then this girl falls into his lap and is ready to chow down, and all Biggs can do is go “homma homma homma homma I don’t think so”?
I was thinking about how Biggs was so much better and delivered such a richer, more interesting performance in Woody Allen‘s Anything Else.
The characters in American Reunion constantly feel or want something very basic or primal. Sex, loneliness, frustration with job or life. So they lie poorly and ineptly in order to cover that up. So poorly and ineptly that the people they’re sharing a scene with would have to be absolute morons not to notice the cover-up. Do they in fact notice it? Perhaps, maybe…but they don’t say anything. They let it go. And the scene just lies there. These scenes are repeated ad infinitum, and I have a news bulletin for Hurwitz and Schlossberg. Not. Funny.
Stiffler is ridiculous. He’s acting for the camera, fulfilling a stereotype, being a ham. It feels dishonest and also not funny. Are we to believe that Stiffler is such an unrepentant asshole that he’s never had a single moment’s meditation or inner reflection since ’99? Even though he’s 31 or so? Even the most outrageous idiots are modified and sanded down a bit by real life. And Vik Sahay, a short Indian guy who plays Stiffer’s dickhead boss, is equally tedious.
Yes, the sex life of a young married couple goes right downhill after the kid comes along. (I’ve been there. It does.) And that brings frustration and disappointment. And doing it outside the bedroom can be great. (Done that too.) But is that enough of an arc to hang a movie on for the two leads?
Hannigan looks like she’s 43 or 44. Those Irish genes or something. I know she was born in ’74 and was 25 in the original film and is now 37 or 38, but she REALLY looks a good ten years older than Biggs, who was born in ’78. He’ll turn 32 this year, but he could be 29 or 30 as far as his appearance in Reunion is concerned.
You can tell Tara Reid has had work on her face. (We already know about the boobs.) Mena Suvari looks fine. I loved Rebecca de Mornay‘s cameo at the end, but she’s had so much work you can barely tell it’s her.
American Reunion is a mediocre movie made by nice, safe, mediocre minds. I’m sure it’ll be hugely successful.
This morning I drove all the way the hell down to the Ultrastar Gardenwalk plex on Katella Blvd. (not far from the main entrance to Disneyland) to see Titanic 3D in a new process called Panavision 3D. I regret to say it didn’t look as good as last night’s RealD presentation at the AMC Burbank. The image was seriously underlit (it looked like 2 or 2.5 foot lamberts rather than the usual 3 or 4) and murky, and it’s not like they didn’t know I was coming — I’d called ahead and spoken to the Ultrastar publicist two weeks in advance.
A slimy homicidal alien slides into the mouths of various victims and takes over their bodies and turns them into violent sociopaths who love thrash metal and fast Ferraris. I love, love, loveJack Sholder‘s The Hidden (’87), and I would kill to own a Bluray of it. For all the anxiety and emotional anguish I endured as a freelance publicist for New Line Cinema in ’85 and ’86 I really miss the old New Line when it was really New Line. The Hidden was a perfect distillation of the old aesthetic.
Not everyone understood at the time or understands now that The Hidden wasn’t just a sci-fi-horror action thriller, although it was that — it was a sci-fi horror action comedy. There is very little in the film that isn’t intended to be absorbed as social-commentary humor or nihilist slapstick. Those scenes with the heavy-set guy with the heart condition who walks around with a boom box and walks onto a Ferrari car lot with a fuck-you attitude (“i need the keys!”) starts at 10:00.
Michael Winterbottom‘s Trishna is entirely decent retelling of Thomas Hardy‘s Tess of the Dubervilles. Some regard Freida Pinto in the same light as Robert Pattinson — i.e., beautiful but not a gifted thespian. And yet Trishna contains her best performance yet, easily. I saw it last September in Toronto and came out….well, pleased. I’ll discuss it in greater depth as the July release date approaches.
Last night’s invitational screening of Titanic 3D in Burbank was an entirely pleasant surprise. I went in expecting a not-bright-enough diminishment, maybe, or a filtered dimensional thing that might be okay but not great. I can’t say that what I saw looked “great”, but it looked awfully good for a 2D to 3D conversion. In fact, I tweeted that it was “the best damn 3D conversion I’ve ever seen.”
The brightness and sharpness levels could have been a bit better, I suppose (and it may be that I’ll experience a more vivid presentation when I see a Panavision 3D version at the Ultrastar Gardenwalk this morning at 11 am) , but I was especially impressed by the subtle degrees of 3D enhancement that director Jim Cameron and his crew have applied. The film never feels tricked up or jiggered to deliver artificial 3D jizz. As much as technology has allowed Titanic 3D feels elegant and unforced. The $15 or $18 million that went into this conversion was well spent.
The moment when Kate Winslet is threatening suicide and holding onto the stern railing and the camera looks down at the sea some 60 feet below…you can really sense that it’s a long way down, and that the water is colder than shit. This moment alone makes Titanic 3D worth catching.
It may be that Roger Ebert and David Poland saw problematic projections of Titanic 3D when they saw it last month in Chicago and Burbank, respectively, resulting in those negative reviews. I only know that the presentation I saw last night was more than satisfactory — nothing felt filtered or shadowy or compromised, and it’s certainly a high-water accomplishment by the standards of other 3D conversions.
After the first hour or so you start to forget that you’re watching a 3D film. The look of it stops feeling new or re-fashioned and begins to seem like the natural way of things. This may not sound like a compliment but it is.
A guy wrote me last night and said, “If I’ve already seen regular Titanic three times and liked it but didn’t love it, is Titanic 3D worth my 15 bucks?” My first thought was, “He didn’t love it but he saw it three times?” Considered answer: This is as good as 3D conversion gets, so if you care about seeing a really good job of enhancing a 2D film and adding a bit here and there, it’s definitely worth paying to see.
All this aside, I presume they’ll be releasing a Bluray of the old 2D Titanic sometime in the summer, and I’m looking forward to owning that. I’ll never watch 3D in my home.
Safari Motel on Olive Ave. in Burbank, taken on the way back home.
You know what really carries Titanic 3D? What makes it an essential revisiting? Young Leonardo DiCaprio, who was 21 or 22 when Titanic was shot in mid the late ’96. For me, his performance as Jack Dawson is a time-capsule high. For me he was the whole thing– the one element I couldn’t take my eyes off last night.
The movie still works, still shatters…although James Cameron‘s cornball dialogue hurts more now than it used to. Some of the CG shots (sailboats and those doll-like passengers and crew in the wide shots) look even more primitive — naturally, inescapably — than they did in ’97. (I was asking myself why Cameron didn’t do a George Lucas and refine them a bit.) Kate Winslet looks softer, of course, and slightly chubbier that I remember, and Billy Zane…well, he’s pretty close to great in every scene. (Seriously — he makes so many hammy lines feel right, or at least a lot less painful.)
But DiCaprio is altogether heartbreaking, and that Dawson aura — that occasional giggly kid vibe and courage and dopey naivete, and that intensity and passion and the survive-at-all-costs attitude — feels like drugs.
As sappy as this sounds, I felt myself choking up a couple of times. Maybe it’s because I’m older now and I value youth all the more, but the prospect of this really young guy dying from hypothermia at the end of the film brought tears to my eyes. The moment when his corpse sinks into the blackest blue at the end hits that much harder.
We’ve all gotten older and have moved on and packed on a few pounds, but I hadn’t seen or felt this particular incarnation of DiCaprio on a big screen — Leo at his prettiest, liveliest and most vibrant with that beanpole body and movie-tanned skin and those luminous strands of straw-blonde hair — in 15 years, and I just couldn’t get over the irrepressible beauty of the guy. The absolute magnificence of being young and robust and beautiful and super-thin and spiritually aflame like a thousand candles kept hitting me over and over.
The Leo of The Quick and The Dead, Basketball Dairies, Total Eclipse, Marvin’s Room, Romeo + Juliet and Titanic (i.e., 94 to ’97) was a very special current at a special moment in time. Right after Titanic exploded DiCaprio retreated and became a kind of me-and-my-homies party hound, and except for The Man in the Iron Mask didn’t return until The Beach, and by then he’d turned a bit cynical (unavoidable) and been doing a lot of boozing. His face was rounder and his hair was shorter. He’d become a different guy and that whole mid ’90s thing was dead and gone.