Movie Snips, Part 1

Shamefully it has been almost a whole year since my last movie review for Exploded Goat. In the meantime, here are some candy capsules for your goat-laden pleasure.

A.I. Artificial Intelligence


Which demonstrates Stevely Kuberg’s admirable, near-genius shtick for amalgamation — the wunderkind finishing what the svengali started. As watchable as it is bad, A.I. is cue-compressing of such movies as Pinocchio, 2001: A Space Odyssey, A Clockwork Orange, Close Encounters Of The Third Kind (auto-citation, here), Blade Runner, E.T. (again, auto-citation), Mad Max At Thunderdome, and yes, even Sophie’s Choice. The mother character lacks sympathy requisite not only to viewer endearment toward the boybot’s Lacanian plight, but to the movie auteur’s quest for auteurism as well. Unsurprisingly, it is the film’s best scenes which smack most of Kubrick’s distinct visual touch.

Carlito’s Way


Lovelier than Goodfellas, in the sense that Pacino’s Carlito is sweeter than Ray Liotta’s cat-eyed conniver, Henry Hill, ever is.

Donnie Darko


A time-tripped, tone-muddled melange of John Hughes movies and duper gobs of autumnal gothic.

From Hell


Johnny Depp, who is quite good, seems (to know he is) too hip to play an inspector in Queen Victoria’s Jack the Ripper mess. Still, this is horror-movie heaven (or, yeah, hell) so richly stylish and faithful that it becomes its comic-book milieu.

Hedwig And The Angry Inch


Better glam guignol than either Rocky Horror or Velvet Goldmine.

Jeepers Creepers


Never too gross or ironic. Though an initial chokehold of suggestion is later dumped for literalness, at least the movie has a genuinely scary buildup.

The Lord Of The Rings — Fellowship Of The Ring


After you consider how liberally the film excises characters and events from the book1, it still dollops the herky-jerky fog-of-combat with Spielbergian sentiment (not Tolkien’s kind, which rings a droll sort of modesty). After years of literary and cinematic rip-off, L.O.T.R.‘s “standards,” like those of the as-yet-unfilmed Catcher In The Rye, have become thoroughly woven into pop culture. Fellowship‘s screen adaptation has ultimately more in common with all the assorted lifts, takeoffs, and offshoots of any given matinee serial (e.g., Raiders Of The Lost Ark) than it does with Tolkien himself. But I still like the movie.

1And it’s well understood that this is just one guy’s version of a hit tale rooted in countless universalisms. So the result can’t be expected to stay so faithful as to make itself pointless when all one needs do is plunk down the original tome.2

2Given especially that author Tolkien’s truest romance was with the English language and words themselves (and each of the roles they play in his stories), thus trumping from the outset any cinematic rendering.

The Man Who Wasn’t There


Utmost, honorable stylists, the Coen brothers (like the Hughes brothers in their movie, From Hell) give craft to sterling craft in yet another overdone period piece, one as moody and droll as actor Billy Bob Thornton. But its self-conscious manner is too self-serving.

Minority Report


Deep blue Matrix — on the whole, pretty good postmodernist entertainment. But no matter how ingeniously dystopic or despairing his futureworld is, Spielberg’s anticlimactic humanism disrupts his moralist streak. And, like A.I., multiple references abound for movie literati: Clockwork shades of Kubrick (for this alone, both A.I. and M.R. are highly watchable); neo-noir (e.g., gimmicky, Memento-like convolutions — did Chinatown make this sorta thing obligatory? — with a predictable, L.A. Confidential-like twist); Logan’s Run; and riffs on Brian De Palma (e.g., the Ethan Hunt hairdo on Tom Cruise, as well as, in one sequence, the extended overhead-camera-pan).

Monsters, Inc.


It’s kind of unsettling how Pixar Studios has graphically animated, sanitized, and damn near sterilized a subject (kids’ fear of the thing under the bed or in the closet) best known for its hulking power of suggestion. But that’s beside the point: Woolly monsters, a few slugs, and lots of extra cheese — the goal, folks.

The Others


Chilly is as chilly does. Not until the gimmicky, Sixth Sense-like end does all the pent-up buildup pay off, and by then it’s much too late: Because the pace plods to the point of asphyxiation, the wooden characters over-ooze the aridness of the decor, staunching any surprise effect the movie might have had. So repression is stuffy — what else is new?



Singer Lou Reed’s album, Berlin, comes clanging to mind — brilliant maybe, probably dumb, definitely silly. And for all its imaginative (silver) balls, “silly” worth a look; seesaw, gory corn just wild and weird enough to hang mordantly between humor and horror’s precarious thread-ends. Not necessarily likeable, but chilling just the same. Also, get a load of the Goblins-like soundtrack.



Doesn’t blow me away, but not bad. If an animated movie is to appeal to me, it must follow through with its cuteness (e.g., Bambi) or with its cynicism (e.g., South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut), short of pandering. Which is to say that, being merely clever as it is, Shrek seems to exist only for the sake of the mainstream.

State and Main


Alan Alda’s movie, Sweet Liberty, is one possible prototype. But no matter how slight, Mamet is Mamet (which is good enough for anyone).

The Wicker Man

(1973, 102 min. version)

Of a strange, unfussed gaiety and pointed, pagan-inspired fact (epitomized by Christopher Lee), and which never succumbs to Hammer-headed cheap thrills. The dreamy lucidity is simply stirring.

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