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Films I Neglected To Review: Mothers--Lock Up Your Trash Cans
by Peter Sobczynski

Killers, contortionists and trashcan molesters (you heard me)--these are just some of the fine folks that you will meet in the films featured in this latest round-up of current releases that I didn’t get a chance to write about at length.

Even if Lady Gaga herself were to turn up to meet you in the bleachers during the screening, there is no earthly reason for anyone to spend their time or money on “Killers,” a misfired attempt to fuse together the action and romantic comedy genres. In the film, Ashton Kutcher and Katherine Heigl play a young married couple whose seemingly staid and normal suburban existence is violently upended when it turns out that Kutcher used to be a CIA assassin before they met and that someone has now put a 20 million dollar bounty on his pretty little head. The resulting movie is pretty bad but I have to admit that it does contain a couple of elements that briefly gave me hope that it might somehow work after all. Although it never quite figures out how to make it work, the notion that all of your seemingly pleasant neighbors in your seemingly pleasant housing development might actually be sleeper agents ready to kill you in an instant is a promising one. Some of the casting choices are reasonably inspired--I liked seeing Tom Selleck and Catherine O’Hara as Heigl’s respectively overprotective and over served parents and also enjoyed the bizarre notion of having Martin Mull, of all people, turn up as Kutcher’s agency contact. Hell, even Kutcher (who also co-produced the film) isn’t too bad here as his breezily goofy persona dovetails well with the utter silliness of the proceedings. However, there are three basic problems that sink “Killers” almost from the start. One is that the screenplay is an unbelievably lazy piece of hackwork that starts off slow, pretty much grinds to a halt by the halfway point and then ends in such a stupid and halfhearted manner that it makes the entire thing feel like the world’s most violent episode of “Love, American Style.” Another is the fact the relentlessly shrill Heigl pretty much sucks the fun out of every scene that she appears in with her incredibly humor-impaired performance--with her whim of iron and hairstyle to match, watching her going through her paces is like watching “Mr. & Mrs. Smith” starring your mother. Finally, there is the inescapable fact that director Robert Luketic, who previously collaborated with Heigl on the truly horrific “The Ugly Truth,” demonstrates an complete inability to handle large-scale action sequences to go along with his complete inability to handle smaller-scale comedic material. Actually, the funniest thing about “Killers” is the fact that Lionsgate announced that their rationale for withholding it from critics until opening day was so that it could serve as a so-called social experiment that would allow viewers to discover it for themselves and pass on their opinions via Twitter and Facebook without being overwhelmed by the tyranny of meanie movie critics. Trust me, this is nonsense--if anyone were to post a message about this film to their friends after seeing it, it would most likely say “This sux! When is “Inception” coming out?”

After delving into more realistic waters, at least for him, with his last film, 2004’s “A Very Long Engagement,” French fantasist Jean-Pierre Jeunet, who previously gave us such delights as “Delicatessen,” “City of Lost Children, “Amelie” and the underrated “Alien Resurrection” once again embraces his inner Gilliam with his latest effort, the aggressively weird fable “Micmacs.” Dany Boon stars as Bazil, a young man who lost his father as a child to a land mine and who, as the film opens, is the unlucky victim of an unlikely chain of circumstances that ends with him getting a bullet permanently embedded in his head. After losing everything as a result of this accident, Bazil eventually falls in with a group of oddball misfits living in a local junkyard and uses their unique skills (one is a human cannonball and another is a contortionist who is so limber that she can hide inside a refrigerator) to help him plan an elaborate revenge against the two weapons manufacturers whose products were responsible for killing his father and injuring him. From a visual standpoint, the movie is a stunner--practically every frame is filled to bursting with interesting details--and on that level alone, I can comfortably recommend it to viewers hungry for incredible imagery. At the same time, however, I have to admit that this is probably Jeunet’s least impressive film to date--the story meanders a lot and feels more like a compilation of the greatest hits from his earlier films than a fully fleshed-out tale in its own right and there are several points throughout where he is trying just a little too hard to show just how adorably whimsical he can be as a filmmaker. Then again, at least he is trying, which is more than I can say about most of this summer’s would-be blockbusters.

Although I have never been much of a fan of the previous cinematic outrages of Harmony Korine, the skateboarding enfant terrible behind such provocations as “Gummo” and “julien--donkey boy,” those efforts at least had the decency to provide audiences with a reasonably coherent point, a couple of powerful individual scenes and a gorgeous visual style that often stood in marked contrast to the frequently sordid events that he was depicting. With his latest effort, the deliberately anti-cinematic “Trash Humpers,” he casts all of those attributes to the side and instead offers up something so proudly and perversely unwatchable that even his most loyal defenders will find themselves throwing up their arms in frustration and yelling some variation of “WTF?” The film, to stretch the definition to the breaking point, is little more than a series of short blackout sketches in which a small group of depraved elderly people--played by a group of young people, including Korine and his wife, sporting rubber masks that make them all look like the grandfather in the original “Texas Chain Saw Massacre”--roam around a Nashville suburb indulging in mayhem ranging from teaching a little kid how to put a razor blade in an apple and smashing consumer items ranging from televisions to baby dolls to a grim visit to some local hookers to the occasional murder. Oh yeah, when things get boring, they find the nearest upright item--a fence, a fire hydrant, a trash can--and demonstrate conclusively that the oddball title is not a metaphor. If that seems a little too accessible and audience-friendly for your taste, perhaps you will appreciate that Korine has captured all of these elements using outdated VHS cameras and warped cassettes so as to provide a painfully degraded image that is filled with tracking marks and other bits of visual interference. Although I did enjoy one bit in which one of the characters goes on a long tirade about how things would be so much better if people didn’t have heads (dandruff would be eradicated and everyone would weigh 7-11 pounds lighter), the rest of it is a painful and deadly dull slog that tries to approximate the outrages of early underground cinema (there are plenty of self-conscious reminders of the legitimately provocative works of Jack Smith, John Waters and other legends of the field) without bringing anything new to the game. The best thing that one can say about it, I suppose, is that it is only marginally less irritating than “Sex and the City 2” but that doesn’t meant that you need to bother with it at all unless you are some kind of hipster doofus with 75 minutes to kill and $10 to burn.

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originally posted: 06/04/10 23:58:33
last updated: 06/05/10 00:42:53
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