Cartoon – 31/12/10

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Cartoon 30/12/10

"Are you hiding any anti-Stop and Search legislation?"

Cartoon 29/12/10

"Sorry, no shepherds"

Video Review – Summer of Sam, Bringing Out the Dead, The Limey, Sleepy Hollow, The Larry Sanders Show, The Muse

Summer of Hate

(Originally published in TVS Magazine, September 2000)

There’s a distinct stench of quality about the latest vid releases. It’s enough to make you worry about the death of the big screen.

First up is Spike Lee’s best film yet, Summer of Sam (Rental/DVD), in which the David Berkowitz-referencing title is merely to introduce a sweat-drenched (s)welter of stories centred around a paranoid Italian-American New York community. Similar to his portrayal of the tension-fuelled neighbourhood of Do the Right Thing, Lee adds an epic sweep, meandering around the city and gazing on its deficiencies with both a dispassionate and confrontational eye.

Bringing Out the Dead (Warners, Rental/DVD) is similar fare also redolent of its maker. New York City is again the location; paranoia and death the themes. Martin Scorcese can do this sort of thing in his sleep and its unfortunate that the vista of misery encountered by Nicholas Cage is so unrelentingly downbeat. Working the ambulance graveyard shift probably is a heap of utter misery but it’s strange that someone like Scorcese doesn’t seem to realise that this doesn’t necessarily make for a great movie. Whereas Spike Lee has talking dogs and a wacky take of British punk, all Scorcese has is death and miserable death. The student could teach the mentor a few tricks.

The Limey (Rental/DVD) is another slice of quality from Steven Soderbergh, who is now seemingly down with showing Quentin Tarantino how to adapt Elmore Leonard and is now drawing up iconic treatises on sixties stars. In the red corner we have Terrance Stamp, just out of Parkhurst and coming to America with some cheekily flashbacked baggage and more rhyming slang than you can shake a spotted dick at. In the blue corner there is Peter Fonda, as laid back as only Californian drug-dealers can be. A splendid film of parallels and themes, it would be almost churlish to suggest that there isn’t that much of a plot and Stamp seems to be mis-cast in a part he was born to play.

I seem to cause offence whenever I say this but I’ve never quite got a grip on what Tim Burton’s all about. You can’t fault his uniqueness or singularity of vision but his films always seem to be the equivalent of the Spanish football team: the talent’s there but you always end up disappointed. Try asking anyone why they like Ed Wood so much and watch them grapple around for words like Richard and Judy when the autocue breaks down. Sleepy Hollow (Rental/DVD) is more of the same: an almost great picture that will nevertheless have you puzzling over why someone decided to do a high-budget American version of an Hammer Horror film. It will pass an evening agreeably enough but you will ultimately find yourself digging out those guilty copies of Robocop or Die Hard afterwards.

The L:arry Sanders Show: The Best Episodes (Columbia Tristar, Retail) is a slightly worrying title as it precludes any other releases of this incredible sitcom. How can they release any more batches without calling them something like, ‘The Not Quite As Good As That Last Lot of Episodes’? Still, we may as well enjoy what we’ve got, curling up with such moments as the time Larry went on a get-away-from-it-all holiday with hundreds of videotapes of himself for company, or Janeane Garofolo getting down and dirty with Brett Butler. And let’s not forget Sideshow Hank’s porn tape…

Garry Shandling, as his latest film What Planet Are You From? proves, is one of those actors who can’t help doing Woody Allen impressions in their movies. Albert Brooks is another with a curiously familiar line in nerdy repartee. But just because it works for Woody doesn’t mean it’s going to work for you. The Muse (Rental/DVD) is another self-obsessed and self-indulgent pile of neuroses masquerading as a movie, with Brooks getting all obsessed by Sharon Stone for nearly two hours. They really should put a stop to this crap.

Cartoon – 28/12/10

"Can you put it between us and the crowd?"

Cartoon – Joanna Newsom

Cartoon – Nick Cave

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