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by Bill Gibron

23 Jan 2010

It’s said that confession is good for the soul. Of course, this assumes one has a conscience worth redeeming. It’s clear that not everyone would benefit from such acknowledgments or affirmations. To do so would reveal their own inner weakness and sense of corrupt complicity. Such an individual is Briony Tallis. For almost 80 years, she has hid the secret of her atrocious actions, of a decent man wrongly accused, a heartsick girl horribly hurt, and a love unable to fully flower. She’s finally decided to write about it - her last novel. She calls it Atonement, for that’s what it’s meant to do. But even in the act of contrition, she can’t allow the truth to dampen the forced fanciful mood.

You see, back before Hitler invaded Europe, the Tallis clan lived a life of privilege. While son Leon hobnobbed with his school chums in London, daughters Cecilia and Briony spent the summer heat in the country. While Briony, the youngest, entertains herself with writing and secret passions, Cecilia appears directionless - that is, until those moments when servant’s son Robbie Turner shows up. He’s been favored by the family, sent to school on their good graces (and money) and welcomed in their home as a quasi-equal. He adores Cecilia. She’s just realizing her own emotional and physical attachment. A scandalous note, the arrival of a young chocolate merchant, and a night of horrific sexual misunderstandings lands Robbie in jail, Cecilia devastated, and Briony defiant. War only deepens the already substantial wounds.


by Bill Gibron

20 Jan 2010

It remains one of the great moments in an otherwise factually questionable film. As the members of the Sex Pistols (or in this case, Alex Cox’s interpretation of the band) stand around in a local bar, acting bemused, a raucous band with what looks like a little girl as frontwoman takes the stage and blows the roof off the place. As the aggressive lyrics argue for this quirky adolescent’s desire to be a “slave for you all”, the cinematic audience erupts in a maelstrom of unbridled pogo passion. If you didn’t know your punk history, if you failed in following the mid ‘70s eruption of musical DIY in England, you’d never know this was Sid and Nancy‘s dolled up representation of one of the eras greatest acts - X-ray Spex, and their amazing songwriter/singer, Poly Styrene. 

Before she abandoned the three chord snarl for the equally daring life of a Hari Krishna, the group’s de facto leader (actually named Marian Joan Elliot from Bromley, Kent in the UK) was also the movement’s main spokesperson. She had only one other lyrical equal - and even he (the Pistol’s Johnny Rotten) couldn’t keep up with her superb youth in retail revolt spirit. With sentiments that both mocked and embraced the shallow, consumerism in which she lived, the lax country she came from, and the dead-eyed kids she communicated with everyday, she became the poet laureate of the lacking. Combined with a drive that only comes from being young (18) naïve, and unafraid, Styrene created the era’s most enduring statement (the amazing album Germ Free Adolescents) before purposefully pulling herself from the limelight.

by Bill Gibron

18 Jan 2010

The next time the movie moratorium committee meets, here’s hoping that they can sneak the over-the-top balls-out gunplay action effort onto their already swollen agenda (somewhere between the lame RomCom, fright flick remakes, and the stand-up joke fest CG family film). A couple of decades back, when visionaries like John Woo illustrated how powerful and dramatic a slow motion firefight could be, we were more than willing to pay attention. Now, several years and several hundred imitations later, there is no need to wallow in such stylized self-aggrandizement.

When Joe Carnahan released Smokin’ Aces back in 2006, the revved up arch ammunition experience was seen as something of a revelation. Sure, the characters were thin and more or less cartoonish, but with a wanton weaponry appreciation matching few and a fever dream pitch to the presentation, it looked like the man responsible for Narc and Blood, Guts, Bullets, and Octane had finally reconfigured the action film. But in the last couple of years, his varied vision has been usurped and bettered by Michael Davis (Shoot ‘Em Up) and Timur Bekmambetov (Wanted).

by Bill Gibron

17 Jan 2010

(Warning: this look at the new DVD version of Rob Zombie’s Halloween II contains MASSIVE SPOILERS. Read at your own risk.)

It was an iconic moment that no one got to see…until now. In it, everything about Rob Zombie’s reboot of the John Carpenter classic was spelled out in simplistic, symbolic terms. Michael Myers, the Shape, the Boogeyman with the big knife and the even bigger urge to kill, is finally unmasked, his haggard, mountain man façade explaining what two years in the wilderness will do to someone. With his psychological barrier finally broken, with his last exasperated breath, the soon to be legendary slayer speaks.

That’s right, the notoriously mute and monstrous visage, known for his silent seething rage, actually opens his mouth and says the first words he’s spoken in nearly three decades. And what is said magical sentence? A single word - “DIE!” And who is it aimed at? Not his long lost sister Laurie Strode/Angel Myers. Not the haunting vision of his dead mother. No, the emphatic demand is leveled at the man who has tortured and tormented him as much as any other “father” figure in his life (including an incredibly abusive step-dad who jumpstarted this overall urge to destroy). That’s when this version of Michael Myers, this giant mountain of menace, takes his long blade and sticks it, sadistically, into Dr. Samuel Loomis.

The End.

by Bill Gibron

15 Jan 2010

Smokin’ Aces is a movie that desperately wants to be liked. Not by your typical mainstream moviegoer, however. No, Joe Carnahan’s follow-up to his well received Narc is feverishly adamant about being adored by the frantic film geek contingent – the mélange of messageboard taste makers who determine their own individual aesthetic criteria by what Quentin Taratino determines is cool on his MySpace page. It’s the cinematic equivalent of the slightly introverted dork who walks around the high school cool kids bragging about his accomplishments and contacts. By faking and fronting, this movie hopes to grab their attention and earn an uneasy place in their crime genre lovin’ hearts.

It’s just too bad then that the director decides to win their praise by overplaying his obvious and rather obscure hand. Part of the problem is in the story itself. Smokin’ Aces (being re-released on Blu-ray by Universal on 19, January) rests its entire effectiveness on our desire to empathize with and/or outright despise its amoral center, a sleazy Las Vegas magician named Buddy “Aces” Israel. Brought to remarkable life by Entourage‘s Jeremy Piven, this miscreant mobster wannabe is ready to rat out the entire West Coast syndicate, and a substantial bounty has been placed on his head (and, oddly enough, his heart). Naturally, word gets out on the street that the successful assassin will earn themselves $1 million large, and before you know it, every noted nutcase with a comic book persona and a wealth of heavy artillery is headed towards Israel’s Lake Tahoe penthouse suite. Their goal? Pump this putz full of lead – and various other projectiles- before the Feds can speed him off to Witness Protection.

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