for posterity's sake, here's what was to be the final column of my previous review service -- but in the new, back-from-the-dead, teddy's takes format. at the time things did indeed look dark, but as you can see, your man durgin is nothing if not resilient. like freddy kruger. or the terminator. or gollum. i've added some interview content as well, for completeness.
--td

 wednesday, september 21, 2005

   
  the big goodbye
  blueline
  wow, this is a review i hoped i'd never have to write. no, not "deuce bigelow 3: intergalactic gigolo" (oh, god, i think i just gave someone somewhere in hollywood a screenplay idea). unfortunately, my friends, this is my final hollywood reviews column. the time has come for coachville and me to part ways amicably. no, kids. don't blame yourselves. you're not the reason mommy and daddy are getting a divorce. it's not your fault.

all jokes aside. i want to thank everyone who has made this service the amazing success it has been for the last five-plus years. thanks to god, of course. i have been one blessed son of a gun. thanks to my late grandma who continues to be an inspiration to me today. thank you to mickie kennedy, who founded the service and hired me originally for his company. thanks to the late coachville founder thomas leonard, who acquired this service a year after it was founded and then gave me a freedom to write that most journalists only dream about. thanks to everyone at the company in the years since thomas' death who have kept his great vision alive, especially andrea lee, heidi costas, rick brodeur, and dave buck. and thanks to my beautiful wife and baby daughter, my family, my friends, and my colleagues at allied advertising and terry hines and associates who have given me such incredible support over the years.

last and certainly not least, i want to thank you, my wonderful subscribers. many of you have stuck with me from the start on may 5, 2000. many of you have joined the hollywoodreviews/flickville bandwagon in the years since. i have received countless emails from so many of you over the years, and i have printed out and saved many of our correspondences in folders that i keep for encouragement in the sad times. needless to say, i have been reading quite a few of them in recent days. you all are very dear to me, and i am honored to have served you for as long as i have. if interest is there, dear readers, i would love to continue my column on a paid basis for a very small annual fee. please email me at the address above for details. i still love the movies, and i still love writing about them.

alright. i can hear my inner captain solo saying, "don't go all mushy on me." thanks to all who believed.

now, for one last time, here is my latest review:

   
   
  a sweet, twisted little fantasy
the corpse bride
  blueline
  the corpse bride (now playing in new york and l.a., rolling out nationwide sept. 23) is a sweet, little, twisted fantasy from the warped minds of tim burton, frequent collaborator johnny depp, and animator mike johnson. this stop-motion/computer-animated film actually made me nostalgic as all hell for so many of the movies these three have made over the years that have stoked my passion for cinema. it really is an amalgam of their efforts, as it boasts elements of "the nightmare before christmas," "beetlejuice," "sleepy hollow," and even depp's "pirates of the caribbean."

the film tells the story of victor von dort (voiced by depp), a young and clumsy lad who has been promised in marriage to victoria everglot (emily watson) a woman he has never met. it's victorian england society, and their respective families want to increase their social standing by uniting the two wallflowers. to victor and victoria's surprise, it's love at first sight.

but victor totally freaks out at the wedding under the stern formality of pastor galswells (the great voice of christopher lee) and botches his vows to the point where galswells orders him to learn the ceremony backwards and forwards or else don't get married at all. alone in the woods later on, he inadvertently practices by putting the ring on the finger of a skeleton, bringing the corpse bride (helen bonham carter) of the film's title to life. to victor's surprise and the bride's enchantment, it's love at first fright.

from there, the movie turns into a surprisingly beguiling love triangle, made all the more captivating by the macabre rendering of the world of the dead that victor is taken to by his newly betrothed. back in the real world, victoria pines for his return, his family searches the countryside, and the british tabloids have a field day with rumors of another woman. at 75 minutes, burton and co-director give their story a tight focus that in some places feels a touch rushed. for instance, the film has a villain that seems almost like an after-thought in spots. and i wish there had been more scenes with the various skeletal characters, several of whom factor into the film's climax in ways that could have really paid off better had they been properly set up earlier in the flick.

but the magic of the film is how involved you get in the story. i believe the best animated films make even the adults in the audience forget they are indeed watching animation. "the corpse bride" works in this way, thanks mainly to its compelling misfit characters and to some well-realized music numbers from danny elfman (too bad his songs for "charlie and the chocolate factory" couldn't have been this catchy). it also works because it doesn't try too hard to be the next great leap in animation. the england sequences are actually quite dreary, as burton and co. are clearly more in love with the dead world below.

in closing (sob & sob), i would definitely recommend paying to see this one. some movie-biz insiders are saying this is the film that will resurrect hollywood's fortunes at the box office. ugh. too much pressure! this is really a simple story, beautifully told. ignore the hype and just go enjoy it. and, hey, i just hope enough of you good folks resurrect me!

"the corpse bride" is rated pg for action and some scary animated images.

 
 
warner brothers, 2005. starring johnny depp (victor van dort), emily watson (victoria everglot), helena bonham-carter (corpse bride). directed by tim burton, mike johnson.
movie web site
internet movie database entry
   
   
  wisteria lane: sexy, silly and worth a visit
desperate housewives - the complete first season
  blueline
  the biggest new hit of this past tv season was unquestionably abc's "desperate housewives" (new on dvd this past tuesday). my wife loves the show. i love it whenever i can tune in and it doesn't interview with sunday night football. and network executives throughout new york and l.a. are still scratching their heads to explain just how this beautifully made show works.

i think the reasons are pretty simple. first of all, it is superbly written, directed, and acted. second, it feels both old and familiar and new and exciting. old in that combines the best elements of everything from "american beauty" to "knot's landing" to every network soap opera ever beloved by mainstream audiences. new in that it never tries to clone any one particular show. new in that even people who don't watch the show know what you are talking about when you say "wisteria lane."

it helps that the cast is made up of familiar faces from a variety of popular shows from tv's most recent past. so, different fans from different programs all have windows to peer into this sexy and silly world of "desperate housewives." teri hatcher hails from "lois and clark." nicolette sheridan is a former resident of "knots landing." marcia cross and doug savant used to live at "melrose place." felicity huffman lit up "sports night." eva longoria played a great villainess on "the young and the restless." and robert culp was memorable on the early seasons of "jag." these are all shows both popular and cult. and their followings have combined for some big ratings.

the new dvd boxed set, dubbed "desperate housewives -- the complete first season," is chock full of goodies for both fans of the show and those who only discover series tv now through these great disc collections. among the special features are multiple commentaries by cast, crew, and series creator marc cherry; seven deleted scenes with optional commentary from cherry; a "stroll down wisteria lane" featurette; a featurette on the worldwide "housewives" phenomenon; a look at the series' costume and set design; bloopers; and much, much more. this set is packed and everything fans could possibly want. fantastic job and highly recommended for purchase or rent!

 
 
buena vista home entertainment, 2005. starring eva longoria, felicity huffman, marcia cross, nicollette sheridan, teri hatcher.
   
   
  interviewing john malkovich
  blueline
  john malkovich. just the name summons up images of all sorts of creepy, slightly off-kilter characters. the presidential assassin from "in the line of fire." the lecherous valmont from "dangerous liasions." cyrus the virus, the colorfully named killer in "con air." of course, none have been quite as creepy or as off-kilter as when the actor actually played himself in the brilliant 1999 film, "being john malkovich." that was the groundbreaking, mind-expanding film in which john cusack's struggling artist found a portal that thrust him into the actual head of the great actor.

and make no mistake about it. malkovich is a great actor. for more than 20 years, he has been great at challenging audiences, slyly seducing them with his presence, his talent, and his distinctively still voice (jeez, i sound like that gasbag on "inside the actor's studio" ... well, it's the truth). so far, he has challenged movie audiences only as an actor. with his latest effort, "the dancer upstairs" (now playing in select cities), he is challenging us from the director's chair.

the film does indeed mark malkovich's directing debut, and it's a solid one. javier bardem of "before night falls" stars as a police officer in an unnamed latin american country and chronicles his efforts to track down a guerilla leader. all the while, he battles corruption all around him while drawn to a ballet teacher (laura morante) who isn't quite what she seems.

the film has a lot to say. its messages often get in the way of malkovich telling a crisp, tight story. at its heart, it is still a police procedural, somewhat reminiscent of recent films like "traffic" and "the pledge." but "dancer" has its own odd beats, and ultimately it's not a cat-and-mouse story, but a tale of sacrifice, compromise, and ideology.

i recently sat down with malkovich in washington, d.c., mere hours before he was about to unveil "the dancer upstairs" at the opening night of filmfest d.c. i found him to be a quiet, soft-spoken man who measures his words and thoughts before completing an answer. he's quite tall in person. i would say probably 6'1" or 6'2" at least. and lemme tell ya! his height certainly makes him imposing! but so does his demeanor. he just has this way about him. not exactly cold or cruel. let's just say, i knew i had to be on my toes.

for instance, when questioned early on about the ideology of his very political film, malkovich clearly bristled at the suggestion. "i have a deep mistrust of ideology," he said, "a really profound mistrust that some might even call paranoia. i would say ['the dancer upstairs] is about ideology in a way that being force-fed is about vomit. i'm tired of ideologies. i've really had enough for a long time. ... people with ideologies are not the only people who have been lied to. in fact, they are often the people who have done a lot of the lying. massive whoppers. big whoppers as we are finding out today, yesterday, three weeks ago, tomorrow, and maybe in five years."

he did express his hope that audiences come away from "the dancer upstairs" not thinking that it is a cynical story. but he definitely wants people to come away thinking they have just seen a personal, untainted vision. "when you direct a film, especially a film that is as personal as this, all i can do is give my reflections, my sentiments, my ideas, my experiences, the way i look at the world, the way i see the world. ... it's absolutely a reflection of everything that i have seen along the way."

malkovich waited quite a while before finally settling on a film project to helm. for years, he has satisfied his urge to be more than an actor by focusing on theater accomplishments. one of the original founders of the steppenwolf theater in chicago along with such actors as gary sinise and terry kinney, the 49-year-old has never strayed far from the stage even as his status as a bankable motion picture actor has climbed since playing a blind man nearly 20 years ago in "places of the heart." malkovich was so convincing in the role, that many people actually thought he was without sight in real life.

clearly talented, other films roles soon followed in pictures as diverse as "making mr. right," steven spielberg's "empire of the sun," and the aforementioned "liasions" in which he gave hope to ugly men everywhere by bedding a topless, virginal uma thurman. he continued to find character work in projects both large and small throughout the '90s, even garnering an oscar nomination for "in the line of fire." but he always kept his eye out for films to direct, and the offers did come.

"there were other things i was set to direct before," he acknowledged, "but they all fell apart for one reason or another. i've always directed, though. i've directed 50 plays, three short-films, fashion films. but with 'the dancer upstairs,' i liked the story too much. i liked the tone of it, the characters."

in short, malkovich wanted the project done right. he wanted to make it himself, his way. he said, "we did a lot of rehearsing by movie standards. but not, say, by mike leigh standards or someone like him who tends to work on something for a year. we rehearsed a couple or three weeks, and i worked with javier for quite a long time."

as good as "the dancer upstairs" is, "being john malkovich" will likely be the film that will outlast malkovich himself. written by charlie kaufman and directed by spike jonze, it helped cap a decade where independent cinema broke through and became mainstream cinema. while i had the guy in front of me, i was most interested in getting malkovich's thoughts on the film four years removed from the process.

to this day, he is amazed at how many people think that "being john malkovich" was an artsy-fartsy, big-screen, reality-show version of his life. he assured me, nothing could be further from the truth. "when people say that film was 'all about me,' that either assumes that i am either like that or that, in some way, they know that i am like that. yes, you can say that i'm dull and that i really have a dull life. you can say that i'm pretentious. but aside from those two things, which may or may not be close to me, there's no similarity in that film to my life whatsoever."

like "being john malkovich," malkovich's current movie taps into the darker aspects of the human psyche. he seems to thrive on dark material. the best thing i can say about him from just our brief meeting is john malkovich seems to be a man who cares about the world in which he lives in and wants to use his art to benefit that world and maybe even survive it.

"right now," he said, almost in a whisper, "there are maybe a billion people alive who lead ok lives. maybe there are more. what are there, five billion people alive now? maybe there are a couple or three billion right now whose lives are sort of ok. but that leaves quite a few people whose lives are not ok. and then even if your life is perfectly wonderful, that doesn't mean you don't have the little things that go on inside your own little mind."

he continued, "i want to tell about this notion of time being a dictator, because people have the tendency to take a position. they don't read enough history. they don't think reflectively. they don't contemplate. they don't see how what seemed evident and obvious and heartfelt and totally worthy of support today, may seem corrupt, idiotic, and despotic tomorrow. it's only time that reveals this to us, normally when it's too late. as beckett once said, 'you're on earth. there's no cure for that!'"
   
   
  last call
  blueline
  and so it has come to this. this being the hardest paragraph i have ever had to write, because i know this is the last time i will be communicating with very likely most of you. i began writing this column as a 29-year-old single man in an apartment. it ends with me a 34-year-old married man, a daddy, and a homeowner (well, ok, the new mortgage is for 29 more years and eight months & but who's countin'?!) through hollywoodreviews, i have met so many of the people who helped shape my imagination as a boy and as a young man and inspired me to cover the movies up close. it has been a great, great run. and if i never review again, i will always cherish this time in my life and look back on my years as your reviewer of choice with nothing but the fondest of memories. no goodbyes. just good memories.

to quote kirk in "star trek generations" . . . "it was fun." to quote ed harris in "the abyss" . . . "i always knew this was a one-way ticket." to quote arnold in "the terminator" . . . "i'll be back."

   
blueline
  all content @copyright 2005 teddy durgin. all rights reserved.
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  buzz lightyear (voice of tim allen): "to infinity and beyond!"
  - toy story, disney/pixar, 1995


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