Monday, March 24, 2003

The Movie I Watched Last Night LXI
Since I've gotten cable, I've tried not to just fall into the Big Blue Couch at Church Corner and zone out with whatever movie was currently airing, but this happened Saturday afternoon while I was kind of, but not really waiting for a friend to call. Monkeybone is an embarrassment. Equal parts Beetlejuice and Roger Rabbit, it could have used the help of Tim Burton. Lacking that, it's a relatively shallow story about a man sent Downtown while in a coma. Downtown is a Beetlejuice-like world featuring awkwardly designed fantasy characters -- and the animated Monkeybone, the comic strip creation of our comatose cartoonist hero. After snagging an Exit pass from the devilish Whoopi Goldberg, the cartoon Monkeybone escapes in the hero's stead, embodying Brendan Fraser's comatose body and wreaking havoc in the real world. Fraser's character later escapes, embodying the form of an organ donor, played by the rubbery Chris Kattan. Eventually, Fraser overcomes, and everyone lives happily ever after. This movie is slightly intriguing on several levels. One, the star power deployed is confusing: Goldberg, Bridget Fonda, Rose McGowan as the feline and fine anthropomorphic Kitty, John Turturro as the voice of Monkeybone, and Dave Foley. I'd always pictured this as a Chris Kattan vehicle, but his role is relatively limited. Two, there are several cameos that surprised me. Stephen King shows up in the prison holding Fraser's character after he was caught by Goldberg's Death. He exchanges a funny bit with Edgar Allen Poe. And Austin's own Harry Knowles pops up briefly. The character designs could have been much better, but to be honest, Monkeybone's cartoony possession of Fraser's body has its moments, although the Joker-like Smile-X scheme could have been better handled. A time waster if you need one.

Moulin Rouge!
The couch surfing continued because this came on right after Monkeybone, and I'd just caught the end of this while visiting Rick and Melissa in Austin. It's one of their favorite movies, and while I've had no previous interest in it -- parallel to Chicago -- I thought I'd give it a go. Baz Luhrman does well. His vision of Paris of a timeless, placeless place works well, and the cinematography is relatively interesting. That said, the story waxed and waned with me. It waxed during the ensemble cast portions featuring the acting troupe. And it waned when the evil Duke was involved. As a love story, I don't think this really works behind simple sentimentality, and as a death story, Satine's consumption neither emotes pity or sorrow -- nor weakens her supposed courtesan of a character. I needed either more heart of gold or more vamp. And the music? Feh. The pop-music pastiche didn't really impress me, and I think I might have preferred if Luhrman had worked in whole, modern songs, originally written for this film, than the in-joke top 40 mix tape we're left with. This method resonates well with William Burroughs and Brion Gysin's exhortation to "cut paper cut film cut tape," and I'm curious what the royalties and rights ran, but the soundtrack isn't the strongest part of this movie. Still, worth seeing for the visuals -- and for the curiously short John Leguizamo. Oh! And the absinthe-inspired Green Fairy, played by Kylie Minogue. It's about time someone recast Tinkerbell for the adult set!

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