Archive for ‘Movies’

May 20, 2008

Has he lost his mind?

We were the only two people at Friday night’s showing of Paranoid Park but that suited the movie well. I’d never even heard of it until a couple of hours before we went, so all I knew was that it featured skateboarding and was directed by Gus Van Sant. Years ago I sat in a packed Chicago theater totally mesmerized by My Own Private Idaho, a flawed but deep and moving film about love and betrayal and friendship. Even Cowgirls Get the Blues was such a total mess that I assumed that GVS was a mere mortal director and promptly forgot about keeping up with his stuff. I’ve never seen Good Will Hunting (and I actually like Robin Williams) nor did I bother with the remake of Psycho he did a few years back. But Paranoid Park was intimate and light and lazy, showing so much more than telling. There’s some great super-8 POV skateboarding footage mixed in here and there, and some very keen slo-mo sequences that I’m sure are used all over MTV but seemed anything but cliche in this movie.

I’d actually been gearing up for weeks to see Iron Man with a fellow comic book enthusiast and we finally made that on Sunday afternoon. It really is one of the finest superhero movies ever. Robert Downey Jr. is a true movie star and deserves to be making this sort of comeback. And it had been a decade since I’d fallen deeply in love with Gwyneth Paltrow in Shakespeare in Love so it was great to have her melt my heart again. I was trying to describe Iron Man to Deanna and she remarked that Paranoid Park was probably its polar opposite; low budget, simple plot, no special effects, non-actors performing more or less as themselves. My passion and patience for film isn’t what it used to be but a two movie weekend IN THE THEATER is a rare treat that I am still savoring.

September 1, 2007

Hot Town

On Friday we watched Summer of Sam on WGN. Spike Lee’s films are usually powerful and at the very least enjoyable and after watching the edited for television + commercials version I almost want to go rent it to see what I missed. Neither Deanna or I really knew all that much about the Son of Sam killer but the one detail that I recalled was that he claimed that his neighbor’s dog was possessed by a demon and ordered him to kill. Sure enough, in the middle of the movie, The Killer gets a visit in his apartment by a black dog (who we see earlier barking at him) who tells him to go out and murder some more folks. During the next commercial break was this ad for Bush’s Baked Beans which also features a talking canine. I’m guessing WGN programmers did not for see the hilarity of this juxtaposition.

May 28, 2007

Pan and Scan

My son Soren, who just turned 4 a few months back, is very deeply into pirates. We’re not sure what set him off on this avenue exactly. It’s been suggested to us that it might be the hype for the Pirates of the Caribbean movies–though Soren doesn’t watch any commercial television so that’s an unlikely source. Maybe he saw a pirate in a video he was watching and felt that “pirating” was something that he’d like to be involved in. And why not? They wear funky outfits and fight with swords and talk in a slightly hilarious language etc etc and while his interest has dimmed a bit in the past month (it’s nice enough to play outside everyday finally) he’s still pretty enthusiastic. We’ve tried to match his interest by getting a lot of pirate books (Soren loves to be read to) and his 4th birthday was a pirate themed birthday party complete with a pirate ship cake.

We’ve also rented a slew of pirate themed movies and that’s been one of the best parts for me. I’d never seen Treasure Island before and I was impressed. I knew that Robert Newton’s portrayal of Long John Silver was quite famous but after watching him stomp around and bellow through the whole thing, I realized how much of our modern stereotype of what a pirate is/does/says is based on that performance. And Bobby Driscoll is also excellent as Jim Hawkins and one of those kids that looks like he should be a child actor in Disney movies (My research found that Newton was dead in 10 years from alcoholism and Driscoll’s last performance was in Andy Warhol’s Dirt, after which he died of hepatitis brought on by heroin use.) While at ShopKo we picked up a dvd set of “23 Hours of Pirate Movies” which includes the whole season of “The Adventures of Long John Silver”, which was a low budget cash-in on Newton’s most famous role. The dvd set also has three other sequels to the Treasure Island which we haven’t yet made it through.

We also watched Treasure Planet which is a modern animated version of Treasure Island. I enjoyed it as well as it updates the plot to fit an outer space theme but keeps the characters more or less the same. We haven’t yet broken down and rented Muppet Treasure Island though I see from the listings that Tim Curry plays Long John Silver and I’ll pretty much watch anything he’s in. (I’m still waiting for the second season of the “Muppets” to come out on dvd.)

We also rented Peter Pan as it has a recurring swashbuckling theme involving Captain Hook. Much like Treasure Island I knew all about it but had never sat down and watched it. Bobby Driscoll pops up again (thanks, Disney) as Pan and while the film is quite dated (especially in their portrayal of the Indians) it rolls nicely and has that classic Disney flavor. We then rented Hook which I actually saw in the theater back when I was really into film and saw all of Spielberg’s stuff on the big screen. I was quite bored by Hook and 15 years later it still has great actors and a great premise but some of the worst scriptwriting and hammiest portrayals ever. I did notice this time that young Wendy was portrayed by Gwyneth Paltrow which had to have been one of her first roles. Soren enjoyed Hook nonetheless but I couldn’t help but wonder what the heck happened. For cinematic redemption, we got our hands on the 2003 live-action Peter Pan which was truly amazing. The young cast is brilliant and the special effects are excellent but do not detract from the story. I didn’t recall this version of Pan being in the theaters but then again, 2003 was the year that Soren was born and we stopped spending as much time going to movies and more watching them in our living room. We just Return to Neverland which takes the Peter Pan story and moves it forward, placing Wendy and her children in London during the WWII bombing raids. Hook shows up to kidnap Wendy’s daughter (thinking she is Wendy) and thus Peter and the Lost Boys have to come and rescue her. The plot is a good one and the animation (and voices) are careful reproductions of the original Peter Pan which makes a big difference for me. Soren had enjoyed most of what we’ve showed him and I’m getting a chance to bond with him over classic tales and participate in the cinematic life I used to spend all of my time dreaming about. I am puzzled about one thing: the story goes that Peter Pan cut off Captain Hook’s hand (and fed it to a crocodile?) and that’s why he has a Hook. But he and Peter knew each other before that happened, so my question is: what was Captain Hook called when he still had two hands?

April 21, 2007


I’m proud to announce that the Low Czars return to the stage will be on July 6th at the High Noon Saloon. We’ll be playing with local studs The Hometown Sweethearts who will be celebrating their 5th anniversary. We’ve been dying for a show with these guys ever since our pal Kiki told us she liked us more than them. We feel sorry for the guys, losing such an important fan and wanted to throw them a bone and hence, they’ll be closing for us on July 6th. Put it on your calendar. I know it’s almost three months away, but trust me; you’ll want to be there.