Hey, everyone. "Moriarty" here with some Rumblings From The Lab.
Not a word of this is true. Beaks owed me several reviews, so I broke into his place of residence and gave him some GHB. He went out driving around like Nick Nolte, and I left a tape recorder running in the seat next to him the whole time. When I bailed him out from county lockup, hungover and confused, I grabbed the tape out of his personal effects envelope and had it transcribed into the delusional ramblings you’ll read below.
As usual, his reviews are right on, though. Go figure. Even cracked out on date rape drugs, the boy can write!
As I approached the dilapidated mansion directly ahead of me, the words of a Los Angelian poet ran through my head: “It was about eleven o’clock in the morning, mid October, with the sun not shining and a look of hard wet rain in the clearness of the foothills.” I was wearing my dark blue ILM VFX Team t-shirt, faded jeans, Cleveland Indians ball cap, flip-flops and my customary shit-eating grin. I was ruffled, unshaven and a half-drained case of Hamms away from being sober, and I didn’t care who knew it. I was everything a self-loathing film geek ought to be. I was calling on the Moriarty Labs.
I had arrived at the vast, unkempt estate with the intent of unlawful entry, so imagine my surprise to find the front door wide open. Fearing a trap, I warily stepped over the threshold into the murky foyer. The scene was one of base neglect; fallen leaves, grass clippings and one of Joe Farrell’s desperately worded “Man with a Van” flyers lie strewn across the chipped marble floor, while the mad professor’s prized poster, an original one-sheet of LEGAL EAGLES signed by Ivan Reitman and Roscoe Lee Brown, hung slightly off-kilter. This peculiar state of affairs should’ve given me pause, but I was drunk, so I skipped stupidly down the hall like a severely retarded schoolgirl until I found myself smack dab in the center of the den staring at the one individual I should’ve been fearing all along: Henchman Mongo.
Thank god he was as far from consciousness as I was from being sober.
Collapsed naked into a ratty green couch wearing nothing but a sombrero and an acoustic guitar slung around his left shoulder, Mongo lay motionless. A stained and tattered issue of CosmoGirl boasting exclusive photos from the Olsen Twins’ sweet sixteen birthday party was horrifyingly draped over his manhood. On the television situated in front of him GIRLS GONE WILD DOGGY STYLE, featuring ex-ganja proponent, Snoop Dogg, polluted the room with its endless parade of brazen college girls drunkenly unveiling their breasts a full four seconds before presumably spilling the entirety of a night’s revelry all over the French Quarter pavement.
Indeed, the fetid scent of self-abuse hung thick in the air.
I had to exit this den of debauchery lest Mongo’s rank musk overtake me. Luckily, I knew my way around the labs; the fool Moriarty had allowed me onto its premises a handful of times, allowing me to make a detailed mental map of its every nook and cranny. I staggered my way to the room’s enormous bookshelf with all the grace of a punch drunk Gerry Cooney, yanked back on the protruding copy of MEGATRENDS and stood back as the immense unit swung open to reveal a shiny, metallic fireman’s pole descending into a vast, foreboding darkness. With not forty ounces of fear coursing through my pickled veins, I shimmied down the shaft, clapped on the lights and found myself in the Labs proper. You’ve no doubt read Moriarty’s vivid descriptions of his hideaway in the past; all I can add is that they smell vaguely of a train compartment, most of which smell vaguely of... well, watch GLENGARRY GLEN ROSS to complete the analogy.
Finding no trace of the evil genius himself, I weaved my way through the stacks of screenplays and DVD’s to the computer, where I found what I was looking for: three discs that would make-up a day’s worth of free entertainment. Hey, who said I had any nefarious intentions for breaking into the Labs? I just want to watch movies, knock back some Hamms and not have to pay for shit.
One week later, here are the fruits of my trifling labors, composed in fine Rumblings-esque fashion...
The Dimension Dump Redux
As David Twohy’s critically well-received BELOW sinks to the bottom of the celluloid floor with its $524 per screen average (an amount likely doubling the actual P&A spent on its behalf), would it surprise you to know that Bob Weinstein has another smart genre effort taking practice cuts in the on-deck circle for its chance to get mowed down like Sonny Corleone at a New Jersey tollbooth (he said, mixing his metaphors)?
The film in question is Kurt Wimmer’s long-delayed EQUILIBRIUM, for which Ain’t It Cool ran test screening reviews as long ago as last summer. It’s a modestly budgeted melding of FARENHEIT 451 and 1984 spiced up with some MATRIX-style action (though blessedly absent a hint of wire-fu), and lent an air of actorly respectability with solid performances by Christian Bale, Emily Watson, Taye Diggs and Angus MacFadyen. The hook here is how Wimmer’s future does Bradbury’s one prohibition better. Not only are books and all forms of art banned, but feelings, as well; an extreme measure necessitated by a particularly devastating chain of wars that succeeded in nearly wiping out the human race altogether. To suppress citizens’ emotions, a drug known as Prozium has been created to level out any substantive passion in their lives (it must be taken several times a day), while a benevolent dictator known as “Father” has been installed, his will carried out by a highly-skilled army of soldiers (i.e. samurai) known as Clericks.
Bale plays Grammaton Cleric John Preston, a near-model officer driven to perfection in his job after the arrest and execution of his wife, who committed the cardinal sin of daring to feel; thus, leaving Preston to raise their two young children on their own (including his terrifying, Hitler Youth son, whose intense adherence to the state seems to unnerve even his father). When Preston is forced to kill his longtime friend and cohort, Partridge (Sean Bean), for reading a volume of Yeats, doubt and curiosity begin to creep into his life, a complication which becomes a professional hazard with the assignment of a new, promotion hungry partner played by Diggs. As Preston’s introspection deepens, he becomes taken with a woman (Watson) who may have connections to the underground, which leads him to forego his required Prozium intake and begin an inquiry into the meaning of a life without feeling.
As a serious work of science-fiction, EQUILIBRIUM is a thoughtful effort with ambitions that should far exceed its budget, but Wimmer, a first-time feature director, comes at his concept with a probing intellect that overrides any lack of scope. Plus, the guy’s got a superb eye for staging action, resulting in some giddily inventive hand-to-hand combat, including a discipline Joe Bob Briggs would likely chasten “gun-fu” (actually, he’s probably already used that, but it takes on a whole new meaning here). Though some might cry foul at the generously sampled references, it should be noted that the THE MATRIX was little more than an exciting pastiche of classic Hong Kong actioners and 90’s cyberpunk fiction, and, really, as film geeks, aren’t we fairly forgiving of familiarity so long as the set-pieces are suitably mindblowing? I know that I am, especially when a number of sequences are eliciting audible gasps for their thrillingly elaborate choreography. In fact, there’s a gunfight near the end that actually outdoes the lobby shootout in THE MATRIX in terms of staging and use of geography.
EQUILIBRIUM finally appears set for a December 6th release date, which places it against ADAPTATION and ANALYZE THAT. Though I’d love to see the film get a March 2003 opening, feeding off what’s sure to be rabid anticipation for X2 and MATRIX RELOADED, in much the same fashion ROMANCING THE STONE benefited from the pre-release excitement for INDIANA JONES AND THE TEMPLE OF DOOM, Wimmer’s picture might just appeal to audiences pissed off with the oomph-less SOLARIS (a film that’s number one on my must-see list, but which will probably infuriate general audiences). I hope so (as does the astute mastermind of CHUD, Nick Nunziata, who’s close to calling EQ his favorite film of 2003). This could very well be another PITCH BLACK if marketed correctly, and could do for Christian Bale what the disappointing REIGN OF FIRE could not last summer.
Put some work into this one, Bob. You’ve got a real sleeper on your hands.
Like Idiocy Written in Lightning
In an interview given nearly a decade ago, Jean-Luc Godard opined that “television manufactures a few memories, but cinema - as it should have been - creates memory, i.e. the possibility of memory”. Though he was probably dodging a question with a tenuous, tangential relation to the subject of the boob tube, Godard might very well have been discussing the difference between “Jackass”, the MTV trouble child, and JACKASS: THE MOVIE. For while the former has provided me with its share of indelible images, the latter, in all its transgressive, nauseating, gleefully imbecilic glory, has created memory like a motherfucker. It’s a week later, and I’m still laughing my ass off.
Certainly one of the more improbable television-to-film transfers, the project’s creative brain trust – Johnny Knoxville, Spike Jonze and Jeff Tremaine – have wisely stuck to the structure, such as it is, of the show, using the newfound freedom of their generously bestowed “R” rating to up the gross-out ante to inconceivable heights. They have not, I repeat, *have not* attempted to win any new followers with this picture; ergo, if you’re not a fan going in, you’re going to come out seeking a mental restraining order. Furthermore, as much as I rave over its “brilliance” – and I honestly believe it is touched by a rare, diseased genius – this film is most likely going to be savaged by critics worldwide (in fact, a wonderful stunt for the DVD would’ve been to clandestinely film the reactions at the various press screenings, especially on the highly unlikely chance that Andrew Sarris, John Simon or Rex Reed had shown up). Also, depending on how slow a news week it is, it’s sure to draw the ire of media watchdog groups and concerned parents throughout the country, and, really, is there anything more enjoyable than a bunch of humorless bastards expressing outrage over grown men stapling their testicles to their thigh?
If, however, you’re anywhere from a Jackass devotee to a casual fan, this is the most surefire ninety minutes of entertainment you’re going to get all year. Surprisingly well-paced, with nary a noticeable lag or dud amongst the stunts, JACKASS: THE MOVIE, from the elaborately staged opening sequence foreshadowed in its poster to its horribly *wrong* finale, shows no mercy on the audience. Walking out of the film, my entire face ached from non-stop laughter, which may be the highest compliment I can pay the film.
Working on the scatological assumption that something like Dusan Makavejev’s SWEET MOVIE is a floater in the cinematic toilet, it would be appropriate to view JACKASS an upper-decker. You can prepare yourself for the worst, conjure up the most elaborate pranks from the various underground skater tapes in which these guys made their names, and know they’ve been topped with a gauche gusto beyond anything they’ve attempted before. And while I’d love to share my favorite gags from the film, I can’t in good conscience spoil the shock value that is so crucial to maximizing their comedic effect.
I will say this, though….. the fireworks scene ranks alongside the “Master of Puppets” sequence from OLD SCHOOL as the most painfully uproarious moment in film that I’ve experienced this year.
“And the Road Leads to Nowhere...”
Any horror fan worth their weight in latex should certainly recognize the above quote as the opening lyric of the theme from Wes Craven and Sean S. Cunningham’s grindhouse classic LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT. If you’re now humming that gloomy, Simon and Garfunkle rip-off to yourself, you’re definitely a segment of Eli Roth’s intended audience with his much buzzed about CABIN FEVER, a ruthless splatter flick which pays tribute to its cinematic godfather by including the song on its soundtrack early in the film. And you might be the among the few who end up appreciating it.
Aside from a likeminded overindulgence in gratuitous gore, however, Roth’s film bears little resemblance to Craven’s blood-drenched Bergman workout, but does readily recall Antonio Margheriti’s more bluntly metaphoric CANNIBAL APOCALYPSE. Both films strike me as being similarly tardy in mining their themes for genre grist; whereas Margheriti’s work was an indictment of the United States involvement in Vietnam a full five years after our withdrawal from the region, Roth, through his depiction of outsiders who are wrongfully accused of introducing and spreading a virus in a backwater community, seems to be attempting a gruesome satire on the AIDS paranoia so prevalent in the 1990’s. In short, both pictures end up taking potshots at a bygone era, suggesting an idea too long in gestation and well past its expiration date.
Which is not to say that CABIN FEVER isn’t a good deal of disgusting fun despite such critical thematic shortcomings – for all his weaknesses as a satirist, Roth proves to be an absolutely fearless gorehound, and, ultimately, this makes the film more than worthwhile for genre devotees. Among the bloody highlights are a scabby leg shaving incident, an accidental plunge into a corpse-contaminated reservoir and, my personal favorite, a boy’s first sexual encounter that could vividly serve as a valuable abstinence scare tactic for Christians worldwide (the folks behind “Hell House” would do well to check this puppy out).
Viewed in the context of a typical H.G. Lewis bloodbath, CABIN FEVER more than holds its own, but I still find myself wishing Roth would’ve found a way to contemporize his metaphor. There’s obviously a smart filmmaker periodically at work in CABIN FEVER; it’ll be interesting to see which voice develops: the showman or the auteur.
By now, it was roughly six hours in to my drunken home invasion. Having redecorated the labs in the color scheme of my own vomit, I decided I had done all the damage in one day that one very bored, broke and inebriated man could do. I polished off my last Hamms, made an abusive phone call to the Pentagon that I’m sure was traced, and went on my merry way, but not without being a good guest and closing the front door.
Because that’s just the kind of classy guy I am.
You get bonus points for the use of the term “upper-decker” in your column today, Beaks, and I’d like to point out to anyone who’s going to see JACKASS... stay through every single second of the film. Until the lights come up. It’s worth it. Absolutely.