Sling Blade

Sling BladeMmm-hm. Reckon I’d like some o’ dem french fried potaters. Mmm-hm.

Yes, yes. So I’m 6 years late to the “imitating that guy from Sling Blade” party. Sosumi. I like the way he talks. 🙂

“That guy” in question is Karl, a somewhat mentally unstable fellow played by Billy Bob Thornton, who also wrote and directed (talented bastard). As it turns out, Karl killed a fellow when he was around 10 years old. He thought his mom was being raped by the local teen bully, but after killing him, found out that his mom “didn’t mind so much what he was doin’ to her,” and so… young Carl meted out justice to her in a similar fashion.

Fast forward about 20 years or so, and Karl is being released from the mental hospital where they’ve evaluated him as “well.” He soon befriends a young boy, Frank (strikingly portrayed by Lucas Black), and soon after, his mother and her gay friend, John Ritter. AAlgar warned me, quoting Aerosol Nights, he might seem “lost, out of place,” but I think he actually did a commendable job convincing me that he was “living gay.”

We’re also introduced to Frank’s mom’s current boyfriend (Dwight Yoakam, being a total dick), through Frank’s first few words about him, telling Karl he hurts her sometimes. This seemed to be pretty obvious early foreshadowing the inevitable consequences of someone hurting someone else Karl cares for, but there was still the chance of redemption balancing out the weight of Karl’s past.

This is a character-driven film, and Karl’s character was always interesting. Just when you start to relax about Karl being around this young boy, Karl offhandedly dregs up another horrific piece of his past, raising the tension back up, and eventually forcing you to wonder if perhaps Karl’s father (a crazy ol’ Robert Duvall) should have been the one thrown in the mental hospital.

Throughout, the cinematography is simple, but effective. The writing is excellent, and compelling to the end. Even with the music that’s sometimes so annoying it pulls you out of the scene, a highly recommended film.

R :: 1996 :: dir. Billy Bob Thornton :: 5 stars

DVD features include… umm… the option to have Karl reckon he likes them pommes frites instead. Mmm-hm.

The Last Emperor [Director’s Cut]

The Last Emperor - Director's CutI wanted to like this movie. I really wanted to like this movie. As it turns out, though, this is one of those select few films that drag in the beginning and the end, yet are compelling in the middle. I suppose that’s a risk you run when you make a movie based on a true story. Dramatize too much, and you lose what made the real events special. Dramatize too little� and you get a documentary with icing on top. Unfortunately, this turns out to be the latter.

John Lone is excellent as Pu Yi, the last Emperor of China, and Ruocheng Ying provides an excellent counterpart as the governor of the detention center in which most of the non-flashback parts of the movie are told. Unfortunately, not nearly enough of the movie explores the dynamic between these two great characters, and instead flashbacks to a beautifully filmed, yet ultimately boring, history lesson.

I’m not sure how many times I thought to myself, What the hell? What the fuck are they doing?, only to give up and wait for an explanation that would never come. To compound the confusion, secondary characters in the film speak Chinese almost exclusively (with no English subtitles), which makes the chanting paraders and other extras all the less interesting. Less inexplicable rituals and less time spent viewing cultural events that have no bearing on the main story would have probably served well to cut down on the excessive 3:28 running time.

To sum up, more Victor Wong, more Peter O’Toole, and less Joan Chen and her lesbain pilot lover. The better bet is probably the book featured in the film itself, Twilight in the Forbidden City, by P O’T’s real-life counterpart, Reginald F. Johnston.

NR :: 1987 :: dir. Bernardo Bertolucci :: 3 stars

DVD features include the theatrical trailer, production notes, and some really ugly-ass menus.

Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner

Guess Who's Coming to DinnerI have to admit, when the opening credits came on, and the cheesy 60s music started, I thought I would find it hard to take this movie seriously� but with all the humor (intentional and unintentional) it drew me in, and in the end, made me think, which, to me, is what a good film is all about.

It’s a very funny picture, a good part of it being the nervous tension that you feel right along with the characters. It keeps being funny all the way through, while hitting some big home runs when it comes to actually addressing the issues of prejudice. An incredible movie that still hits its mark 35 years later.

NR :: 1967 :: dir. Stanley Kramer :: 5 stars