Why Does It Exist?

Dish Flicks – May 2011

In Dish Flicks on June 5, 2011 at 4:06 pm

As I mentioned in my Street Kings 2: Motor City review, I watch movies while I do the dishes. Oftentimes these don’t fit the criteria I’ve set for Why Does It Exist? for a variety of reasons, including:

1)      They’re too well-known according to my scientifically-sound method of checking if it has under 1000 votes or under 10 reviews on IMDb;

2)      They’re actually considered pretty good movies, just not necessarily cerebral experiences that would require my full attention;

3)      They’ve been extensively covered by another source, be it The AV Club, How Did This Get Made? or something of that ilk;

4)      It is very clear why they exist, whatever that reason may be;

I decided that it might be advisable in order to generate more content (and more positive content, too, instead of me feigning surprise that Bachelor Party 2 isn’t up to snuff) to have short capsule reviews right here on Why Does It Exist? Since I do the dishes every other day but it rarely takes hours upon hours, I’ve made it a monthly feature.

So much of the movie is David Byrne in front of malls, it's kind of impressive.

True Stories (1986)

Maybe I just don’t like happiness and fun. I like the Talking Heads well enough but this mockumentary quirkfest didn’t do anything for me. The film is structured around a small Texas town as it prepares for the celebration of Texas’ 150th anniversary. TH frontman David Byrne bumbles around like a cross between Billy Bob Thornton and Louis Theroux, visiting the quirky inhabitants in their daily lives. It’s got this annoyingly affected tone wherein Byrne attempts po-faced wonder at everything he sees; while I assume it’s meant to be sweet and strange, it comes off like he’s making a documentary to explain suburbia and small towns to extraterrestrials. There are a lot of musical numbers featuring Talking Heads songs (often performed by artists other than the Talking Heads) and a great early performance from John Goodman but it’s pretty grating on every other level.

Fighting over the last martini olive.

4 For Texas (1963)

I watched like ten minutes of this Sinatra/Martin/Bronson western and deemed it WDIE-worthy. The Three Stooges are also apparently in this. Can’t wait.

It just occurred to me that they stand like this a lot and it looks like they're on a podium, constantly.

Family Business (1989)

With the recent passing of Sidney Lumet, I decided to catch up on some of his films that I hadn’t seen. First was The Hill (1965), a great prison movie starring Sean Connery that I thankfully did not watch while doing dishes. The flipside of that coin is Family Business, a half-forgotten heist/family drama flick from 1989 that stars the incredibly improbable trio of Sean Connery, Dustin Hoffman and Matthew Broderick as three generations of a family of thieves. Even if you look beyond the fact that Sean Connery is supposed to be Hoffman’s dad (and Hoffman is named VITO MCMULLEN) it’s kind of a weird, unsatisfying but fitfully enjoyable movie. A lot of interesting ideas but mostly a lot of ground covered in little time. Connery does call Hoffman a ‘guinea midget’ which I’m fairly sure won’t ever happen anywhere else but it’s slim pickings otherwise and one of the only Lumet films that doesn’t have much to recommend it.

Rice... cakes... you say?

The Chairman (1969)

The best agricultural thriller / James Bond wannabe of 1969! Gregory Peck stars as a dashing scientist / spy hired by the government to go steal an enzyme from the Chinese. The enzyme allows China to grow pineapples in the mountains, which greatly interests the Western world. If you thought that sounded dumb, there’s more: in order to track his progress appropriately, Peck has a giant microphone implanted in his head that (unbeknownst to him) can be programmed to explode if Peck gets out of line. This means that Peck spends a lot of the movie just sitting there talking to himself and recounting the events that just transpired. Although it’s directed by J. Lee Thompson (beginning the downward slump that eventually led to the Bronson Vehicle Holocaust of the 80’s) it’s pretty talky and overwritten. Peck makes for a pretty good James Bond wannabe but this is definitely not as exciting as a movie about Gregory Peck running around China with a bomb in his head should be.

Not pictured: dreadlocked John C. McGinley in belly-shirt tripping on acid.

Highway (2002)

This is the only movie I’ve ever seen that lists the composer’s rock band right there in the credits. The music is by Rich Robinson of the Black Crowes and he’s credited as such (probably because nobody really gives a shit who’s in the Black Crowes except maybe the one dude that was married to Kate Hudson). This is just about the only novel thing about this totally annoying and surprisingly dated white-trash road trip. Jared Leto and Jake Gyllenhaal star as a couple of knucklehead Vegas hoodrats who are forced to leave town after Leto (the self-proclaimed God of Fucking) is caught shtupping the most powerful man in town’s wife. Since it’s written by the B-list Shane Black, Scott Rosenberg, it’s got tons of too-witty-by-half dialogue and zany characters that aren’t very funny at all and a hyperactive, washed-out look somewhere between Tony Scott and Spun. It’s hard to decide what’s most annoying between Jeremy Piven as a nonsense-spouting cracked-out dealer, John C. McGinley as a dreadlocked hippie or the film’s checklist approach to everything that made the 90’s such an embarrassing decade.

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