February 20th, 2009

ATLANTIC CITY (1981) ***

Susan Sarandon plays this down-on-her-luck waitress who works in an oyster bar who has big dreams of being a blackjack dealer.  Her life soon starts to spin out of control when her ex-husband (Robert Joy, from Death Wish 5) shows up with her sister, who he knocked up.  Susan stupidly lets them stay the night, but he’s got some shady ideas like selling a bunch of coke that he ripped off from some hoods from Philadelphia.  He turns to Susan’s next door neighbor (Burt Lancaster) who runs the numbers in the ghetto to help him sell the drugs, mostly because he thinks he’s a gangster from “The Old Days”. The truth of the matter is that Burt never was much of a hoodlum (although he tells everybody he was) and when the opportunity arises to do some gangster shit FOR REAL, he jumps on it   From there, things get messy.  The dudes from Philly show up and stab Joy to death and Burt uses that opportunity to get into Susan’s pants and do some more wannabe gangster stuff like popping caps in people, Old School style.


Director Louis Malle’s pacing shuffles along at its own leisure, but that’s okay because that allows you to savor the fine performances.  The strength of the movie really comes from the rich characters and how their lives intertwine with each other.  Lancaster is especially winning as the old timer who gets a special twinkle in his eyes once he finally gets to gun some people down, and Joy is appropriately sleazy as the fuck-up brother.  Sarandon is also very good and the scene where she rubs her titties with lemons is quite memorable. 


The actual city of Atlantic City is a character in its own right and the decay and destitution of the once great city perfectly mirrors Lancaster’s character’s past.  Even though the film takes its sweet old time to get going, and has probably one or two unnecessary passages, I still liked it.  Besides, any movie that contains a random ass appearance by Robert Goulet is OK by me.

CORALINE (2009) ** ½

Okay, I’m going to admit it.  I’ve never seen A Nightmare Before Christmas.  Sure, I’ve seen PARTS of it, but never enough for me to want to see it all the way through.  I did see director Henry Selick’s next flick, James and the Giant Peach and thoroughly enjoyed it though.  Now comes Coraline, another Selick stop-motion animated movie and it’s more or less a mixed bag.  While I didn’t really have much of a desire to see this, our local theater FINALLY got 3-D projectors in today so I figured what the hay.  It’s in 3-D and it looked pretty trippy, so why not.


Coraline (voice by Dakota Fanning) is a little bored brat of a girl who lives in a third of a house that has a small door hidden in her room.  Since her parents are pretty dull, she decides to go through the door where her “Other” parents are.  They look just like Coraline’s parents except they are super nice, cook good food and have buttons for eyes.  Eventually we learn the Other Mother is One Bad Mother who wants to sew buttons into Coraline’s peepers and steal her soul.  When the Other Mother kidnaps her real parents, Coraline teams up with a stray cat (Keith David) to rescue them.


Coraline is one of those flicks that that try to do a whole lot of things at once but isn’t really successful at any of them.  While the plot is decent, it doesn’t really draw you in completely and the characters aren’t very memorable to boot.  Although the story is suitably dark for a fairy tale, it’s probably TOO dark for its intended audience and probably won’t be dark enough for adults (like me).  The 3-D is also an issue.  Selick creates an OK depth-of-field effect for most of the settings; I’ll give him that.  Unfortunately, not a lot of stuff really pops out of the screen at you, which is kinda pointless if you ask me.  It almost seems like the 3-D was more of an afterthought than anything else.  Honestly, in a story that revolves around a little girl getting buttons sewed into her eyes, you’d expect at least ONE shot of a needle plunging out into the audience.


In short, My Bloody Valentine 3-D this is not.  You do get to see some 3-D sequined stop-motion boobs though.  (I’m not kidding.)  In addition to that, you also get:


  • 3-D Needlepoint.
  • 3-D Thread.
  • 3-D Hands.
  • 3-D Hummingbirds.
  • 3-D Frog.
  • 3-D Acrobats.
  • 3-D Insects.
  • 3-D Pointy noses.
  • 3-D Mouse Circus.
  • 3-D Bat-Dogs.
  • 3-D Spider Web.  (Hands down, the coolest effect in the movie.)


Not a great use of the 3-D by any stretch of the imagination.  (If you do see it in 2-D, you’re not missing much.)  I’m pretty much harping on Coraline and I apologize.  It isn’t a bad flick.  It’s definitely watchable, mostly thanks to Selick’s cool visual pizzazz and a pretty wicked ending.  Just don’t go in expecting any eye-popping 3-D effects.