TORO! :: bull by the horns

an online compendium of culture and commentary

in bruges – close, but not quite

Posted by rollinsloane on 29 February 2008

I can pretty much tell whether or not I’m going to like a movie by what Roger Ebert says about it –a thumbs-up from that senile old windbag and I know I can save myself a trip to the Cineplex.  (This is the clinically insane reviewer who mistook Julie Taymor’s Across the Universe for “enchanting” instead of “atrocious,” after all). So when Ebert gifted In Bruges with a 4-star crown, my heart sank. I had so wanted to like this movie.

Scripted and helmed by acid-tongued playwright Martin McDonaugh (whose Broadway production of The Lieutenant of Inishmore oscillated spectacularly between hysterical and appallingly grisly), In Bruges sticks two Irish hitman into wee Belgium’s most picturesque city and waits for sparks to fly. The conceit is certainly there, and the cast is game. Colin Farrell steps up to the plate as a soft-hearted crime neophyte in way over his head, while Brendan Gleeson (gifted with one of those gloriously froggy faces forever doomed to character work or radio) plays pseudo-uncle as a gentlemanly seen-it-all pro.  Even Ralph Fiennes eschews his usual man-of-few-words gloom to exude some charisma as the duo’s feisty employer, an aggressive kingpin with a strict moral code.

The pieces are all there, but first-time director McDonaugh simply lacks the elusive cinematic glue that could let them gel into a greater whole.  The beats are off; the verbal rat-a-tat of his plays lags on screen, with the boys’ amiable, expletive banter either repeating endlessly or stalling short of relevance.  A few shots pop from the screen with visual wit, especially when a paunchy falling body explodes all over Bruges’s signature cobblestones, but the movie’s overall look is hum-drum and cable-ready.

The script also slings around some wordy, hateful barbs about race and obesity and dwarves that seem geared to antagonize rather than go in any prescribed direction.  Must midgets always be so harped upon?  The ending becomes a beautiful knot of narrative threads, but the dialogue that flavors the journey is either ponderous or left-field.  In Bruges could have used an editor with as hack a mentality as its bloated script.



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when I think ignoble deaths, I think ‘deep blue sea’

Posted by rollinsloane on 28 February 2008

New York Magazine‘s online Vulture squad — one hell of a pop culture crack-unit — is pretty much my Google Reader equivalent of the daily paper, and typically generates Top 10 lists to put the AV Club to shame.  They served it up right today with “Ten Beloved Characters, Ten Ignoble Deaths,” compiling a bunch of lame-death/cool-character combos to honor The Wire‘s latest undeserving victim.  Donny from The Big Lebowski was an obvious choice (not to mention prelude to filmdom’s most awesome eulogy ever), and list-topper Jesus (from The Passion) a total f-ing cop-out, but damn if #9 ain’t the saddest demise in shark-movie history.  When Deep Blue Sea‘s Samuel L. Jackson first got it from behind, it sent my teen heart leaping straight back at the screen.

 — Sloane

PS — The LA Times amused itself last week with an untimely but totally true career re-cap of the many hair stylings of y’all’s favorite Mr. Jackson.  Never would the NY Times print such offbeat non-news, and thus has the LA Times indefinitely proved to me its far superior worth.

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ahem…phallic, much?

Posted by rollinsloane on 28 February 2008

I don’t know how I missed this beaut the first time around, but jeez, have a gander at the poster art for Marky Mark’s recent starring role.

shooter movie poster

Shooter? For god’s sake, this thing looks like it came straight out of the San Fernando Valley. My good ol roommate Marcie brought the DVD home last night (straight out of the Blockbuster discount bin — yes, she still goes there) and I thought she’d suddenly developed a thing for soft-core.


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we heart

Posted by rollinsloane on 28 February 2008

TiVo’s great, but when’s the last time you watched it at work? Turn to during those midday doldrums for a quick TV infusion. And no, I’m not talking Office re-runs either. Check this: Way Back Wednesdays, NBC’s retro headquarters featuring the C-grade likes of A-Team, Battlestar Galatica (70s version!), The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, Buck Rogers and, yes, Miami Vice. Full episodes, clips, interviews — the works, and all without a DVD player. Yeah, you love it. Why didn’t VH1 think of this?


Warning: there are internet commercials to deal with, but you have to look busy when the boss comes by anyway. Nothing in this life is free (except intern slave labor!).

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get out the andre — we’re back

Posted by rollinsloane on 28 February 2008

So we finally got ourselves some minimum-wage jobs and assumed that even slave-labor cog work in the bowels of a fashion magazine would be mildly entertaining, but here we are, crawling back five weeks later, bored to tears. Get ready for more pop culture lovin, coming at you the way god intended — unencumbered by the inferior grammatical stylings of some overbearing “managing” editor.

— Sloane, Rafe & Ollie

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cloverfield: um, where was everyone else?

Posted by rollinsloane on 21 January 2008

No matter how scary the monster or how efficient the military, there’s absolutely no way even in CGI-ville that the entirety of Manhattan could successfully clear out in about two hours.  There’s no way.  None.  Period.  When Cloverfield‘s nubile 20-somethings scurry through the streets and subways and apartment buildings of one New York City without coming across so much as one other fleeing or cowering urbanite, the movie gives up the appealing cinema verite gimmick established by its handheld camcorder and pretty much goes into action movie-mode.  Its early setting touches worked beautifully — electronic store burglary, zombie-like dust-covered crowds, a Central Park carriage horse wandering without a rider.  Why not play a little more with the city and its famously hardened denizens and have the protags stumble across a pack of homeless in the subway (already armed with canned food and blankets), or an emptying club (mini-skirted girls clinging to frightened bouncers), or a gaggle of awed, camera-toting tourists?  If you must attack New York, for God’s sake, at least have fun with it.


And why attack New York at all?  Vulture has a list of other cities that could use a good monster thrashing.  My vote’s for Vegas.

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why juno’s best screenplay accolades are rather off-the-mark

Posted by rollinsloane on 21 January 2008

Sure, Juno‘s a cute movie, solid the whole way around and with characters so compelling you wish it ran more than 96 minutes.  But Best Screenplay?  Considering it’s about teenage pregnancy, Juno does incredibly little ruminating on either being a pregnant teenager or pregnant in general.  Obviously screenwriter Diablo Cody has never herself been preggers, or we might have been treated to Juno’s caustic take on swollen feet, constant bloat or seven-odd months of scandalized stares and awkward pauses.  Juno remains sweet, simple and audience-friendly because it never treads into that uncomfortable territory.  How else could Juno be so plucky all the time?

It’s a cute movie, yes, but not a fully written one.  Cody makes the first-screenplay mistake of being utterly linear and entirely relevant to the plot at hand, rather than expanding the story out into other directions.  Don’t get me wrong — Juno is terrific, and deserves its praise.  But shouldn’t Best Screenplay awards be reserved for a piece of work that challenges the form?   When a script’s innovations are just a handful of out-there lines like “Your eggo is preggo,” hailing it as Oscar bait is ludicrous.

— Sloane 

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the chinese barack obama

Posted by rollinsloane on 17 January 2008

I know that fat dude on SNL is slimming down in the hopes of snagging a four-year gig as resident Obama impersonator, but if I were Lorne Michaels I would hire a translator and cast this guy instead:

tony leung lust caution

Chinese actor Tony Leung, best known for anchoring Wong Kar-Wai’s gracefully melancholy films (In the Mood for Love, 2046) and currently starring in Ang Lee’s erotic spy thriller Lust, Caution.  He’s always been a bit boyish-looking — just like the Dem’s most cuddly candidate.

barack obama

— Sloane 


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worst review quite possibly ever — I’ll even take Ebert over Elaine

Posted by rollinsloane on 17 January 2008

Whoever Elaine is over at /film, she ought to be anticipating the hook. This chick couldn’t review the Bratz movie with any eye for nuance. Her review for There Will Be Blood depends so heavily on simple tenses that even spectacularly unspectacular points about basic film production seem subtle: “The first thing I noticed about There Will Be Blood was the sound design. It’s something that many filmmakers don’t focus on anymore, but can really make a film stand out.” Ms. Elaine goes on to compliment the film’s “ominous feel of every scene,” “superb filmmaking,” and the fact that “the psychology of the film is unique” without any need for elaboration.

— Sloane

PS — check out LA CityBeat‘s Andy Klein instead.

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four-letter feasts

Posted by rollinsloane on 15 January 2008

The fine folks over at Box Office Psychics have put together a list of the 53 most ‘fuck’-filled movies (thanks to The Wire‘s all-‘fuck’ murder investigation scene, I think we already know which TV show takes top honors).

Not surprisingly, a documentary on the word has the highest ‘fuck’ count. It will also shock no one that 24 of the 53 are from 1990 and on, and 26 are from 2000 and on — mainstream’fuck’ acceptance is a modern trend. Only Scarface, Born on the Fourth of July and Eddie Murphy: Raw represent the 80s (and how). Also featured: Quentin Tarantino (19, 20, 27), Martin Scorsese (3, 10, 25), Kevin Smith (22) and The Dude (1998), not to mention Eminem (42), 50 Cent (50) and, of course, Judd Apatow and Seth Rogen (53).

1. Fuck (2005) – 824
2. Nil by Mouth (1997) – 428
3. Casino (1995) – 398
4. Alpha Dog (2007) – 367
5. Twin Town (1997) – 318
6. Summer of Sam (1999) – 315
7. Running Scared (2006) – 315
8. Martin Lawrence Live: Runteldat (2002) – 311
9. Menace II Society (1993) – 300
10. Goodfellas (1990) – 300
11. Narc (2002) – 297
12. Harsh Times (2006) 296
13. Another Day in Paradise (1998) – 291
14. Made (2001) – 291
15. Dirty (2005) – 280
16. Jarhead (2005) – 278
17. Bully (2001) – 274
18. State Property 2 (2005) – 271
19. Reservoir Dogs (1992) – 269
20. Pulp Fiction (1994) – 265
21. The Big Lebowski (1998) – 260
22. Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back (2001) – 248
23. Dead Presidents (1995) – 247
24. The Boondock Saints (1999) – 239
25. The Departed (2006) – 237
26. Empire (2002) – 236
27. True Romance (1993) – 234
28. State of Grace (1990) – 230
29. My Name Is Joe (1998) 230
30. Gridlock’d (1997) 227
31. The Devil’s Rejects (2005) – 224
32. Eddie Murphy Raw (1987) – 223
33. Suicide Kings (1997) – 222
34. Black and White (1999) – 215
35. American History X (1998) – 214
36. The Original Kings of Comedy (2000) 213
37. Layer Cake (2005) 210
38. Scarface (1983) 207
39. Spun (2002) 203
40. A Bronx Tale (1993) 200
41. Foolish (1999) 200
42. 8 Mile (2002) 200
43. DysFunktional Family (2003) 200
44. I Got the Hook Up (1998) 197
45. Born on the Fourth of July (1989) – 196
46. Overnight (2003) – 191
47. Magnolia (1999) – 190
48. Monster (2003) – 187
49. Hustle and Flow (2005) – 186
50. Get Rich or Die Tryin’ (2005) 185
51. Formula 51 (2001) – 180
52. Flawless (1999) – 178
53. Superbad (2007) – 176


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