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page created: 2/27/06
originally published: 2/22/06

Jahnke's Electric Theatre

Jahnke's Electric Theatre #26
Jumping the Shark

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Wow, has it been two weeks already? Seriously? Where does the time go? At any rate, there isn't a whole heckuva lot happening movie-wise, so this should be relatively quick. I've got no A-Picture this week. While I've enjoyed some of the stuff I've seen recently, there's nothing that's just so incandescently brilliant that it demands your attention more than all others. I do, however, have a real stinkeroo in the Octoplex, so hang on to your socks for that one. But first...

Now in Theatres...

The Pink Panther

I try to go into all movies with an open mind but more often than not, that proves to be impossible. You always bring your own baggage along with you: pre-conceived ideas of how the movie will be, past impressions of the cast and crew's previous work, and if you're familiar with the source material, your opinions of the original. I walked into this movie with even more turmoil than usual. I love the Peter Sellers Panther films. I hate almost all remakes on principle alone, though I begrudgingly accept them as an economic reality, if not an artistic necessity. I've been a fan of Steve Martin's since I could show you my age with my fingers and I'm always rooting for him to hit one out of the park. But on the other hand, director Shawn Levy's last collaboration with Martin produced Cheaper by the Dozen. So I had absolutely no idea what to expect from the 21st Century Panther. As it turns out, I was pleasantly surprised. This is a deft, always amusing and often hilarious comedy that does an admirable job relaunching the franchise for a new generation. Martin's Inspector Clouseau fits nicely into his gallery of characters. Unlike Sellers, he doesn't disappear into the role and that feels right for Martin's acting style. Those who would suggest that this new version disgraces the memory of a brilliant series of comedies need to re-check their film history. Nobody worked harder at trying to ruin these films than Blake Edwards himself. Check out Trail, Curse and Son of the Pink Panther for the all-too horrible proof. This Pink Panther is light years ahead of any of those misbegotten sequels. Granted, the movie isn't a total success. A fair number of gags fall flat, the attempt at milking some audience sympathy for poor Clouseau is misplaced and the plot is introduced, forgotten about and re-introduced whenever it's convenient for the filmmakers. But overall, The Pink Panther does what it sets out to do. If this movie had to be re-made (and given the realities of studio-financed filmmaking today, it really was inevitable), we should be glad that the result isn't a total failure. (***)

Final Destination 3

I offer no apologies or explanations for the fact that I dig the Final Destination movies. I like the idea of a horror franchise where Death itself is the bad guy. Not a personified death or a monsterfied death. Just death as a force. Most of all, I like the crazy-contraption death traps that befall the young victims of these movies and I like 'em for the same reason that I liked playing the game "Mousetrap" when I was a kid. It's fun to watch the shoe kick the bucket and send the ball bearing down the rickety stairs. Maybe subconsciously it's working on an intellectual, cause-and-effect level. But in my conscious mind, it's just fun to watch the shoe kick the bucket and send the ball bearing down the rickety stairs. If you're like me, FD3 offers up more of the same. This time, it's a roller coaster accident that kicks things off and it's pretty good, though not as impressive as the spectacularly terrifying multi-car pileup in FD2. From there, it's just accident after accident as death's design chases the survivors. Director James Wong stages most of them quite well, taking a sadistic pleasure in showing the audience how every single thing you do is potentially fatal. Plus, he gets bonus points for including the best death-by-nail-gun I've seen in quite some time. Things get kind of rushed toward the end and the characters are even more thinly drawn this time out than they have been in previous installments but I was never seeing these for the character development anyway. Final Destination 3 is no classic but it's a fairly entertaining timewaster of a B-horror flick. (** ½)

Now on DVD...


For my money, the best movies based on plays are those that make you wonder how the story was ever told on stage in the first place. Mike Nichols' Closer, based on Patrick Marber's stage hit, is not one of those movies. Over a timespan of several years, we see the intersecting and colliding love lives of a writer (Jude Law), a photographer (Julia Roberts), a doctor (Clive Owen), and a stripper (Natalie Portman). The structure of the story works against it. By hitting just the emotional high points of their lives (key moments like first encounters, breakups, and reconciliations) and then skipping ahead to the next, we miss the gradual ebb and flow of attraction that would make these relationships believable. The performances are fine, especially Clive Owen's, and the film has some memorable scenes, although the dialogue often sounded unnaturally scripted to my ear. But in the end, Closer struck me as hollow and not particularly enlightening about the mysteries of the human heart. (** ½)


Here's an overlooked and underrated little movie from 1994 that you may have missed. Sean Nelson gives an incredible performance as Fresh, a 12-year-old growing up in New York who divides his time between school and running drugs for two separate local druglords. He visits his absent father (Samuel L. Jackson) on the sly, playing chess with him in the park against his aunt's wishes. He's forced to quit his aimless ways and choose a path for himself when he sees a girl he likes shot dead in a playground altercation. I assumed that Fresh was going to be just like all the other urban gang movies produced in the mid-90's, like Menace II Society and Straight out of Brooklyn. Nothing against those other movies, some of which are pretty good in their own right, but Fresh is much smarter and more interesting than that. It has a vibe like an old blues song and a look seemingly influenced by a wide range of fine art. Fresh is a strong, original movie that deserves a bigger audience than it got. (*** ½)

Now Playing at the Hell Plaza Octoplex - Venom

If you're a horror fan, you've got to expect to sit through a lot of crap. And that's OK. We chose this life, we have to live with the consequences. But nobody deserves to sit through something like Venom. Prisoners at Abu Ghraib don't deserve to sit through Venom. The story is basically about this redneck who becomes possessed by the evil spirits "milked" out of people by a local voodoo priestess. He turns into an unstoppable psycho and spends the rest of the movie killing C-level stars like Bijou Phillips and Method Man. This is a horrible film with about as much authentic New Orleans flavor as a box of Velveeta Shells 'N Cheese. Oh, and by the way... just in case you're thinking about making a voodoo-centric horror movie of your own? The "milking ceremony" may very well be an authentic voodoo ritual for all I know. But the very name "milking ceremony" renders it totally unscary. Just a tip. (*)

OK, that'll do it for this week. Next time, I'll have the Oscar wrap-up (I'm rooting for Jon Stewart and I'm sure he'll do his best but he's only one man... by hour two, the whole show almost inevitably falls apart) and hopefully at least one review of a movie in current theatrical release but I'm not making any promises. The release schedule's looking pretty bleak out there. Anyway, until next time, stay gold, Ponyboy. Stay gold.

Adam Jahnke

Dedicated to Peter Benchley

"Electric Theatre - Where You See All the Latest Life Size Moving Pictures, Moral and Refined, Pleasing to Ladies, Gentlemen and Children!"

- Legend on a traveling moving picture show tent, c.1900

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