Thursday, September 27, 2012

Doomsday prism

This September has been absolutely Amy-tastic with two films featuring The Adorable Amy Adams in our fine overpriced, badly-projected theaters; I've already rambled about the first movie, The Master (read that if you haven't already, please, thank you) and now I'll ramble about the second flick, Trouble with the Curve, where she co-stars with Clint Muthafuckin' Eastwood.

For the record, my experience with baseball is mostly relegated to my junior high school years, and later, the occasional half-drunken softball fuck-around at barbecues. Other than that, I don't give a good goddamn about the game and watching it on television makes me sleepy and hearing about it from others makes my eyes glaze over. Sorry. I don't know a fuckin' thing about stats or players or teams. Once upon a time, I used to think the "Black Sox" was an actual team and not just a name related to an old scandal (holy shit, was that an embarrassing night of Trivial Pursuit). I did go to a couple games and enjoyed stuffing my fat ass with overpriced snacks, though. Anyway, keep all that shit in mind while I ramble about this movie, which I only watched because Clint Eastwood is awesome and Amy Adams is AWWW-some.

So Clint's a scout for the Atlanta Braves and it seems like a pretty cool job, sitting around with his fellow oldsters, munching on peanuts, chomping on cigars, talking shit while taking down notes on the potential acquisition. Then he'll continue with his notes over a few beers at the local watering hole, then after he'll go to his cheap motel and let the Powers That Be know whether or not this guy's worth a shit or not. It's a cool job, he's been doing it forever, but now it's coming close to contract-renewing time and that fuckin' asshole Matthew Lillard is trying to get rid of him and replace him with those newfangled computers because this motherfucker's like Fuck Gran Torino, It's All About Moneyball In This Bitch.

Lillard's job to fuck Clint out of employment would be much easier if he knew about Clint's recent problems with his sight; it's tough enough that it takes him five minutes to take a twenty-second leak at his age, but now the man has to deal with his vision getting all blobby-blurry on him. Early on in the film, he accidentally bumps into his coffee table and ends up angrily kicking the motherfucker away, making this not only the second of two films featuring Amy Adams this month, but the second of two films featuring Amy Adams this month that include scenes of the lead character taking his pain/annoyance out on the house after bumping into a table.

Clint gets the official word from his eye doctor, a man who wears quite possibly the worst fuckin' rug I've ever seen on something that wasn't a floor. I guess it makes sense, given that he's an eye doctor and most of his patients wouldn't be able to see well enough to tell. Or maybe that's how he tests them, by asking them how his hair looks and their response would determine how bad/good their eyesight really is.

Thankfully, John Goodman is on the scene, playing Clint's old buddy. He gets the hint that something's up with Clint's eyes, so he calls up the man's semi-estranged daughter (played by our girl Amy) to help this ancient work of art out on the job. See, if this was my dad, I'd be like Sure, it's not like I have much going on right now anyway -- I can hang out for a while in North Carolina with the old man, watch some ball games, eat hot dogs. But it's not me, this is Amy's character with a good life going for her as a hard-working, kick-ass attorney who's thisclose to becoming a partner at the law firm headed up by the warden from Shawshank and the deputy from "She's the Sheriff", provided she doesn't fuck up an important case they got going on. She's got a lot of shit in her life right now, is what I'm saying. She's busy. That and, you know, the semi-estrangement.

She's very serious about these things, both at work and outside of work; she has a boyfriend taking her to the nice eatery with the kind of music you'd hear at the Black Angus and he's all like C'mon Bitch when are we gonna get married, but she's married to her work, and she's also married to being a vegan -- until the halfway point of the film, when she starts stuffing herself with hot dogs because she "couldn't hold out any longer", like that kind of lifestyle choice is that easy/fast to switch without any repercussions.

That reminds me of a dude I knew, he was a vegan because his girlfriend of six years was vegan. She ended up going to see her family for the weekend, and my man was home alone, watching television. A Pizza Hut commercial came on and he was like Fuck It, I'm ordering me a Meat Lover's. A couple hours later, he's puking his guts out. According to his doctor, my dude spent so much time without that harsh meat that his system wasn't ready for the strong re-introduction. So basically what I'm saying is, thank you Robert Lorenz, director of this film, for sparing us the scene where Our Amy is upchucking poorly digested chunks of animal anus or whatever the fuck is supposedly in that stuff.

Anyway, I'm sure there's some other stuff early on in this film about how this is Clint's possibly last go-round as a scout on account of his age, and there's a sub-sub-plot about some player not doing so well and that perhaps seeing his parents will help him out, but I honestly don't remember it that well because the characters discussing it were all familiar actors who now look so much older and I was distracted by that. Clint, of course, is all wrinkled out but at least he spent the last 20-something years easing us into it by making his age a factor in the stories he was telling. Then there's Ed Lauter and the dude who made the mistake of stealing Jobu's rum in Major League (as fellow scouts), not to mention the aforementioned Warden of Shawshank -- those guys were always kinda old, so that's no surprise, to see them even older.

But then you look over at Robert Patrick -- the T-1000, people! -- looking so fuckin' grizzed here and that really threw me off. Even Matthew Lillard -- who I always thought of as the young-ass punk guy in SLC Punk! or the punk-ass young guy in Scream -- is starting to show signs of getting bitchslapped by Father Time, looking more and more like Michael Berryman with hair. I guess it's my refusal to grow up (I'm a Toys R Us kid) that makes it difficult to acknowledge everyone else getting older. And if they are, then I sure as fuck am. I think the trick is to just be really fat and slowly lose some pounds over the years, then the aging won't be as noticeable, because that seems to be working for Goodman.

So off they go, that old badass Clint and our swell gal Amy, off to watch some thick asshole of a human being hit homers and see if he's Braves material. I don't know about that, but he's definitely douchebag material, treating his teammates like shit and charging people for autographs. He also believes in visualizing in his mind all the good shit that's gonna happen to him in the future -- money, women, fame -- which I'm not against, I just wish he would also visualize becoming a better human being as well. Best/worst part is he's not even a pro yet but he's already doing that cheapskate thing that pro-athletes excel at by demanding a bag of nuts from the raza peanut vendor in the stands (calls him "peanut boy"), then refusing to pay the fuckin' $2 for 'em. You fuckin' piece of shit -- I got your bag of nuts swinging, ya fat cunt.

Along the way, they run into Mr. Sexy Back himself, Justin Timberlake. He's all right, playing a former-player-turned-scout for the Red Sox who's hoping to parlay his current career into a gig as an announcer up in the sports booth. He's not annoying, in fact, he's a pretty likable dude and even really funny at times -- he's introduced in a scene that starts out Whatever and ends in Awkward, with someone calling him a "dork", so with that I was already on his side. Likability is important if he's going to be the potential hug interest for Our Amy in this film. That's why it's gonna hurt so fuckin' much when Amy eventually does a movie with Punk'd the Douchebag. You may scoff, but shit, did you ever think you were gonna see that human smegma co-star with Academy Award-winning actress Natalie Portman? No, you didn't. But it happened anyway. We're living in the darkest timeline, people -- so expect the worst, hope for the best and watch the worst happen in front of your fuckin' eyes anyway.

I like how they make Amy's character a big baseball fan who knows a lot of trivia, demonstrating it over tequila shots with Sexy Back; if I loved baseball as much as I love movies and getting fat, I'd totally be falling in love watching this scene of a pretty girl downing the booze and displaying such knowledge about the sport. It's a great use of Nerd Bait by the filmmakers, and yeah, don't get it twisted -- hardcore sports fans are just another form of nerd, don't try to pretend they're not. You stats-quoting, fantasy sports-playing, jersey-wearing motherfuckers are just as bad as those of us who quote lines from films or those other peeps who show up at conventions wearing fuckin' cosplay from some fuckin' anime, which some of you homophobes might call gay except I'd argue the sports thing is gayer because of all the sweaty muscular mens you're taking in. Yeah, "mens", I'm not gonna correct it.

This movie started off really fuckin' lame and cheesy, with Clint eating Spam out of the can and declaring it as a "breakfast of champions", which isn't quite Jim Belushi creating some weird concoction in The Principal, but felt just as 1980s when I heard it. The antagonists don't go any deeper than about a hundred feet into the depths of Asshole, but that kind of shit is still fun to watch and it made me laugh. I don't know if it's Lorenz' direction or Randy Brown's script that's to blame, or both, but that's just how it is. It's the kind of movie where more than one character agrees that Ice Cube has long been ignored by the Oscars for his performances, which I guess is funnier if you're in your late 70s and only have a passing idea of who or what a fuckin' Ice Cube is.

It gets a little better along the way, not like "really good" better, more like lazy Sunday afternoon viewing better. Which I guess is just a long way for me to say "kinda decent". I liked the interactions between the three main characters, that really worked; mostly the humorous moments between them. It certainly doesn't try to surprise you at the end, or at least I hope it wasn't, otherwise the film thinks very little of you. As it is, it could've been done a lot worse. I don't know about paying full price to see this in a shitty too-dark-digital-projection theater, but you can put this harmless shit on in the family room a few months from now and you're not gonna get anyone's feathers ruffled up, unless someone in your family was sodomized with a baseball bat or something. 

You'd probably get more out of it if you're into the beisbol, but for me it was OK at best. But then again, there is a scene where Amy Adams hits a ball, trots past the bases going "WOOOO!" and then finishes it off by performing a cartwheel. Which is just so overwhelmingly precious I've changed my mind and now declare:


Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Melora Walters singing "A-Tisket, A-Tasket" sounds exactly like Melora Walters singing "A-Tisket, A-Tasket"

In honor of National Hispanic Heritage Month, Hollywood has sent forth two Amy Adams films to the cinemas. The first is The Master (which sadly has nothing to do with that one episode of "Roseanne" where she and Dan were one-upping each others' Halloween pranks), the latest from Paul Thomas Anderson, he of the late 90s explosion of big time filmmakers with the same last name, alongside Wes Anderson and Paul W.S. Anderson. (I didn't say they were of matching talents.)

The Adorable Amy Adams plays the wife of an L. Ron Hubbard-like motherfucker named Lancaster Dodd, MOC, PhD, MD, ABC, BBD, The East Coast Family -- played by Philip Seymour Hoffman, best known to assholes like me as the funny best friend in that shitty Ben Stiller movie. No, the other one. No, not that one either, the other one, the one where he's a bit of an awkward dude and he has a thing for this hot chick and -- no, not that one either.

I don't know if Hubbard had a wife who sat in the background keeping an ever-watchful eye on him and the people he hung out with, but that's what Adams' character Peggy mostly does in this movie. There's a definite "behind every great man..." element at play between Peggy and Lancaster, and Anderson cannily keeps her mostly in the background during the film, making a motherfucker feel that there's possibly even more than meets the eye with that broad -- there's a little Karl Rove mixed into her Jackie Kennedy, if you get my drift.

This life is complicated enough with all the haters giving my man Dodd shit about his movement and book titled "The Cause" -- which involves healing motherfuckers from their past traumas and giving up "animal" behaviors -- and they're either showing up to his parties and interrupting him while he's dropping Mental Health Modern Science on old gullible society ladies, or they're sending the pigs to harass him while he's doing his thing at Laura "The Tidbit" Dern's house. It's enough to make a man want to drink some super-strong hooch made mostly from household items that probably shouldn't be imbibed.

That's where Joaquin Phoenix's character, Freddie Quell, comes in. Quell's a lost soul/expert mixologist, and when he's not trying to show his liver who the fuck is in charge, he's getting into smacking/wrestling matches with his fellow man, trying to get into penis/vagina matches with his fellow ladies, or beating the shit out of jail cell toilets. He's an unhappy fellow who "can't take this world straight", to steal a line from the film. I would judge this unpleasant weirdo harshly, were it not for the unfortunate fact that I found myself relating a little too much with him at times.

I'm not Quell, though; I don't share his fondness for farting in public or whacking off in front of others and I don't look like Joaquin Phoenix. Come to think of it, even Joaquin Phoenix doesn't look like Joaquin Phoenix here. I don't know if he specifically lost weight for the film or if that fake wannabe Andy Kaufman rapper shit failure took a chomp out of his spirit, but either way, Jay-P is lookin' tore the fuck up. It works because his Quell is coming down from the one-two punch of getting permanently jangled from serving in WW2, and from ditching the girl he loved. All that, plus drinking torpedo fuel and downing paint thinner-based concoctions is gonna make any young man look like a, uh, not a young man.

Eventually Quell hooks up with Dodd, and their relationship ultimately comes down to some inherent need for one another -- call it scientist/guinea pig, father/son, general/soldier, philosopher/student -- it's all of those, really. You have the wild uninhibited Quell, all id, all animal. You have Dodd, the "master" of himself, talking shit about animals like somehow humans are better. Both are full of shit because despite his drinking and outbursts, Quell ultimately would like to improve (even though he doesn't make it easy) and while Dodd tries to use his Cause methods to help the dude out (or exploit as a prime test subject?), I also got the sense that he secretly gets some vicarious pleasure watching the homie act a fool. (It's seems the only moments where Dodd is able to indulge himself is when he's tipsily dancing/singing at parties or wildly gesticulating while telling stories about putting leashes on dragons.)

It's a sad little movie, an intimate character study painted on a grand canvas, the canvas being the 70mm film format (or 65mm, if you wanna be that way). I've seen it twice -- 70mm and digital -- and while you lose the bonus of watching the beautiful cinematography lookin' so large and pristine in the non-70mm versions, you don't lose out on any of the dramatic punch. By "dramatic", I mean the acting, because narrative-wise this joint's a very simple story, quite possibly the most simple story told by PTA since Punch-Drunk Love, it's just that homeboy likes taking the scenic route. There is no memorable set-piece in this film, like the burning oil derrick in There Will Be Blood or raining ribbits in Magnolia, no pop-culture-ready quotables like "I drink your milkshake", no coked-up Alfred Molina in a bathrobe.

This is definitely his most subtle film, as far as what makes these characters tick; nothing is spelled out and sometimes it's just a matter of taking in a dude's body language or even his surroundings to get where he's coming from. Go to the next paragraph if you want to avoid an example that happens like 10-20 minutes into the film: So there's this scene where Quell is working as a photographer at a shopping center, taking pics of families and shit like that. He ends up getting drunk on the job and is setting up a photo shoot with some dude; in the background we can hear the distant cries of a baby, as you would at a public place like this. Quell stops for a moment, then asks the man if he's married. Man says yes. Quell then approaches him and starts fucking with the dude and eventually it gets physical between them (the man slaps Quell in the face and the digital 7.1 surround fucking sells that SMACK so hard, holy shit). Anyway, I think the baby crying, the man being married, and Quell being apart from the girl he loved, plus the booze....I don't know what the fuck I'm saying.  

You don't have Anderson drawing you a map to each character's motivations, or bravura cinematic moments that you'll be quoting and rewinding and spoofing on YouTube or Funny or Die (those assholes always find a way, though), but what you do have are a few intense moments of 100-proof Grade-A Acting between some of the best actors around. Phoenix's Quell has spent time at the V.A. getting treatment for his "nervous condition", and watching him will give many viewers a nervous condition as well; he always appears to be on the verge of lunging at a motherfucker, and at one point, he literally begins chewing the scenery as he tears into a mattress.

He's also just fascinating to watch, especially whenever PTA shoots him in low-angle close-ups while homeboy already has his head tilted back; he's always hunched over and he even makes standing with his hands on his hips look like some kind of painful ordeal. His face is always scrunched up with his cleft-palate'd mouth frozen in some kind of post-stroke rictus, causing his dialogue to sometimes sound all GWARNM BLAGRM and causing me to reach for the Subtitle option on my remote except I'm at a movie theater, there's no remote, and now I'm all like Fuck, I gotta wait for the Blu-ray to understand this motherfucker?!

Hoffman is excellent as Dodd, someone who seems to be on top of everything, seems to know everything, prone to hearty handshakes and being the center of attention at social functions. You can totally understand why people would be eager to believe what he says, even though the game he spits can range from "interesting" to "are you fucking kidding me?" And the cracks certainly show through his otherwise confident facade whenever someone has the audacity to call Dodd on this shit, causing homeboy to snap on a motherfucker. Not that anyone takes much notice (or refuses to acknowledge it), I guess for the same reason people will forgive their favorite politician or spiritual leader for fucking up royally; nobody's perfect and we're only human after all, either that or maybe people just want to believe in something so bad, they'll plug their ears, close their eyes, and go LALALALALALA to ignore the warning signs and then unplug and open long enough to blame someone else -- anyone else -- for putting Their Guy in that position.

As for The Adorable Amy Adams, she does very well in her role; nothing showstopping, but that's not what the part's about anyway, she's more of a presence that pops up from time to time to remind us that Amy Adams is in this movie. Dalton from Road House must've been her grandson and that's where he learned his Be Nice Until It's Time Not To Be Nice ways, because there are times where she looks/acts as sweet as expected, bouncing her toddler son on her knee and baby-talking him, and then there are other moments where she is all business and will get up in a dude's face while he's trying to catch some ZZZ's and tell him what's what.

And when it comes time to pull the leash on the ol' hubby, she does that shit like a fuckin' boss, walking up to L.D. while he's washing up in the bathroom before bed, and proceeding to jerk that motherfucker off while setting him straight with some rules on how he should behave. My goodness -- the last film they acted in together, Adams and Hoffman were bonding over their fondness for Frosty the Snowman, now she's like the reverse Frank T.J. Mackey, demanding respect for the cunt while taming the cock. The cherry of this hand-job sundae is when she tells Dodd when to come (I prefer the non-porn spelling), she doesn't even let the guy come at his own leisure. It's like just 'cause she's tugging this dude's main vein doesn't mean she has all fuckin' night, either, 'cause a girl's gotta get her sleep. Damn. Even her one-handed hand-wash afterward was gangsta.

People always gotta make it about something it's not, and I guess as soon as they found out that Lancaster Dodd was based in some part on L. Ron Hubbard, they figured Anderson was gonna fuck Scientology in the ass, like he's Jesus Quintana on a Wednesday night date. He doesn't really do that because it's not an exposé on that shit. It's more about the flawed motherfuckers behind that kind of thing, but there are enough references to it that you can point it out your bud, all "That's the auditing session he's doing, only he doesn't have the E-meter!" If he wanted to, Anderson could've completely changed it to something that didn't resemble Scientology at all -- and you'd still have the same story and character arc (or lack thereof).

I think the 70mm will throw some people off, coming in and expecting some epic bastard-from-a-basket type shit, but they're getting something closer to a minor-scaled joint like Hard Eight (or Sydney, if you wanna be that way). His last film ended with a character declaring "I'm finished!" while this film ended with the lady behind me asking her friend "Is that it?", so keep that in mind. It's got a bit of a Full Metal Jacket thing going where the second half doesn't match the first half in power and awesomeness. I liked the film but after seeing it twice, I have to say this is my least favorite P.T. Anderson flick. But hey, with an oeuvre like his, "least" is still pretty fuckin' good.

Monday, September 3, 2012

It's getting to be like a goddamn Dr. Bronner's Soap label in this motherfucker

After you help me get up off the floor, I'll tell you that I had to be defensive about the guy because what you said was an out-and-out falsehood. Me, I'm in the truth business. See, you can talk all the shit you want about Michael Cimino the man, but questioning him as an artist is the first step onto a road that will lead to heartbreak for the both of us.

So stop acting like he was just some lucky duck who pulled the wool over critics' eyes with The Deer Hunter and that it took Heaven's Gate for them to find out they'd been somehow hoodwinked, 'cause the former was/is/always will be a great flick while the latter is, in my humble-yet-emotional opinion, his best work as a filmmaker that was overshadowed by his studio-killing perfectionist style, like he's the only fuckin' tyrannical asshole director in the entire history of film. Don't let his later disappointing efforts paint over the triumph of his early winning output, not unless you're one of those guys who also feels Francis Ford Coppola ain't worth a shit anymore just because he also directed Jack, and if that's the case, you need a hug to get that hate out of your system.

But just because I think Heaven's Gate is his best work doesn't make it my favorite Cimino; no, that would have to be Year of the Dragon, his follow-up/comeback attempt starring Mickey Rourke in his prime. Cimino co-wrote the film with Oliver Stone, who must've been in coked-out Scarface mode while he was tapping away on the keyboard, because like Scarface, this one's got insanely quotable dialogue that is often badass, hilarious, wrong, or all three simultaneously. Like Scarface, the dramatics are pumped-up, emotionally overwrought, and occasionally didactic as it tries to Teach You Something. And like Scarface, two gunmen shoot up a nightspot filled with innocent bystanders before one of them gets blasted in the foot.

It's like Stone's writing forces a motherfucker to up his game and swell up his directorial testicles in order to tell the story properly; Cimino, Brian De Palma, and John Milius were already up to the challenge -- aggressively cinematic filmmakers that they are --  while a delicate hippie vegan flower like Hal Ashby ended up succumbing to the harsh For Real Men Only energies emanating from Stone's pages and ended up a drugged-out shadow of his former self. You have to look deep within yourself before you take on an Oliver Stone script and know for goddamn sure that you can handle it -- otherwise you might as well be a Nazi opening up the Ark of the Covenant.

But Cimino took to the task like his name was Henry Jones, Jr. and the end accomplishment is a great-looking epic cop flick about a real piece of work named Stanley White (né Wizynski), played by Rourke in one of his best performances. White was a Marine who fought in the Vietnam War but now works out his despair and frustration of that experience by putting some serious foot to ass as the most decorated cop in New York City. In addition to all his commendations for his police work, my man Stan is also highly decorated in being an unlikable prick of a human being; he's pushy, rude, obnoxious, he uses casually racist language, he's a shitty husband to his wife, and he's inconsiderate to the news reporter he's banging on the side (and using in his War Against Crime).

His latest assignment is Chinatown, where he's expected to make the streets safe from all the spiky haired guys and gals who are terrorizing both locals and tourists by doing lovely things out in the open, like stabbing fat old Chinese men in restaurants or blasting old bald cigar-chomping Guidos in the face. It's not so much the deaths of these guys that bothers me, it's the incredibly sad funeral marches that follow with their beyond-mournful dirges that seem to awaken the darkest part of my soul which then says to me "C'mon, it's just a quick slash down your wrist, it'll be worth it".

White must've served in Vietnam alongside Black Dynamite, because evidently Homeboy sees this new beat as an opportunity for a Round 2 against the Vee-Its, and he doesn't limit his street-cleaning to just the youth gangs (which is what his superiors want), he also goes straight to the older recognizable Asian character actors running things and tells them that shit's gonna change (which is what his superiors don't want). This of course doesn't go well with these older tong/triad types, but it really doesn't go well with the young up-and-comer of the group (played by Iceman from Iceman) who may or may not be making power plays for the top of the triads. From that moment on, White's mission is met with many political and criminal roadblocks, occasional tragedies, and the overall hee-larious irony that in his attempt to avoid this becoming "Vietnam all over again" he's pretty much recreating that shit only this time he's the General in this motherfucker.

White's a complicated motherfucker in that he talks so much shit about the Chinese (often to their faces) and yet at times gets very upset at how many of them got fucked/are getting fucked by their own people here in the States -- not to mention how his fellow Americans don't seem to give a fuck about their plight, and those that do are really just taking advantage of them. There's a part where White practically lectures someone on how the railroads in America were built on the bones of many hardworking Chinese and yet they were never given the proper tribute or respect after the job for all their damn-near slave laboring. That had to be a Stone contribution, one of many to remind the audience that this great country can also be a great asshole to the poor/tired/huddled masses, while also serving as a way to cushion the blow for all the uses of "chink", "Chinamen", "yellow niggers", not to mention White's constant references to spare ribs. (Sure enough, all that spare ribs talk led to me picking up Chinese takeout after the film because THE FATNESS NEVER ENDS, IT ONLY EXPANDS.)

Well, those Chinese Are People Too moments were all for naught, because from what I understand, this film got the protest treatment by Asian special interest groups when it hit theaters, because they needed something to get up-in-arms about and Sarah Silverman was still in high school at the time. Actually, I can see where they're coming from; here you have a movie where the lead character keeps going off on the Chinese being both unable or unwilling to assimilate to the American way of doing things, and the only positive Chinese characters are pretty much victims/ineffectual/sacrificial lambs. At that point it doesn't matter that everyone in this film -- with the exception of White's long-suffering wife -- carry degrees from the University of Being A Fucking Asshole, the filmmakers can write and shoot all the lectures they want but it won't change what feels like a tale about Stanley The Very Flawed White Knight trying to save the Chinese from themselves. 

Because it's called Year of the Dragon and not Year of the Chupacabra, I can get past the controversy and enjoy the film for what it is, without any baggage. I've never read the Robert Daley novel that this was based on, so I don't know how that shit compares, but the screen-story feels like some pulpy B-level criminal underworld paperback shit. Only Cimino treated the material like he was making 2 Deer 2 Hunter; the cinematography is as beautiful as expected in a Cimino flick (there are also quite a few long takes employed in the storytelling), the production design is even more impressive when you consider that most of this Big Apple flick was shot in North Carolina (on the DVD commentary, Cimino says that his good friend/fellow filmmaking perfectionist Stanley Kubrick was fooled by the fake Mott Street in the film), acting-wise everyone is operating at the proper pitch for this story (with one major exception I'll get to later), there are awesomely intense moments of extreme violence peppered throughout the story (gotta love that borderline-mythical climax on the bridge!), and there's even a detour to Thailand that I'm not even sure was necessary to the film except to give Cimino an opportunity to flex his old-school David Lean muscles and shoot widescreen vistas of mountains, rivers, trees, horses, and hundreds of soldiers in the background. 

On the minus side, there are moments that just get a little too goofy for their own good, like the way White looks after pulling a burning body from a fire; combined with his already unkempt appearance, Stan had some Wile E. Coyote stuff happening there. Stuff like that may leave you laughing because there's really no other way to react. Among the other flaws; the ending that I still haven't been able to make total sense of (mostly because of studio interference; Cimino explains on the commentary track what was supposed to be said by one of the characters during the closing moment, and it's a sad reflection on the post-Gate state of his career that he couldn't get his way), and the casting of the news reporter; she's played by model Ariane, who is the personification of Cimino's later works: very impressive visually but underwhelming in performance. The poor girl certainly tries, but she was obviously too young and green for this, her first film.

I've been re-watching the Cims' oeuvre for the past year (easy to take your time when the guy has only made seven features) and my opinion remains the same on this film: It is his most entertaining, and in comparison to the nearly 4-hour Gate, Dragon's 134-minute runtime whizzes by like a fuckin' Zucker/Abrahams/Zucker collaboration, so there's that too. It's as serious as my impending heart attack in tone but is overall Good Times as a viewing experience, which also happens to be how I felt about Scarface and come to think of it both films would make for an awesome double-bill of coked-out entertainment (For the record, fan that I am of certain substances, I'm too scared to do the white stuff because I'm hyper enough as is and my heart would probably explode, plus I don't want to get Cocaine Face).

Anyway, I really like this movie, and if you're a fan of lovely music that sounds like the director told the composer to remind the audience that he once made a movie called The Deer Hunter, or you like seeing people get shot through the hand as they attempt to cover their faces from oncoming bullets, you might like this movie too.