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Doctor Who: Love & Monsters (2006)
Clearly, based on the comments left here, "Love & Monsters" is a love it or hate it affair. And probably all you need to know going into it is that after 45 minutes you'll likely fall into one camp or the other. I can certainly see why it would rub someone the wrong way, and yet I feel for the DW fan who doesn't embrace this episode for the wonderful stretching of the show's format that it is.
The episode, written by show runner Russell T Davies, is a great example of why he's in charge of the new series: He's an idea man, and unafraid to try new things, rather than simply fall back on the tried and true. Maybe some of his more radical ideas don't work for everyone? Even with the most mainstream episodes, Davies & Co. don't please everyone, all the time. After watching "Love & Monsters", my 13-year old son was so into it he immediately said, "I didn't even notice the Doctor and Rose were hardly in it."
In Season One Davies took some baby steps (the highly underrated "Boom Town" springs to mind); in Season Two he's confident and willing to go even further. "Love & Monsters" is a bright, shiny example of DW for the new millennium. While many have concentrated on its humorous aspects, few mention the episode's melancholy, which for me, was the core sell.
And on top of everything else, it's got ELO tunes. This fan was in heaven.
Lawn Dogs (1997)
And here I thought I was the only fan...
Per my heading - seriously! I've never known anyone else who's seen "Lawn Dogs", except the people to whom I've shown it.
I first saw it on a whim in the theatre when it came out, fell in love with it, bought the DVD and then watched it many, many times and showed it to as many people who would sit through it with me. But I hadn't put it on in a couple years until tonight; the piece stands up completely, and it still moves me as much as it used to.
After it was over, I came to IMDb and was surprised that so many had voted on it and then that there were a whopping 82 user comments! Wow! Again, I just didn't know it had that kind of fan base, but I guess I shouldn't be surprised given that both of its leads have gone on to become immensely popular stars. Back when "Lawn Dogs" came out, both of them were unknowns; even back then, I assumed that would change.
I'm happy Rockwell's career has continued to move into realms that are not always for the masses. It's a bit disappointing that Barton is stuck on "The O.C." (sorry fans!) as I think she's capable of greater things and she should be working with somewhat more challenging material.
A few others have commented how nice it would be to see the two of them work together again. I think I agree, but it'd be unfortunate if a similar chemistry wasn't there. As far as a sequel goes? Certainly the film leaves you wanting these people to meet again. I'd love to see such a thing, but perhaps it's asking too much for that particular brand of cinematic lightning to strike twice.
"Home" is where the Party is!!!
I am not someone who gets all that turned on by most small indie films - either they work for me or they don't. "Home" worked - it worked the party, even!!!
Two comparisons to other filmmaker's work I can make are A) Altman and 2) Scorsese; the former due mostly to a seemingly effortless tapestry weave and the latter due to a wonderful, ongoing music meld.
It's rare that I see an indie film that feels fresh, and I'm certain that I've never seen a party portrayed as effectively and true as in "Home".
It begins small, with 4 or 5 people, and methodically grows, all the while following the main character Bobby's perceptions & observations. From time to time new people simply "appear" at the party. They aren't always introduced and it doesn't matter. That's the way parties operate and writer/director Seitz nails it. Sometimes things get ugly, sometimes things are sweet. Think Blake Edwards' "The Party", only contemporary and minus the slapstick.
The cast is exceptional across the board, but I gotta give high props indeed to Jason Liebrecht, who reminds me of Tarantino (his suit may be a factor), if only Tarantino were younger and could act. This guy really should go places. He was absolutely worth following around for 90 minutes. Erin Visslailli was the other standout; she's got this wonderful sense of strength that comes through in the subtlest of ways. I could line-list what I like about each actor, but suffice it to say they made a wonderful ensemble of believable people and there isn't any one person I didn't buy.
What's also admirable - from a behind-the-scenes standpoint - is that "Home" is written and directed by a film critic, Matt Zoller Seitz. When a critic steps up to the plate to put their money where their keyboard is, I consider it a hugely brave move. Few have the tenacity to do it; Rod Lurie and Bill Carter are a couple off the top of my head and I'd really like to see others who earn a living from the medium attempt the same.
This film really needs a nice DVD release or a shot at playing on The Sundance Channel or IFC. Highly recommended and best viewed with a bottle or two of fine wine, perhaps even in an intimate party setting of your own design.
Mulholland Dr. (2001)
One Step Forward and Two Steps Back
Mulholland Drive is the kind of flick that the term 'odd duck' was coined to describe. The David Lynch film, which began life as a pilot for ABC Television in the US, and was subsequently canned by the network, was then saved by the power of the Eurodollar when Le Studio Canal+ and Alain Sarde stepped in and offered to finance an ending so that the piece could be given theatrical distribution and Lynch could pick up a Best Director award at Cannes. Whew. Believe it or not, that was far less long-winded than I expected.
There will inevitably be all kinds of discussions as to what Mulholland Drive is about. People will try to crack this mystery - most probably not with much success. The real mystery surrounding this piece is not to be found on the celluloid itself, but rather in its troubled production history. Why oh why did David Lynch ever trust a network - the same network, no less - after what ABC did to both Twin Peaks and On The Air? Gut feeling tells me that Lynch is basically just a really, really nice guy who believes so much in his own vision that he can't help but scratch his head in befuddlement when the suits don't 'get it'. I do hope he never makes this mistake again.
Why? The root of Mulholland Drive - the first hour and 45 minutes or so - is quite brilliant and I'm certain the TV series it could have spawned would have been as well. The great irony of the piece is that this is Lynch's big anti-Hollywood statement - the same Hollywood that said, 'Uhhh.sorry Dave, but we're just not interested.' Did it hit too close to home? Did they not read the script?? The idea that some covert, all-powerful and mysterious organization controls all the moves made in Hollywood is perhaps the stuff of fiction. But in the hands of Lynch, he makes it work, and in that unsettling David Lynch fashion, too.
Our principal characters are three: Betty Elms (Naomi Watts), an aspiring, wide-eyed actress wannabe who's just moved to LA; Rita (Laura Harring), an amnesiac with a stunning figure; and Adam Kesher (Justin Theroux), an artsy film director trying to keep a firm grip on his film production, only to watch it quietly slip away. Their lives will intersect and then dissect before this 2 and a half hour Sunset Boulevard on acid comes to an end. The film is chock full of cool cameos - far too many to list; a good example is Hollywood veteran Ann Miller playing a landlady named Coco - and she'll tell you this a few times before the film is over. Who ever would've guessed that Ann Miller would be in a David Lynch film? Only Lynch himself, I suspect.
Suspect. That's what the final 45 minutes of this film are, I'm afraid to report. They're not bad - they're simply Lynch at his most Lost Highwayish. The entire piece, which has been pretty straightforward up to this point, even by Lynch standards, veers off into left field and becomes completely nonlinear. If you've spent enough of your life with this man's work, you'll easily spot where Mulholland Drive switches gears from TV pilot to R-rated feature film. Suddenly our two heroines, who've been relatively sweet and innocent up 'til this point, are engaged in an explicit, psychosexual lesbian relationship. As Howard Stern always says, 'What gets the ratings? Lesbians.' And ol' Dave has taken note. There are a few scattered attempts to 'de-pilotize' the first section - one that leaps to mind is an f-bomb looped into a character's dialogue when he's off-screen.
Perhaps comparing this film to Lost Highway is too easy, and probably erroneous as well. This brings to mind, more than anything else, the European theatrical version of the Twin Peaks pilot - the one with the extra twenty minutes where Cooper and Truman solve the case in a cellar; the one that seemed rushed and odd, especially when compared to the entire series that was green lit and produced. Only this time around we don't have the benefit of an entire series to which we can compare and contrast.
There's nothing in Mulholland Drive to alienate Lynch's fans. There's nothing to lessen his body of work. At the same time, however, it's hard to say that this does anything to build on his body of work either (unlike, say, The Straight Story). It exists. We should be glad that it does, even in this bizarre form, and that it isn't collecting dust on a shelf somewhere. Most distressing though, is the 'could've-been-TV-series' we'll never get the opportunity to see.
Further Tales of the City (2001)
Taking you Further and Further
Being a huge fan of Mr. Maupin's previous two series as well as the books, I knew there was no need to worry about being disappointed...once again the "Gang" delivers...Pierre Gang, that is; he also directed "More Tales" a few years back and returns to helm this installment as well. The primary cast is back, however, noticeably absent is Mona Ramsey, who's gone off to Seattle, presumably to find herself. Laura Linney once again dives in displaying "further" sides (not to mention views) of Mary Ann. In fact, that can pretty much be said about every character this time around. Everyone gets to explore sides of themselves that before went untouched.
And that's as it should be, considering "Further" picks up four years after "More" as opposed to the few month gap between the first two series. It's 1981 and the feel of the seventies is dwindling, making room for the "me" decade to come. For this writer, one of the coolest aspects was the return of Mary Kay Place to the role of Prue Giroux, which she originated in a mere couple of scenes in the first "Tales" back in '92. This time around she is a main character with some very real problems, most of which center around a peculiar man named Luke, whom she finds living in the park. Luke, as played by Henry Czerny, is the character you will be hard pressed to forget. Olympia, as always, gives just the right balance necessary to keep everyone else in line. Bruce McCulloch (Kids in the Hall) is a riot as Father Paddy. Joel Grey shows up in a role that (if one didn't know better) seems tailor-made. Barbara Garrick goes round three with a new and improved DeDe; she gets my vote as the most underrated character and actress of the saga.
Armistead Maupin has always said that his primary influence when writing is Alfred Hitchcock - as you view, you'll see why he says that. As usual, the stories and characters overlap one another, going seemingly unnoticed by the participants. Maupin himself gives perhaps his most clever Hitchcockian cameo yet (big laugh).
My only complaint is that the we're treated to less screentime with this series. It's about a third shorter than the previous two. As I haven't read the book in some time, I don't know what had to be sacrificed to make this possible. One of the great strengths of the first two series was the near seamless adaptations of the books upon which they were based. Was it a budgetary decision? Or just simple storytelling? It does indeed move faster than the last series. In any case, some "Tales" are better than no "Tales". Let's hope they do the next three as well.