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The Cinema Cynic:
Welcome To The Jungle By John Hutchins
Slush is proud to welcome the latest addition to our columnist roster, John Hutchins. Perhaps partly due to an exposure to a radioactive goo, and partly from working in Hollywood, John has developed a keen and very sarcastic eye that he levies on his movie-making town. Thus, the perfect guy to write reviews. Even if you don't agree with him, he'll make you laugh. And a smile a day keeps the proletariate away. Or however that saying goes.
So, without further ado, on with the show. Marking his forray into Slushdom is a review of the new film Once Upon a Time in Mexico, and a harsh look at Anger Management, which recently hit store shelves.
Once Upon a Time in Mexico
According to the story, Quentin Tarantino came up with the title while working with Robert Rodriquez on Desperado. He told Rodriquez that Desperado was his For a Few Dollars More, El Mariachi his Fistful of Dollars, thus a third had to be made and called Once Upon a Time in Mexico. Whereas the Sergio Leone comparison is a good one, I must take exception with the trilogy concept. Leone's third installment was The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly first of all; Once Upon a Time in the West, although arguably as good or better than the Dollars series (and featuring the typically nice Henry Fonda as an ultra-evil bad guy) was unrelated except by director. The Mariachi series on the other hand is essentially the same movie made three times in ascending quality. Certain characters are re-cast or slightly modified, others brought back to life and killed again; not to mention Mariachi losing his hand in the first film and growing it back for the second. Continuity flaws aside however, this was as expected a truly great film.
Porn is a good example of genre wherein a refrain or ritornelle when cycled correctly (in porn's case sexual intercourse) into a storyline, makes the plot secondary. Similarly, a common yet time honored theme such as 'revenge for my murdered wife' accentuated by exploding bloodbag sequences in 15 minute intervals can be just as gratifying; albeit in a different way. Exploitation films (of the 1970's Jack Hill variety especially) have always embraced this concept unapologetically and to see one with big budget Hollywood dollars behind it is not only refreshing, but in my opinion long overdue. Anyone who appreciated the Assault on Precinct 13 tee-shirt in From Dusk Til Dawn knows what I'm talking about. Appropriately Once Upon a Time begins with Johnny Depp delivering Cheech Marin a CIA payoff in a Clash of the Titans lunchbox; as if to say to his audience "You're in good hands". A patchwork of Peckinpah meets DePalma, where it borrows it gives credit. Where it's mundane, it makes up for in the following scene. The only real negative I found in it was a contrary to marketing lack of Selma Hayek; she's barely in the film and shows only brief titty above a pregnant stomach. Other than that, flawless.
In a perfect world there would be a movie like this once a month.
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Sandler Nicholson "Anger Management" could just as easily have been Spade Pacino "Traffic School" or maybe Shore Busey "Highway Trash Pickup." A Happy Madison production, Sandler evidently wanted to distance himself from the Punch Drunk Love archetype of "quality in script and direction" and make his triumphant return to shitty movies. Jack Nicholson co-stars as Dr. Buddy Rydell, the learned mentor to Sandler who in the films first 10 minutes uses the words "dissemble" "piquant" and "effluvium" in sentences. I as consummate connoisseur of the english language made notes of these words which I will now use in a sentence: Anger Management is an effluvium of banality; a dissemblingly piquant farce leaving the viewer in need of something to watch.
The movie covers all the bases one would expect. There's cameos from Bobby Knight and John McEnroe, Nicholson using sport equipment to bash in a car windshield, the appropriate if not obligatory Sandler nods to flatulence and masturbation, and of course the trademark Adam Sandler singing; this time "I Feel Pretty" on the Brooklyn Bridge in the high-pitched retarded kid voice that was so funny 8 years ago. Along for the trainwreck are a hella old looking Marisa Tomei, and John Torturro who manages to produce the few funny moments the movie has; perhaps to make up for his part in Mr. Deeds, arguably one of the wettest farts in cinema history. The scenes with him in group therapy are maybe five funny minutes out of a hundred and five. The rest is insipid drivel concerning the Sandler character's inability to commit to the frumpy, baggy eyed Tomei. The films piece d'resistance however comes at the end: Even for a half-assed paycheck movie one of the lamest, most intelligence insulting endings I've ever witnessed in a film. Seriously it's bad. I doubt if people who saw it in theatres remember it.