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page created: 12/1/05
originally published: 4/12/05

Jahnke's Electric Theatre

Jahnke's Electric Theatre #6

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Top o' the morning, afternoon or evening, e-mail-checkers! Welcome to the latest in Electric Theatre technology. Kind of an abbreviated edition this time. Thanks to travel and other pesky real world obligations, I didn't get a chance to viddy as many horrorshows as usual, O my brothers. I know, I know... I feel listless and out of sorts over it my-own-self. But what J.E.T. #6 lacks in quantity, it hopefully makes up in quality. I've got two very fine movies for you to check out that you probably haven't heard of and there are even plenty of giggles to be found in the Octoplex. But first, are you man enough for this week's A-Picture?

The A-Picture - Sin City

Every so often, you're lucky enough to see a movie unlike anything you've seen before. When that happens with me, it's like rediscovering what made me fall in love with the movies in the first place. In the case of Sin City, however, I have seen this before. Exactly. In the pages of Frank Miller's comic books (or, if you wanna be all snobby about it, "graphic novels"). There is not a single frame of Miller and Robert Rodriguez's movie version of Sin City that I haven't seen before on the page. But somehow, Rodriguez figured out how to make the damn things move. That would be impressive in any case but considering how stylized Miller's drawings are, the achievement is downright extraordinary. If you're not familiar with the comic, Sin City adapts three of Miller's yarns into one hellzapoppin' flick. In one tale, Mickey Rourke plays Marv, a brutal hulk after the silent cannibal who killed the only woman to ever show him any kindness. In another, Clive Owen is Dwight, an ex-photojournalist caught in the middle of a turf war between Sin City's hookers and the mob. And in the third (based on my favorite Sin City book), Bruce Willis is Hartigan, a cop who rescues a little girl from a child molester, then ends up framed for the crime himself. The entire cast is totally committed to the project, impressive considering the fact that they were acting in front of green screens and couldn't possibly have known if the experiment would work or not. As it happens, it does. As is almost always the case, the books are better and if the movie has a flaw, it's that it's basically just an abridged version of the comics. But in this case, that's OK. I don't think Robert Rodriguez is necessarily a great filmmaker but I'd be hard-pressed to name anybody else so obviously in love with the tricks of the trade. That enthusiasm goes a long way in every one of his films. With Sin City, his joy was infectious and you can see it spreading across the screen in every garish frame. I may very well see better films than Sin City this year. But I doubt I'll see one as much fun. (****)

Bad Boy Bubby

For the first 35 years of his life, Bubby (Nicholas Hope) has lived in a windowless one-room apartment with his mother, who has him convinced that the air outside is poisonous. But when his father turns up, Bubby is forced to confront the world without. This controversial 1993 Australian film directed by Rolf De Heer received very little attention here in the States but is well worth checking out if you're in the mood for something a bit more adventurous. I don't think it's entirely successful and it goes on a bit long for my taste but the scenes that do work are borderline genius. The first 20-30 minutes of the film, confined to that one room, are almost unbearably intense and uncomfortable. But when the film opens up, it's funny and surprisingly touching. Hope's performance is terrific and the experimental cinematography and sound are often brilliant. Bad Boy Bubby is an imperfect movie with lofty ambitions and I'd rather watch one of those than a dozen expertly made Hollywood blockbusters. (***)

Happy Accidents

If Bad Boy Bubby is an acquired taste, Happy Accidents is a cult movie that I have no hesitation recommending to anyone and everyone. Marisa Tomei stars as a woman whose new boyfriend (Vincent D'Onofrio) is just about perfect. He's smart, funny, caring, has a good job. Only problem is that he claims to be from four hundred years in the future. Using the great experimental short film La Jetee as its inspiration, writer/director Brad Anderson's romantic comedy is charming and intelligent. And as a science fiction film, in some ways it trumps the other La Jetee remake, Twelve Monkeys. In that movie, it was pretty obvious to the audience that Bruce Willis really was a time traveler and not just crazy. In Happy Accidents, there's a great deal of uncertainty about how many marbles D'Onofrio is still in possession of. This is a very good movie and I'm surprised it isn't better known. (***)

Now Playing at the Hell Plaza Octoplex - St. Elmo's Fire

I almost feel bad sticking this movie in the Octoplex. I mean, it isn't the worst movie ever made. It isn't even the worst movie directed by Cinema Antichrist Joel Schumacher. And I certainly get a kick out of watching it. But God, is this movie retarded. Seven of the 80s most beloved Brat-Packers and their stylish coats star in this over-directed, over-designed bit of self-indulgent tripe. Oh, there are laffs a'plenty... from Emilio Estevez's "romantic" obsession over Andie MacDowell (which crosses over into creepy stalking almost immediately) to Demi Moore's apathetic suicide attempt (sitting in front of an open window while blue curtains billow around her). But if you want laughs, perhaps you should watch a comedy instead. Those of you who remember the movie... altogether now... boogeda-boogeda-boogeda-ah-ah-ah!! (* ½)

So endeth the lesson of the Electric Theatre. See you all back here in two weeks time with more titles to make you scratch your head and wonder, "Now why the hell did he bother to watch that?"

Adam Jahnke

Dedicated to Frank Conroy

"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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