Sunday, June 20, 2010

"You Don't Know Jack [Kevorkian]" ... HBO, You're Genius.

I thought I should put out a few words about "You Don't Know Jack," the new (well, April, "new") HBO-released movie about Dr. Kevorkian. It's got several actors we all know and love, playing out a debate that is near and dear to my heart.

It's a biopic about "Doctor Death," starring Al Pacino as Kevorkian, Susan Sarandon as real-life Janet Good, a trusted, integral participant in the aiding of right-to-die medical lawsuits back in the 1980s-90s, and John Goodman and Brenda Vaccaro as Kevorkian's right-hand men in the video-taping and documenting of assisting suicides to patients who had no will to live.

By many accounts, people have the right to be put out of their suffering, so long as they are cognizant and, actually, suffering; Kevorkian has always been played out in the media as a masked-murderer cloaked in doctor's garb.

At the end of the movie, and after endless chats with Mama G on the issue, jury's out? Which, for this type of film, is interesting and successful.

It's rare that I take movies actually seriously.

I mean, my favorites involve gunmen having showdowns, gangsters being awesome, spies stealing intel, vigilantes (the real favorite!) wreaking revenge on any and all who deserve it...or Tom Hanks falling in love with ladies I'd like to be (embarrassing, but true).

In short, I run the gamut, in terms of taste ... but I always just love tales, not the idea we should really think of the parables with regards to our own lives.

Sadly, in this life, I doubt I'll ever own a gun, be a gangster (sigh), be a spy (bigger sigh), go vigilante on someone (biggest sigh) and ... love's for the birds (no sigh needed, there).

But, this film really got to me. Got to me.

I grew up in a family of rational scientists, healthcare professionals, cynics, agnostics -- some crazier than others, sure -- but ... it was formative. No one liked that I graduated with a lib-arts degree, but everyone cheered when I started working at Popular Science, even as a grunt.

And, I grew up with a Mama G who has always told me: "Morgie, when I'm old and sick ... you just pull the plug. Pull it." -- she's seen too much in her 30-some-odd years of helping the sick and decrepit to imagine herself being kept alive for the sake of her kids not wanting to see her pass.

I always respond: "In yo' dreeeeeams! I couldn't do that ... you don't have enough dollars to leave me for me to let you go and not be able to gossip with you! Even if you're just laying there, I can still chat at you."

I kid, kind of. But the principle of believing that, in theory, you should relieve someone of their insufferable pain by telling them how to "go," painlessly -- which can be argued is part of a doctor's duties -- it's quite unthinkable to think about doing to a loved one unless you're in that situation.

The film really makes you think -- you watch how Kevorkian's ego, his pride, his honest-to-the-gods belief in progressing medical-history informs his logic; how he challenges current medical practices in the name of ushering in a transformative period of medical assistance against odds.

To me, it was pretty eye-opening.

Of course, when I discussed it, again, for two hours with Mama G, she said: "Well, now, sheesh, I'll have to watch it; don't go pulling the plug on me too soon!"

Never, and mission accomplished on the movie front!

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Cyrus: "I Will Knock You Out."

A couple weeks ago, I dragged an old Favorite Friend of mine from school out to Crooklyn to the New York premiere of "Cyrus," the new film starring Marisa Tomei, John C. Reilly, Catherine Keener and the ubiquitous Jonah Hill.

Tomei and Reilly, Brooklyn natives, were introducing the film at the opening of the BAMcinemaFest; post-viewing, they were to be mingling in the crowd with us plebes, where beer and scotch sponsors gave us all free drinks and hot dogs and sugar-coated peanuts.

There were so many hipsters there that I think my bud and I were the only two who had circulation to our feet.

It was awesome.

A PopSci colleague gave me the tickets after he heard me chewing the fat about how much I wanted to see the film, and how I'd likely die if I ever saw Marisa Tomei in person -- the tickets were very much appreciated.

I'm sure we've all seen the trailer for Cyrus by now, and the premise is pretty original. I'd been waiting months to see Hill play Tomei's son (not to be impolite, but ... such a spawning could never happen, I'd dare to say), and John C. has been a favorite for years.

Reilly plays the Loserville guy, John, who meets the woman of his dreams, Molly (Tomei). Suddenly, he's rapt by love, his life is going to go somewhere, he's head over heels.


There's Cyrus (Hill), and he's rather Hell-bent on his Oedipal Complex; he's not too keen on having the likes of some guy moving in on his mother.

Catherine Keener plays Reilly's ex-wife, Jamie, in a weirdly amicable divorced situation - she champions Reilly to plug on after Tomei, and if you can suspend reality enough (or just wish that it was always that peachy), they have an endearing relationship that helps you root along Reilly/Tomei.

Jonah Hill is hilarious, as always, in his weirdo persona as a 21-year-old son who's too protective of his hot mother; Tomei is just ... breathtakingly gorgeous as always, and endearing to boot; and, we always root for John C. because -- he's got a root-for face.

I really loved the movie -- kooky, weird, unbelievable, sure ... but, fun.

I leave you with a favorite Tomei scene from "My Cousin Vinny."

Friday, June 11, 2010

"Splice": Oh, What You Could Have Been.

Oh, "Splice," what you could have been.

I saw this sci-fi flick Opening Night, last Friday. Because I am an unabashed watcher of MTV, I'd seen the Splice trailer some 17,000 times while watching a "True Life" marathon the previous Saturday (some really sick phenomena take place on that wonder of a show -- kind of makes you feel better about your own dysfunctions, such as watching "True Life" for hours on end when the sun is out and shining.)

I was quite floored about the movie -- I figured it would be a schlock-filled horror/thriller film that'd make me cringe at puss and goo, while telling a good story about corporate n'er-do-wells, trying to stymie some important genetic research - a pet issue of mine.

Buddy, was I wrong.

Adrien Brody stars as Clive Nicoli, an egotistical geneticist who's been (somewhat) successful at breeding blobs of gooey flesh via multi-hybrid animal DNA. The blobs are supposed to be critical to solving livestock health issues, amongst sundry other vague health conditions of science-fiction lore.

Clive and love-interest partner Elsa Kast (Sarah Polley, notable in "Go" and for writing/directing "Away From Her"), who is also a NERD -- that's actually the acronym for the corporation they work for, and fitting for her geeked out character -- decide to take matters into their own hands when the higher-ups dictate that the two are not allowed to mix in a few human ova into their animal genetic mix.

This, after one of their blobs explodes on stage after a press conference, spurting out goo-junk onto all the Helen Thomas's in the science world. Perhaps the old NERD higher-ups considered liability or, oh, ethics, when they decided not to let these two make an animal-human hybrid.

What results is "Dren" (NERD spelled backwards) - a hilariously conceived part-human that has the legs of a horse, wings of a ... dragon? ... a pointy tongue, fish lungs, a weird crevice in the skin that runs down the symmetrical vertical of her face -- and some G.D. crazy incestuous plot lines that make you want to hug your knees to your chest, even though you're laughing at the ridiculousness of it all at the same time.

I will say that I was entertained; much like everyone in the audience, I was chuckling at each and every new horrible plot twist. When we find that Dren is aging like Benjamin Button, my only question was: Does this mean the movie ends sooner? One can only wish.

I ruin nothing in talking about the plot, because - the moment these guys get on screen, the stilted acting, the early twists, the ... everything ... spells the movie out before it even gets going. Director Natali does, however, drop in a couple last-minute twists that are hard-to-bear and not fit even for this genre.

I'll keep those to myself, though.

Next up, "Cyrus," (awesome) and "The Karate Kid" (mini-Fresh Prince is so great).