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Week of 12/15
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Friday, December 20, 2002

Capone chimes in on CHICAGO & CATCH ME IF YOU CAN!!! Plus a few views on BNAT4!

Hey folks, Harry here with Capone and his ramblings about BNAT and a pair of press screenings he saw up in the Windy City... Unfortunately I missed the press screening of this a couple of days ago and had conflicting plans with the press screening of CATCH ME IF YOU CAN last night... Sigh... I'll pay, both of these movies deserve money! Here ya go...

Hey, Harry. Capone in Chicago here finally recovered from Butt Numb-a-Thon 4 and ready to head into the home stretch of holiday cinema. First I must tell of one of my many personal highlights from BNAT4. Between movies, I was standing by Harry gabbing about whatever and an older looking gentleman walks up to us. My first thought was, "Who let this old dude in the theatre?" My second thought was, "He kind of looks familiar; maybe I met him last year." He shakes my hand and says, "Hi, I'm Bo!" in a powerful and gravely voice. He was so damn friendly that I just starting a conversation with him not even realizing he was Bo Svenson (his beard kind of threw me off), but as soon as his film NIGHT WARNING was introduced I smacked myself on the forehead repeatedly and said, "STUPID! STUPID! STUPID!" Here are some other BNAT4 recollections:

THE MASK OF FU MANCHU (1932). Dir: Charles Brabin & Charles Vidor. Starring Boris Karloff, Lewis Stone, Karen Morle, and Myrna Loy. Classic racist cinema as both Karloff and Loy attempt to play extremely threatening Asian characters.

MYSTERY MOVIE #1.

MACHINE GUN KELLY (1958). Dir: Roger Corman. Starring Charles Bronson in his first starring role. Really entertaining gangster film with a deeper-than-usual psychological examination of the character that leads to a surprising and cowardly ending.

ODDS AGAINST TOMORROW (1959). Dir: Robert Wise (who introduced the film via a special video-taped message). Starring Harry Belafonte, Robert Ryan, Shelley Winters, Ed Begley, and Gloria Grahame. Great cast in a bizarre heist film. I’m pretty certain the moral of the story is that you must get rid of any racist feelings you have to be a successful bank robber. And don’t have a gun battle on top of an oil refinery.

CRIPPLED AVENGERS (1978). Dir: Cheh Chang. A Shaw Brothers production. A group of four heroes have all be somehow “crippled” by the film’s villains, some of whom are also handicapable. Blood, guts, dubbed English, and an endless supply of kung fu. What’s not to like?

NIGHT WARNING (1981). Dir: William Asher. Starring Jimmy McNichol, Susan Tyrrell, Bo Svenson (who was on hand after the film for questions), Julia Duffy, and a very young Bill Paxton. This was by far the most out-there film of the bunch. It’s got everything from incest, wild bloody murder, homophobia; it’s just nutty.

MAY (2002). Dir: Lucky McKee. Angela Bettis, Jeremy Sisto, and Anna Faris. CARRIE-like story of a maladjusted 20-something woman with no social skills who tends to cling to any man (or woman) who pays attention to her (and even a few that don’t). After being emotionally pushed and pulled by a couple of potential lovers, she snaps and decides to build a the perfect friend out of the body parts. Sounds reasonable. Bettis as the title character is amazing, and although the films sounds silly, it’s actually quite entertaining. With any luck, MAY will come out sometime next year.

HOUSE OF 1000 CORPSES (2001). Dir: Rob Zombie. Sid Haig and Karen Black. If you believe the type, Zombie’s long-on-the-shelf “extreme” horror film has remained unreleased for two years because of excessive gore and overall shock value. The truth is finally revealed: the movie is unreleased because it sucks and exist primarily as a feature-length commercial for Zombie’s music. The images are unoriginal and often “borrowed” from other better films. The acting is so over the top as to be annoying from almost the minute the movie starts. And the story doesn’t make a stitch of sense. Capped off by an ending that doesn’t end, this film in fact sticks like 1000 CORPSES. Set for release in 2003 by Lions Gate.

MYSTERY MOVIE #2 (aka GREEN BOOTS). An exercise in patience and staying awake. The version we saw (said to be the director's cut) is unreleaseable.

MYSTERY MOVIE #3

Exiting BNAT Coverage...

On to the new films: we've already had a host of raves on this site of THE TWO TOWERS (I concur with them all) and the appropriate amount of scorn for STAR TREK: NEMESIS (ditto). Here are a couple brief looks at two end-of-year releases worthy of your attention and adoration.

CHICAGO

I’ve been saying this a lot lately, and it bothers me that the studios are cramming their best stuff into last month of the year, but for better or worse, we have another contender for one of the best films of the year. The thing that separates CHICAGO from many of my other favorite films of 2002 is that it took me by surprise. I knew CHICAGO would be good; I had no idea how much I’d enjoy the hell out of it. And I will absolutely give credit where credit is due. Director Rob Marshall has done a great job transforming the Fosse stage musical into a visually magnificent film, but it wouldn’t have meant a thing without three people: Richard Gere, Catherine Zeta-Jones, and especially Renee Zellweger. I don’t care what you think about any of these people (my opinion of the first two were very low going into this film), all three will shock you with how much talent, power, and enthusiasm they throw into these roles.

Zellweger is Roxie Hart, a bored housewife with dreams of stardom living in Chicago’s jazz age. She takes up with a man (Dominic West) who promises to give her a big break as a singer, but all he really wants is a way into her bloomers. She shoots him dead and claims he was a burglar breaking into her home. Her sap of a husband (John C. Reily) backs up her story at first, but when he begins to suspect his wife’s infidelity, Roxie’s alibi is shot and she end up in a women’s prison, under the watchful eye of Matron “Mama” Morton (the voracious Queen Latifah). Meanwhile, established entertainer Velma Kelly (Zeta-Jones) has also committed an act of murder against her husband and sister (and singing partner) and has also landed in the clink. Both women realize that in this age of cutthroat journalism, they could turn their cases into publicity-generating monsters, feeding the press both real and false stories about their innocence being corrupted by jazz and drinking. Through Mama, both women hire celebrity attorney Billy Flynn (Gere) to represent them as both criminal defense attorney and publicist. Velma and Roxie fight for their lawyers attention; Billy fights to keep his clients out of prison while still keeping them interesting to the press.

But the story is only half the fun. CHICAGO is a top-notch musical. The filmmakers have even thought of a clever way to explain why people suddenly break out into song during these serious moments. And how about those songs? You’ll probably know many of them even if you’ve never seen the musical (I haven’t); I still find myself humming “All That Jazz” when I’m walking down the street. Every song is great and every performance of it is note perfect.

Although it’s not entirely an apples-to-apples comparison, CHICAGO runs circle around MOULIN ROUGE (my third-favorite film of 2001). The songs are original and written for this show, the vocal skills of the actors in this film are better, the choreography is more sophisticated, and CHICAGO doesn’t rely nearly as much on art director and special effects to create its moods. MOULIN ROUGE succeeded almost because it existed on another planet, where emotions ruled the day. CHICAGO exists squarely on earth. There aren’t even any traditionally likeable characters in CHICAGO, and certainly none that are falling madly in love before us. With the understanding that both are great films, MOULIN ROGUE is kids stuff; CHICAGO is for grown folk. Expect to hear much about CHICAGO come awards season.

CATCH ME IF YOU CAN

You couldn’t invent a story as wild and amazing as the true life of Frank Abagnale Jr. For three years beginning at age 16, Frank successfully impersonated a Pan Am pilot, a doctor, and a lawyer so he could pull off one of the most elaborate multi-million-dollar check fraud scams in history. Steven Spielberg has taken Frank Jr.’s story (based on Abagnale’s autobiography) and turned it into a fabulous and fun cat-and-mouse game. Spielberg’s attention to detail in capturing the sights and sounds of the 1950s is flawless, and the light-hearted approach he takes at telling this tale of white-collar crime is loads of fun, and blessedly free of explosions, car chases, aliens, or any distracting special effects.

Leonardo DiCaprio returns to the big screen as Abagnale, a young man who has learned the art of B.S. from his father, Frank Sr. (Christopher Walken), a man whom the IRS is always hounding for tax evasion and who is constantly struggling to keep his family financially above water. When Frank Sr.’s wife (played by the luminous French actress Nathalie Baye) leaves him, Frank Jr. ran away from home and embarked on his brief life of non-violent crime. In fact, it’s the non-violent, victimless nature of Frank’s crimes that make it easier for us to root for him as the FBI, lead by Agent Carl Hanratty (Tom Hanks with an annoying New England accent), hunts him down. Spielberg keeps things at a brisk pace but still manages to look into Frank Jr.’s psyche just a bit, suggested that his family’s money troubles may have inspired him to head down the criminal road (although neither of his parents seem aware of crimes nor do they receive any money from him). There are wonderful scenes where Hanratty literally has Frank in the in the same room with him and still he escapes. The lengths that Frank goes to steal a buck and not be caught are extraordinary and almost worthy of admiration.

Both DiCaprio and Hanks turn in solid performances that make Spielberg’s job of telling a straight-forward story all the easier. There’s a bit of a dead section in the middle of the film when Frank impersonates a doctor in Atlanta, gets engaged to a mousy nurse named Brenda (Amy Adams), and has to meet her domineering father (Martin Sheen) that doesn’t really pay off, but this is faint criticism. CATCH ME IF YOU CAN has the look, feel, and pacing that I wish movies like THE TRUTH ABOUT CHARLIE had had. No one who worked on this movie is going to win any awards but there is always something to be said to great storytelling without all the bells and whistles. Watching CATCH ME reminded me of reading a Stephen King book without all the supernatural elements; it reminds you that the guy is a great storyteller as well as a genre master. Spielberg should try more of these.

Capone

Click here and I'll Hurt You Till You Say "MORE"!"





Click for previous story Talk Back More on this story Click for next story
 
Gangs2002-12-21 15:12:40
Since there's no Gangs TB yet...2002-12-21 05:48:18
GO CAPONE!2002-12-20 18:57:44
at least by the ads, Chicago can't look more boring....2002-12-20 20:56:39
CatchMe...2002-12-20 21:04:49
Catch Me if You Can Sit Through this Garbage2002-12-20 22:08:54
Hanks' accent2002-12-20 22:12:17
The Talented Mr. Abegnale2002-12-21 00:47:03
Chicago?2002-12-21 01:09:28
Agreed, Lazurus - Gangs is excellent2002-12-21 08:19:19
How can Harry say this film deserves our money?2002-12-21 12:12:30
Chicago2002-12-21 13:38:12
why the fuck does anybody like musicals?2002-12-21 22:12:05
Chicago is a winner2002-12-22 04:07:06
"Catch Me" Isn't Light Hearted Enough2002-12-22 11:45:02
Rob Morrow in "Quiz Show"2002-12-22 20:32:38
 
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