In the Electric Mist
Tommy Lee Jones is watchable in most anything- I even watched Man of the House– but James Lee Burke’s novels have had a hard time making it to screen. Much of the drama is internal, and while Mr. Jones can say so much with that craggy face of his, the story mostly gets lost here. Jones is Dave Robicheaux, sheriff in Iberia Parish Louisiana, where Hollywood big shots have come to film a War of Northern Aggression movie. And the bodies of young women start showing up in the bayou. John Goodman plays a producer with dirty money Dave knoves from days of old; Peter Sarsgaard plays a drunken film star who befriends Dave against his wishes. Robicheaux is a recovering alcoholic, and after someone doses him with LSD, he begins seeing a dead Civil War general in the mist- the novel’s original title is In the Electric Mist with Confederate Dead- but nothing of much depth comes of it. The film was yanked from director Bertrand Tavernier, re-cut and dumped to DVD- a pity, since he created the well-regarded thriller Coup de Torchon. It’s a decent viewing, but it just doesn’t make it. Watching Tommy Lee Jones flirt with wifey Mary Steenburgen, and butt heads with John Goodman, might satisfy you.
The Onion Movie
I was a big fan of the Onion even before it made it to the web, and it remains one of the best comedy sites. A movie, though? Well, part of it is a Kentucky Fried Movie-like skit comedy with news stories come to life, and that works. But the linking story, about the newspaper being taken over by a media conglomerate and attacked by terrorists, is pretty boring. It’s hard not to laugh at Steven Seagal showing up as the star of Cockpuncher, though. And some of the movie’s little in-jokes, like making up a bunch of fake ethnic stereotypes and then making them true, work very well. It’s hit or miss, but worth watching if you like the website’s sense of humor.
Soon to be blamed as the movie that made Joaquin Phoenix coo-coo for cocoa puffs, this is a decent romance drama starring him as a troubled young man recovering from a broken engagement, who gets torn between two lovers. One is the safe daughter of his father’s business associate, played by Vinessa Shaw (the hottie who saves Tom’s bacon in Eyes Wide Shut) ; and Gwyneth Paltrow, a sexy neighbor who has plenty of problems of her own. The story, written and directed by James Gray (We Own the Night) suffers from the same malaise his last film did- the story is lacking punch and emotional drive, and is a bit predictable. The acting is excellent here; I’d say Phoenix would be nominated if his public antics wouldn’t sour the Academy on him. He hasn’t been this good since Commodus in Gladiator. Paltrow is excellent as well, playing the thankless role of Michelle, who just can’t quit a married man (Elias Koteas, quite good as well). I liked it, sometimes a story is good even if you know where it is going, if the characters are good enough. And that’s the case here.