Friday, April 16, 2010

ANALYSIS: Shopping and bleeding -- from "Kick-Ass" to "Night of the Comet"

Chloe Moretz in "Kick-Ass" -- if this arouses you, seek professional help.
The quartet of major-market releases this week may represent a perfect spread of demographic appeal. There’s something for old and young, rich and poor, black and white, smart and dumb.

Really dumb. Powerfully dumb.

Now, based on the trailers alone, I predict two of these movies suck and two don’t. Can you guess which two are which? (Note, I said they suck – I didn’t say they wouldn’t make wheelbarrows full of money.) The key phrase to remember is “concept.” The ones that don’t work are loooong on concept and short on execution.

“Kick-Ass” has been promoted to the skies. Advertising for it is everywhere. People are practically out on the street threatening to kick YOUR ass if you don’t go see it.

It certainly looks – kinetic.

However, I must invoke the well-known Nicholas Cage Principle, which I just made up. The principle states: If Nicholas Cage appears in it, the odds that a given film is excruciatingly bad rise astronomically.

What happened, Oscar-winner? When did you become a crap magnet? Of your 63 IMDb acting credits, there are gems such as “Adaptation,” “Moonstruck,” “Leaving Las Vegas” and “Raising Arizona.” On the other side of the ledger: “Amos & Andrew,” “Guarding Tess,” “8MM,” “Windtalkers,” “Ghost Rider,” “Next,” “National Treasure” . . . I could go on, but it hurts just to write them down. Ladies and gentlemen, I rest my case.

Mr. Cage, you are close to joining the pantheon of Good Actors Who Make Bad Choices, right up alongside Burt Reynolds and Eddie Murphy. Stop now before it’s too late. Oh, damn. It looks like you just finished “National Treasure 3” and “Ghost Rider 2.” Never mind.

As for the rest of it, it’s violence-porn for teen boys. It tries to get around this by being self-aware, commenting snarkily and reflexively on its own sadistic bent. That makes it meta, right?


P.S. – I also predict that copycat, real-life “Kick-Ass”-style incidents will soon flood the mainstream media, causing massive outrage, debate and valuable publicity. Hey, it worked for “Colors.”

“The Joneses”: typical American family is actually a viral marketing ploy.

Don’t you get it, man? It’s not what we have, but who we are that makes us . . . um . . . what we are. That it takes “The Joneses” 96 minutes to say what I just said in four seconds means you owe me ten dollars.

“Death at a Funeral”: Hey, remember Frank Oz? He was Miss Piggy. He was Grover. He was Bert. He was YODA (Grover on steroids and ‘shrooms). Then he made “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels” and “What About Bob?”, both of which make me laugh just thinking about them. Then in 2007 he made “Death at a Funeral.”

Hilarious, right? One problem – it was set in England. REMAKE. Hmm, who can we get to direct it? Who’s really good at directing comedy? How about misanthropic-playwright-turned-moviemaker Neil LaBute (“In the Company of Men,” the awful “Wicker Man” remake with our buddy Nicholas Cage)? YES.

This is something on the order of like hiring Sam Peckinpah to direct “Freaky Friday.” Fortunately, it has much the same script, and an awesome cast – Chris Rock, Martin Lawrence, Danny Glover, Tracy Morgan. Check it out.

It actually looks funny, and I’ll be damned if I don’t go see it. (Help Frank out and get the original on Netflix, won’t you? The British are usually funnier than we are.)

“The Perfect Game”:

Yes, I know. Cinderella team, outta nowhere, going for the gold. It’s a paint-by-numbers underdog story. Plus, it’s full of winsome child actors, which gives me the willies.

But you know what? Too bad. Your male lead, Clifton Collins, Jr., is a great actor who’s been stuck playing lowlifes, murderers and other stereotypes for way too long. This is his breakout role. And Cheech Marin is in it, playing the lovable priest a la Bing Crosby. Love Cheech. And Louis Gossett, Jr. as Cool Papa Bell. (Don’t know who Cool Papa Bell was? Go away.) Block out the obligatory inspirational ballad, and “Rocky”esque getting-it-together montages. See this one for the performances alone.

And hey, I LIKE underdog stories. And I love baseball. And I’ve got a kid in Little League. Guess who’s going on Friday? Me and my whole fam damly.


Boulder’s International Film Series continues its showings of the Danish noir “Terribly Happy” on Friday; Saturday brings the long-forgotten documentary but significant “Araya,” and a three-day run of “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” starts on Wednesday.

Over at Starz Film Center in Denver, new additions to the lineup include “The Secret of Kells”:

Can’t lie to you – seen it already, and it’s good.

And “Walt & El Grupo”:

Can’t lie to you – this looks about as interesting as a side of mashed potatoes at the Waffle House. The U.S. freaked out at the start of World War II and decided it needed South America on our side. So who did they send? Walt Disney. Anyone who has seen “The Three Caballeros” and other such insulting, condescending attempts to create goodwill with our “neighbors to the south” knows how well that went. You can file this away with the Frito Bandito, Speedy Gonzales and other such tripe.

The only thing new at Denver’s Landmark chain is the inspiring-looking dance documentary, “Dancing Across Borders.” It’s at the Chez Artiste.


Andrejz Krakowski’s 2008 “Looking for Palladin” is playing only at the Regency Tamarac this week. How come?

It’s got one of the best actors around, Ben Gazzara, at its center. Here’s the IMDb one-sentence synopsis: “A young Hollywood player is drawn into a remote place looking for a quick deal and instead finds a sanctuary, a community, and ultimately himself.”

Sounds tender and heartwarming, but the word is there are serious problems with the direction, script and editing. Wait for the DVD.


The children’s matinee at Starz on Saturday at 3 p.m. is “Wow! Wow! Wubzy Goes Green!” Appropriate prior to 4/20:

SUNDAY, 4/18

On Sunday at 3 and 5:30 p.m., you can watch an astonishing creation at Starz – the oldest surviving animated feature, Lotte Reiniger’s 1926 “The Adventures of Prince Achmed. Plus, a live musical accompaniment from Miles and Karina. Don’t miss it.


The University of Denver is holding its first-ever Italian Film Festival this spring. At 6:30 p.m., it will present the 2007 drama directed by Salvatore Maira, “Valzer (The Waltz).”

Lots of hugging, crying and fighting – and a very sad man with a beard. The FREE show is presented in Davis Auditorium in Sturm Hall on the DU campus.

Denver’s Westword magazine is sponsoring a sneak preview of Sylvain White’s “The Losers” at 7 p.m. This is the adaptation of the comic-book series (no, not the original DC war comic, the Vertigo 2003-2006 one. Take that, fanboy sticklers for accuracy.):

Hey, it looks like high-action, wise-cracking fun. Where’s it at? I don’t know. You have to go to and enter the code WWRDT09D to get your passes.


Too many choices on this night. At 7 p.m. at Starz, Cine Club presents the 2008 French comedy/noir by Ilan Duran Cohen, “The Joy of Singing (Le Plaisir de Chanter).”

This screening is sponsored by the Alliance Francaise, and will be followed by a wine and pastry reception. I’m a sucker for all things French, so count me in.

At 7:30 p.m., in the Community House of Boulder’s Chautauqua Park, our old pal Hank Troy will tickle the ivories live in accompaniment to Buster Keaton’s classic silent comedy masterpiece from 1927, “The General.” Troy is a genius and should be named a national treasure.

My definition of a classic film is one that rewards you with repeated pleasure and new insights every time you watch it. I’ve seen this at least 20 times, and I’ll see it again. P.S.: At these screenings, they utilize a 16mm projector. If you love the old-fashioned clatter of the sprockets, and that cozy smell of warm nitrate stock, this should an extra-special treat for you.

At 8 p.m. at the Bug Theatre in Denver, look for the One-Take Super 8 Event.

What is it? Here’s the blow-by-blow description, from the Denver Filmmakers Co-op – a discovery we welcome to our pages.

“Using only a single cartridge of Super 8, each film is shot, processed, and projected unaltered. No post-production is permitted; thus, the filmmakers see their films for the first time with the audience at the premiere. Participants of these events vary from novice to established filmmakers, representing an incredible diversity in artistic voices. The resulting films are as diverse as their creators, exploring every genre, form, style and tone. All of the work shown in this program will be projected on the original medium of Super 8.”

Sounds pretty interesting – check it out.


At 7 p.m., Denver’s Documentary Cinema Institute and Starz will present the new documentary from Zachary Levy, “Strongman.”

This looks quite good. (Boulder fans, if you can’t make the drive, hang tough – it’s coming to the International Film Series next week – WITH THE DIRECTOR IN PERSON.)


All right. This is where the rubber meets the road.

I don’t know why Century Boulder is hosting a midnight movie, but on Friday and Saturday, you can catch Mel Brooks’ 1987 “Star Wars” parody, “Spaceballs.”

OK, now, no fighting. Either you love it or you don’t. I have always thought that Brooks blew a tire right after “Young Frankenstein,” and never got his groove back. Plus, why did it take a decade to concoct?

At Denver’s Esquire, it’s Dan Eckman’s 2009 “Mystery Team” at midnight Friday and Saturday:

At 10 p.m. at Starz Friday and Saturday, it’s the deliciously awful 1984 zombie comedy from Thom Eberhardt, “Night of the Comet”:

Cheerleaders vs. zombies = pure viewing satisfaction. Plus, you can see performances from dependable character actor Geoffrey Lewis, cult star Mary Wonorov, an extremely young Robert Beltran, and 80’s movie princess Catherine Mary Stewart. It all seems so far away now. Thank God.

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