City Island is a beach-side neighborhood in the Bronx that’s so idyllic looking it’s hard to believe non-millionaires can afford to live there. Andy Garcia stars as hereditary homeowner Vince Rizzo, a prison guard — excuse me, “corrections officer” — who is also secretly an aspiring actor. When an inmate (Steven Strait) turns out to be his heretofore unknown son, he takes the handsome ex-con home without a word of explanation to anyone. This is a dangerous move, as his family is already seething with Italian-American emotion. Wife Joyce (Julianna Margulies) is lonely and convinced that Vince’s alleged poker games — cover for the acting classes he takes from a curmudgeonly Alan Arkin — are cover for an affair. The Rizzos’ beautiful college student daughter (Garcia’s real life daughter, Dominik García-Lorido) is secretly stripping for cash. Meanwhile, their gawky teen son (Ezra Miller, the funniest person in the movie) is nursing a fetish involving the giving of culinary pleasure to obese women. The final turns of the screw are Vince’s friendship with a very pretty fellow acting student (Emily Mortimer) and an audition for, naturally, the latest Martin Scorsese crime epic. Yes, “City Island” is terribly contrived, but the film is full of funny dialogue, good acting, and genuine feeling that nicely papers over the problems. Writer-director — and sometime classic film blogger — Raymond De Felitta is no visual stylist and may be too eager too please, but he knows how to entertain.
So, we have just two major releases this week and while one is hard-edged remake of a franchise-spawning eighties horror hit and the other is a purported family film, to me all signs this weekend in terms of major new releases (and one tiny release) scream: “Be afraid, be very afraid.” For the most part, the critics aren’t disagreeing.
For starters, we have “A Nightmare on Elm Street” which brings us Jackie Earle Haley in the role made famous by Robert Englund — the child-murderer of everyone’s dreams with the specially augmented fingers, Freddy Kruger. Now, as someone who is such a wuss that he was unable to get past the first twenty minutes or so of the original on VHS — that Wes Craven guy really knows how to scare people — I’m not really one to judge. However, the critics are thoroughly unimpressed with the new version directed by another music video alum, Samuel Bayer, granting it a dismal 11% “Fresh” rating on Rotten Tomatoes as of this writing.
Still, even if the original version is regarded as something of a classic today by critics, this movie has “critic proof” written all over it. Indeed, jolly Carl DiOrio, assures us that it’s “tracking” very well and will top the box office with “as much as” $30 million for Warner Brothers. He also gets a bit less jolly in his video this week and actually complains about the use of the word “reboot” to describe films like “Nightmare.” Well, considering that you’re starting over an existing franchise as if the original had never happened, I’m not sure what you’re supposed to call it. It’s not only a remake.
It takes a lot to make me laugh out loud at something a person says. Witty is one thing, but genuinely funny is another beast altogether. And when I say laugh out loud, I’m talking about involuntary spasms of laughter, the kind that take a couple of minutes to subside. There is no formula for it, and I have no criteria for what form it takes. I just know it when it see it. Unfortunately, I don’t see it often enough. Sometimes they appear in otherwise unfunny movies, at which point I usually get angry, but that’s a subject for another day.
In the first of a long list of decade-oriented blog posts about the movies of the 2000s, here are the lines that made me laugh the hardest at the Googoplex. Be advised, potential SPOILERS abound here, so I don’t want to hear that I ruined such and such movie for you. What are your favorite lines? Let’s hear ’em in the comment section.
#10: Up – Somebody always loves you
This is more of a laughter-through-tears kind of thing, but it’s my list, my rules, so it counts. Pete Docter goes straight for the heart in this movie, almost mercilessly so. The “married life” sequence makes me cry like a little girl every time I watch it, and this scene, where the loyal Dug comes to comfort Carl, is quite possibly the “Awwwwwww” moment of the decade.
He’s got an awe-inspiring 266 credits listed on his IMDb c.v. Nevertheless, finding good embeddable clips for Christopher Lee, one of the most beloved yet also underrated actors of the 20th and 21st centuries, hasn’t exactly been easy. Sad, considering how much enjoyment he’s given audiences, how many good movies he’s enlivened, and how many mediocre-to-godawful ones he’s come darn close to saving single-handedly. However, in honor of his well deserved knighthood today, we have what we have. And they both involve music.
My personal favorite Christopher Lee movie, and I think his as well, is 1973’s “The Wicker Man.” Below in a great scene which, for reasons much too complicated to go into here, is deleted from the most commonly seen version. In it, Lee as the avuncular and dangerous pagan Lord Summerisle takes part in a ritual with Britt Ekland as the local high priestess of sexuality. He also recites some poetry by Walt Whitman, as Edward Woodward’s repressed “Christian copper” tries to get to some sleep, snails make more snails, and Peter Giovanni sings the hauntingly erotic “Gently Johnny.”
Lee actually sings — quite well — in “The Wicker Man” but that can’t be found. So, moving with warp speed from the sublime to the completely ridiculous, I found this incredibly strange number featuring a full-throated Lee from “The Return of Captain Invincible,” an ultra-ultra-obscure very pre-“Dr. Horrible” 1983 superhero musical starring Alan Arkin and Lee, with music by a number of people including Richard O’Brien of “Rocky Horror” fame. In it, a villainous Sir Christopher sings of a subject of my own interest — cocktails. Always, a gentleman of taste.