Issue #05/60, March 10 - 24, 1999  smlogo.gif

Krazy Kevin's Kino Korner

In This Issue
You are here
Moscow Babylon

Why Democracy Doesn't Work
Peaches 'n Hate
The Bolshoi Berezovsky
Negro Comix


Quantity over Quality

After several weeks of slim pickings, Moscow moviegoers finally have some variegated choices once again. We can only hope that the depleted market in illicit drugs will soon see a similar influx of new blood. Of course, this issue's newbies suck almost uniformly, but that's no reason to get all dispirited, now is it? No way! So put on your Kino Korner "Optimism" cap and turn that frown upside down. And away we go!

One movie you won't catch me dead at is Stepmom, directed by Chris
Columbus (Home Alone; Mrs. Doubtfire) and starring Susan Sarandon (scaly reptilian features deemed sexually attractive by deluded middle Americans who drink Coors Light; makes "protest" appearances on Oscar Award telecasts to self-servingly pitch for left-celebrity-friendly bleeding-heart political causes), Ed Harris (bald; stupid), Julia Roberts (redhead; Chicago native). If for some reason you need more of a reason to steer clear of this one, try to hunt down a RealAudio clip of the interview in which Sarandon reveals her dislike for the prefix "step" in stepmom and stepchild. The harpy actually claims to refer to her boarding school step-brats as "bonus children." I guess that makes her a "bonus-mom" or something. Jesus Christ.

Perhaps you're the type who might be tempted to check out Francis Coppola's entry in the John Grisham genre (The Rainmaker) because, after all, it's
Drunk scary wife-beater Andrew Shue
Coppola--so how bad can it be? Well that's where you're wrong. There's a very simple reason why Coppola, Altman, and other such grand old auteurs of the cinema are willing to attach their name to such color-by-numbers studio commodity: it's called being washed up. These days, Francis will do just about anything to keep his plate full of tuna melts, crack, or whatever it is that keeps him breathing, and it just so happens that directing a John Grisham adaptation goes a long way toward keeping that comfort food coming in steadily. And don't be fooled by the "stellar" cast of veteran character actors (Dean Stockwell, Jon Voight) and young up-and-comers (Matt Damon, Claire Danes). The only real reason to watch this one is Melrose Place's Andrew Shue in a brief non-talking and nearly faceless appearance as an amateur softballer (i.e., drunk) and wife-beater. I didn't particularly understand it, but I laughed until I fell out of my chair nevertheless.

Then again, maybe you're the type who thinks Coppola has put together a sub-par version of what many hold to be Grisham's finest disillusioned-redneck-lawyer yarn. Well, technically I guess you're right, but still I don't feel I have anything further to share with someone like you. So please return to that chat-room ghetto from whence you came. I think we'll all be a bit more comfortable that way.

Right about now I've got a hankerin' for a long, quirky, title, so where better to turn than "those witty Brits," as American MTV indoctrinated me during my adolescence. And so we have Martha, Meet Frank, Daniel and
(the U.S. release carries the less ludicrous, but even more meaningless title The Very Thought of You) from long-time Rik Mayall collaborators director Nick Hamm and writer Peter Morgan (also responsible for the teensploitation Poison Ivy series).

But any hope for absurd, subversive comedy a la The Young Ones or teen seductresses ends with the opening credits, for Martha and the Three Dorks is one of those bizarre attempts to remake the American romantic comedy genre in true Brit style. And like Nikita Mikhalkov's Russified barbershop Titanic, the resulting quality is considerably lower than the already revolting original being so ineptly aped. From the London yuppies paying way too much for bogus food in Jetsons-esque upscale diners to the idealized American ditz who falls in love with literally every man she speaks to or who has alcohol to offer to the J. Crew male romantic lead (and less accomplished younger bro of Ralph Fiennes, if I'm not mistaken) who looks like Pete Sampras and teaches bridge, everything about this movie made me want to vomit. Mentally much more than physically, but still. Since this is a British film, I think I'll just say "Shite!" and be done with it. "Shite!" it is, then.

It was not without some trepidation that I went to see 8MM, a film that is perhaps most notable for arriving in Moscow a mere two weeks after its U.S. release. (If this seems like a good thing, stop to think about why a movie would show up in a third-tier, low-yield market like Russia so soon. That's right: bombsville, baby.) For one thing, the film is showing at Kinomir and dubbed. Then there's the argument that star Nicolas Cage's glory days are long
behind him and never to return--compelling, I'll admit.

But the single most important factor is Joel Shumacher, perhaps the most inept director ever to take credit for allegedly stepping behind the camera. Arguably most famous for being a hopeless junkie part of the whole Dr. Robert scene in '60s New York, Joel's finest film by far is St. Elmo's Fire--a holocaustal little outing responsible for perpetuating the careers of some of the 1980s' biggest douche bags but which I nevertheless find myself unable to resist. Moreover, Joel is also physically incapable of filming motion of any kind--he just can't do it (look at even the most static scenes of Batman Forever to see what I mean). It does not bode well that 8MM spends at least 70% of its 120 minutes hanging aimlessly around the action genre. And I might also add that your vision is getting worse every minute of every day, and particularly as you read tightly spaced column.

But try not to worry too much about that which you are helpless to change. It's not too late to save what's left of your vision by skipping this one. Just in case you might feel cheated by this omission or that you're somehow missing out on key cultural info, here's the movie's basic message in an oversized nutshell. No matter how much you might enjoy cavorting with the many "bad" people from the wrong side of the tracks you meet as part of your day job, you must always return to your ugly wife and ugly child and smoke-free household and autumn leaf-raking and faux paneling--even if you're a Nicolas Cage character in a third-rate film. And oh yeah, there's also something about how some "bad" people were just born that way and it wasn't the fault of abusive or neglectful parenting at all. In other words, most of the people who are born into and die in less-desirable suburbs at the bottom rungs of the American middle class are just getting what they deserve. Feeling better now?

Which brings us to Six Ways to Sunday. Don't let director Adam Bernstein's It's Pat pedigree or the cloying indie-film trappings scare you off--if only because this is the only ray of sunlight out there this week. Loosely rooted in an Oedipal cul-de-sac more or less equidistant from the creepy and absurd neighborhoods of, respectively, Spanking the Monkey and The Waterboy (located about 40 miles from Cleveland in a place called Youngstown (PA?), apparently), this Psycho-meets-GoodFellas tale of I'm not quite sure what has enough pleasant surprises to at least keep the intelligent viewer from wanting to hurt himself. And considering the weekend I've just had, that's enough for me. So just ignore the half-baked social satire and bothersome Oliver Stone stroboscopic cinematography, sit back, and enjoy the "Joe Mama"-joke fun.

Or not. Hell, it's a free country, brother.

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