Watching films just for Christopher Walken’s sometimes brief cameo roles is turning into something like a cult. For those who were willing to sit through middling films like Sleepy Hollow or Suicide Kings, outright duds like Joe Dirt and Prophecy 3, or who are willing to argue for View To A Kill as one of the best Bond films thanks to Walken’s turn as a villain, there’s no such thing as a bad film with Walken in it.
Well, Gigli is a terrible film, with one of Walken’s most mind-blowing cameos. It apparently stars a celebrity couple whose real-life ardor is rendered questionable by their wholesale lack on onscreen chemistry, but scene 12 on the DVD features Walken’s invasion of Martin Brest’s straining, over-enunciated script, a raid on the film that blows it wide open for a few minutes.
The joy – the actual, spine-tingling thrill – of watching Walken is his apparent lack of conventional metre; sentences, phrases, even mere words launch from his mouth and either hang in midair or scatter to the ground without breaking the tenuous thread that connects them together. He’s talking to the other actors who inhabit the frame, but he might as well be having a dialogue with a shadow version of himself, as unconcerned as he is with anyone else really grokking what he’s putting down.
Some actors suck the air out of a scene. Walken turns every dust mote and charged ion particle into a shard of shattered candy apple.
In Gigli, he’s a detective looking for clues, but his aggressive ramble around the title character’s apartment ends with an invitation to share a slice of pie a la mode. “Put that stuff on your head, your tongue will slap your brain senseless trying to get at it.” The line, like the whole scene, drops out of nowhere, like an alien probe, and it’s just as weird-scary and disorienting.
One star for Walken, and a half star for Al Pacino’s equally brief turn as an effeminate mob boss. Just remember – put the disc in the tray and fast forward to scene twelve, then scene twenty-five. Then throw this stinker away.
Pirates Of The Caribbean: Curse Of The Black Pearl
Of all putatively “historical” genres, the pirate film is the most dodgy, the most artificial and dubious. Perhaps someone once made a “realistic” pirate film, but no one in living memory can remember one without parrots and peg-legs and ‘arrgh” and “avast” larding every scene like cloves in Christmas ham.
But for anyone wanting an antidote to the earnest, studious seafaring slog of Master and Commander, look no further than Disney’s Pirates Of The Caribbean: Curse Of The Black Pearl, the latest entry in an even more dubious subgenre: films based on amusement park rides.
Pirates delivers the parrots and “arrgh” and “heave-ho mateys” like there’s no tomorrow, and balances on the weaving shoulders of Johnny Depp’s Keith Richards-As-Blackbeard performance. Comes with multiple commentary tracks, and a full disc of “making of” material, bloopers, outtakes, and even a stab at “historical” background on pirate lore.
The Looking Glass War
The Cold War meets the Generation Gap in this leaden adaptation of a John Le Carre spy thriller. Anthony Hopkins wrestles with a stubborn Welsh accent as a troubled young spymaster forced into a crisis while watching his aging superiors sacrifice a young East German refugee-turned-agent on the altar of covert operations. No special features.
Julie Christie became a star with this film, playing swinging London’s prime archetype: the lovely girl with social ambitions. Her young model, Diana Scott, isn’t so darling, however, as she works her way through a string of men (including Dirk Bogarde and Laurence Harvey) on her way to marrying into minor Italian nobility. John Schlesinger’s Darling is a strange film, which worships Diana at the same time as it glories in every agony and humiliation she meets on the way to the top, a mean, prurient sort of film that merely looks glamourous.
Dr. Seuss’ The Cat In The Hat
Dr. Seuss’ Green Eggs And Ham
The Best Of Dr. Seuss
In Search Of Dr. Seuss
The Wubbulous World Of Dr. Seuss
Yet another unnecessary film version of Dr. Seuss has opened the floodgates for Seuss-derived product from several studios. The most essential are Universal’s reissues of the CBS-produced Cat In The Hat and Green Eggs And Ham, which brought together Looney Tunes alumni like Chuck Jones and Friz Freling with Seuss-penned scripts and lyrics to bring the immensely popular stories to life.
Their onetime audience are now parents, the thirtysomethings who remember these shows, which were shown on TV every year for almost twenty years. Just as essential is The Best Of Dr. Seuss, Warner’s packaging of three entirely different takes on Seuss, starting with the classic Looney Tunes version of “Horton Hatches The Egg”, the Hanna-Barbera “Daisy-Head Mayzie”, and Ralph Bakshi’s “Butter Battle Book”.
Warner’s 1995 In Search Of Dr. Seuss, with Kathy Najimy, Christopher Lloyd, Patrick Stewart, Robin Williams and more, is less necessary, and a lot more exhausting – a 90- minute trawl through the life story of Theodore Geisel (Seuss’ real name), which can’t decide whether it’s for kids or adults, and I don’t mean that in a complementary, Pixar sort of way.
The Wubbulous World Of Dr. Seuss is only tangentially Seussian – a Muppet-licensed version of the Seuss universe, with the same characters but none of Geisel’s wordplay or humour. It is, however, pitched neatly at the toddler level, so it might act as a soft introduction to his work.