Thursday, July 07, 2005

Bondage, Insertions, and the Wild World of Jimmy Fallon

Taxi
2004, USA
Tim Story
DVD
This remake of the 1998 Luc Besson film of the same name has suffered unfairly in comparison with the original. In actuality, the two movies hold up rather well side by side, though this is mainly because they are both incompetently made excuses to crash expensive cars into one another while trying to sell a soundtrack album. Nothing about the French film was worth remaking into anything but a music video, which is clearly where the original film got most of its style cues. The American film is, of course, bigger, with slightly more of the same, though it substitutes the ultra-slick direction of Luc Besson’s film with the more familiar passive, slightly distracted direction so common in modern Hollywood comedies. The big mistake made in translating the film for American audiences was focusing more on the comedy and less on the action. Not that I like action movies. I’d rather be in a thresher accident than to watch the latest coked-up USC graduate spend a cool million getting a Maybach to flip over an overpass more times than Tony Hawke on amphetamines. But I like comedy even less, especially when it involves Saturday Night Live in any way, shape, or form. Nothing even remotely related to SNL is funny at all, not even jokes about how bad SNL is. It’s not funny now, and contrary to the rose-colored glasses of nostalgia, it was never funny. Chevy Chase fell down a lot, Eddie Murphy was just amusing because it always seemed like he was about to swear, and Dennis Miller just spouted interminably labyrinthine pop-culture sentences that resulted in laughs of relief from tired and dizzy audience members. Will Ferrell is just weird, Chris Farley was fat and loud, and Gilda Radner looked like a cross between Warwick Davis from Leprechaun and a scarecrow. And Jimmy Fallon is certainly far from funny. I think the secret to his undeniable popularity is the fact that he perpetually looks like he’s been given a noogie by your older brother, triggering some kind of sympathy reflex inherent in the collective unconscious. The film also stars Queen Latifa, the rapper-turned actress who managed to get nominated for an Oscar somewhere between tough hip-hop posturing and voicing Pizza Hut commercials. Opening with a ridiculously improbable bike ride through, over, and under the streets of Manhattan, the film almost immediately leaves the realm of credulity when the lithe, athletic bicycle courier removes her helmet to, through the magic of editing, reveal the elephantine Latifa. The film declines from there, spending an inordinate amount of time focusing on Latifa, before slowly moving on to Jimmy Fallon’s character, a bumblingly inept cop who can’t drive. Then, when you’re finally about sick enough of watching Fallon try not to laugh during a take, the plot finally gets started. Not that there’s much of a plot to get started, of course, as it essentially follows Fallon’s attempts to learn how to drive properly. Latifa plays a bike courier who moves up to taxi driver, a job she performs in a cab more decked out than most Formula One cars, a plot conceit that makes me wonder if her character wouldn’t be happier laying in the sun eating beluga caviar out of diamond goblets, since she clearly has more money than God to be tooling around New York in a cab with a jet engine. Anyway, for some ridiculous reason, she teams up with Fallon, and they get on the trail of Gisele Bundchen and her gang of the worst movie villains in film history. Honestly, whoever wrote this piece of crap didn’t even bother to try and create an interesting, believable, or even vaguely identifiable set of bad guys, or girls, as the case unfortunately is. I guess they figured if they made them all supermodels, no one would notice that they had no motivation, explanation, or justification for their actions. They don’t even speak, they just wink and sway their hips in slow motion ever time the camera’s on them. Well, they try to talk, but they’re all Portuguese or something, so they just sound like Russian people trying to speak Spanish. I just don’t understand the obsession Hollywood has with providing endless leggy starlets for us to ogle instead of worrying about a reasonable script. No, sorry, I misspoke. I understand their point of view, I just don’t understand while males aged 18-35 flock to the theatre to see a John Travolta movie about computer hacking just because it’s got Halle Berry’s boobs in it. I’m sorry, but in the age of internet pornography and bootlegged S&M DVDs, I just don’t get what the attraction of a bare breast is, no matter who it’s attached to. Once you’ve seen a woman insert a baseball bat into her nether regions while fellating what appears to be an entire college wrestling team, the novelty of nudity sort of wears off. But maybe that’s just me. I’ve never been particularly virile, and maybe I’m not man enough to spend ten dollars and ninety five cents just to see a Brazilian model in a bikini clumsily fire a semi-automatic pistol. I just I’ll just have to stick with Spanky, Giles DeRay, a red hot-fire poker, and the rest of the cast of The Inquisition 2 to satisfy my needs.

Vlad
2003, USA
Michael D. Sellers
DVD
Every once in a while, while perusing the racks of your local video store, tired of the mind numbing Hollywood dreck so continually thrust down your throat that youbecome delirious and almost start believing that Tom Cruise is a capable actor instead of a robot build by European fashion houses to sell sunglasses, you stumble upon something you’ve never heard of. You pick up the box, notice a few promising blurbs by respected film critics (i.e. anyone but Kevin Thomas), note a few familiar but not famous names, and decided to take a chance. You take the DVD home, pop it into a machine, and are instantly swept away to a world of imagination and innovation, where a heretofore unknown filmmaker has made his first mark on the art house world, and has taken the first step in what by rights should be a long and illustrious career. Or, alternately, you rent Vlad, a repugnant straight-to-video tumour of a movie that features the guy who does the voice of Chucky and the star of The Phantom. Then, you sit through the whole damn thing, which involves a bunch of voodoo crap about resurrecting a Dracula that looks like a professional wrestler and speaks English, and swear you will never watch another movie again. At least until Mission Impossible 3 comes out.

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