Monthly Archives: October 2007

A Trick and no Treat

If you come to my house begging for candy dressed up this way, you’re getting a can of green beans. This one, however, will get you a 5-pound bag of the candy of your choice.


Announcing ‘A Rough Cut’

Click on over to A Rough Cut for movie reviews by yours truly.

Across The Universe, 4/5

Rated PG-13. Click to view the trailer.

It’s hard to think of another movie with such a thin plot that I so heartily recommend nor one that I can’t wait to see in the theater again as Across The Universe. Then again, such is the nature of the musical. No one has ever accused Andrew Lloyd Weber of weaving masterful plots and a person either loathes or adores Grease. So when Julie Taymor set out to direct a two-hour, 13-minute musical, she could have down worse than to shoehorn a plot into The Beatles’ catalog.

The plot: Artistically minded Jude (Jim Sturgess), leaves Liverpool searching for his father and ends up befriending Princeton dropout Maxwell (Joe Anderson, who reminds me of a young and slightly less smoky Denis Leary). To answer your questions, yes, Maxwell does at some point make use of a silver hammer. No, it doesn’t come down on someone’s head. The two young men move to Greenwich Village apartment teeming with such characters as the Janis Joplin-esque Sadie (Dana Füchs), guitar hero JoJo (Martin Luther McCoy), the love-lost lesbian Asian cheerleader Prudence (T.V. Carpio) where they are soon joined by Max’s idealistic and naive sister Penny Lane no wait… Eleanor Rigby, no wait… Lucy! It’s Lucy (Evan Rachel Wood)!

Jude and Lucy hook up just as her brother is drafted and Lucy’s activism against the war drives a peace-shaped wedge between her and Jude. Even though the ending is clearly visible from miles away, the plot that more or less flows from one song to the next is enjoyable enough as is very ably acted. Imagine Moulin Rouge (sans the big name stars) set Vietnam era New York with a soundtrack scored by John, Paul, George and Ringo.

Still, you’re not going to slap down your hard-earned $12.50 to see another Vietnam Era War on the Home Front story. You’re in it for the Fab Four. You won’t be disappointed. A list of the songs we get to hear and see:
• I Am The Walrus
• Girl
• Being For The Benefit Of Mr. Kite
• Hold Me Tight
• Because
• All My Loving
• I Want To Hold Your Hand
• Something
• With A Little Help From My Friends
• Oh! Darling
• It Won’t Be Long
• Strawberry Fields Forever
• I’ve Just Seen A Face
• Revolution No. 9
• Let It Be
• While My Guitar Gently Weeps
• Why Don’t we do it in the Road?
• Come Together
• Across The Universe
• If I Fell
Helter Skelter
• Dear Prudence
• Happiness Is A Warm Gun
• Flying
• Black Bird
• She’s so Heavy
• Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds
• Blue Jay Way
• Hey Jude
• Don’t Let Me Down
• All You Need Is Love

(Personally, I would have loved to have seen them work in Eleanor Rigby, and Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.)

Talk about a killer soundtrack. I know some consider The Beatles’ music sacred and shun any tampering, but Across The Universe gives us some amazing covers. Upbeat pop songs such as I Want to Hold Your Hand and If I Fell are given slow, soulful treatments that highlight just how beautiful and transcendent the songs’ lyrics truly are. By using music different than the original masters by The Beatles, the composed words truly shine. Let it Be is more or less out of place, juxtaposed with Detroit race riots, but I defy you to hear it and not be moved to the verge of tears.

All the main cast take a stab at the McCartney-Lennon songbook and they largely succeed. Sturgess sings with a thick Liverpool accent and it would have been very easy for his performance in particular to fall into Beatles imitation or worse, parody. Luckily, he carves out his own niche – despite his mop top – and does a good job handling his songs.

As an added bonus, we get to see Bono, Eddie Izzard and Joe Cocker make musical as well as acting cameos. Bono is the best as Doc Roberts who leads the cast on a magical mystery tour on a bush that would make the Partridge Family blush with shame. Eddie Izzard takes on Mr. Kite (in a scene looking like Monty Python plus Jim Henson on acid) and Cocker does double duty as a pimp and “mad hippie” (though he does not sing With a Little Help From my Friends… this isn’t The Wonder Years).

As mesmerizing at the music portion of the film is, a few words must be devoted to Across The Universe’s visuals. This is probably the movie’s weakest link. Once too often Taymor takes the easy way out and shows 1960s turmoil using psychedelic swirls and exploding colors. A little bit of this goes along way. I’m not sure where I stand on her use of puppets and makeshift animation. It is an obvious homage to The Beatles’ movies, but it stuck out to me. On the other hand, the underwater shots are gorgeous and scene where the military indoctrinates Max is genius, with ghostly Uncle Sams singing “I Want You!” A scene depicting bleeding strawberries is terrifyingly beautiful.

Considering the backdrop of the Vietnam War (I’m thinking of a poignant scene where soldiers literally carry the Statue of Liberty through rice paddies) and the setting in peace/protest movements in 60s, this movie is remarkably a-political. The movie largely ignores the issue and routs songs like Revolution No. 9 in a mainstream direction.

The bottom line? Go ye therefore and watch Across The Universe before it’s too late and it’s replaced by a screening of the latest Dane Cook movie.

A rough cut

I now unleash my movie reviews upon the world (two regular readers)! MuWaHA-HA-HA!

Geography Quiz, No. 2

Again, I hate to nitpick, but it’s Ma-low(rhymes with cow)- ee, not Mala-weigh

Geography Quiz, No. 1

I hate to nitpick, but it’s Jefferson City, not Jefferson and it’s a good 100 miles west of where the star is.

The Man, the Genius, the Quotes.

“Here’s my strategy on the Cold War: We win, they lose.”

“The most terrifying words in the English language are: I’m from the government and I’m here to help.”

“The trouble with our liberal friends is not that they’re ignorant: It’s just that they know so much that isn’t so.”

“Of the four wars in my lifetime none came about because the U.S. was too strong.”

“I have wondered at times about what the Ten Commandments would have looked like if Moses had run them through the U.S. Congress.”

“The taxpayer: That’s someone who works for the federal government but doesn’t have to take the civil service examination.”

“Government is like a baby: An alimentary canal with a big appetite at one end and no sense of responsibility at the other.”

“The nearest thing to eternal life we will ever see on this earth is a government program.”

“I’ve laid down the law, though, to everyone from now on about anything that happens: No matter what time it is, wake me, even if it’s in the middle of a Cabinet meeting.”

“It has been said that politics is the second oldest profession. I have learned that it bears a striking resemblance to the first.”

“Government’s view of the economy could be summed up in a few short phrases: If it moves, tax it. If it keeps moving, regulate it. And if it stops moving, subsidize it.”

“Politics is not a bad profession. If you succeed there are many rewards, if you disgrace yourself you can always write a book.”

“No arsenal, or no weapon in the arsenals of the world, is so formidable as the will and moral courage of free men and women.”

“If we ever forget that we’re one nation under God, then we will be a nation gone under.”

“All great change in America begins at the dinner table.”

“Before I refuse to answer your questions, I have an opening statement.”

“Entrepreneurs and their small enterprises are responsible for almost all the economic growth in the United States.”

“Facts are stubborn things.”

“Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same.”

“Heroes may not be braver than anyone else. They’re just braver five minutes longer.”

“How do you tell a communist? Well, it’s someone who reads Marx and Lenin. And how do you tell an anti-Communist? It’s someone who understands Marx and Lenin.”

“Abortion is advocated only by persons who have themselves been born.”