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The Bottom Shelf #100

03.22.2007

Originality and the argument of whether or not it still exists. That would be a great case most likely only solved by the infamous Judge Wapner. People have been recycling the same ideas for years, simply putting a new spin on them. With a combination of the right actors, the right timing and a forgetful public, sometimes we can be convinced that originality is still alive and kicking. Here are a couple of pieces of evidence for the jury.

LAWN DOGS (1997)
Directed by: John Duigan
Starring: Mischa Barton, Sam Rockwell

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For the sake of repeating myself (since I'm such a fan of that), I like quirky characters. I like plots that aren't plots, storylines that don't really go anywhere and more focus put on the players involved than in what they're supposed to be doing. It gives me a moment to sit back, stretch out and just watch. Most of the world around me prefers their movies like they prefer their television shows: Laboriously drawn out for them and solved by the end of the hour. I guess that's why I don't watch very much television.

LAWN DOGS is a strange little film. Centered around a ten year old girl who is too weird to be bothered making friends her own age, a girl who howls at the moon and pissed on the windshield of her father's truck, the story never really goes anywhere. She tells fanciful tales to get herself through her existence. She has a heart problem for which she's endured many operations and her parents have moved into a new housing community where all of the neighbors are just as off as she is but more discreet in letting on about it. When she makes friend with the local bumpkin who mows the affluent families' lawns, things in her life begin to change. Somewhat.

Towards the beginning of the movie I was wondering if it was just going to be a waste of my time and Netflix queue space. As the scenes progress, however, you get sucked into the vortex of odd that's going on. From watching Sam Rockwell strip down nude and jump off a one lane bridge (which happens to make the movie COMPLETELY worth its rental price in and of itself) to getting a glimpse at one of Angie Harmon's bared breasts (uptight Law & Order lawyer no more!) to giggling over demon child next door, it's enough to make you forget that the lead star is a little girl who grew up to infest tabloid headlines with her short skirts and grungy boyfriends. There is no discernable point to LAWN DOGS and that's precisely why I liked it so much. Because some days we need to stretch out more than we need to be on the edge of our seats. And that's what this movie delivers.

Favorite Scene:

When Devon's mom puts a whole new spin on how to get a salad ready for a picnic.

Favorite Line:

"I don't like children. They smell like TV."

Trivia Tidbit:

Director John Duigan is best known for directing the popular Australian film FLIRTING.

See if you liked:

THE GOOD GIRL, IGBY GOES DOWN, PIECES OF APRIL

PLUNKETT & MACLEANE (1998)
Directed by: Jake Scott
Starring: Robert Carlyle, Jonny Lee Miller

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-- click here to rent this movie at NetFlix.com --

It's been said that there are no new ideas. That all ideas (especially for film) have already been made and that even the most original of stories is simply a creative retread of previously produced material. That kind of kills the argument that I like to try and start reviews with when I've watched something that I think plays out as being original. As I sat here thinking about talking up PLUNKETT & MACLEANE as being a unique film, my mind started to wrap around the fact that at its core, it's a Robin Hood story retold.

Two men meet in jail. One is an established criminal, jailed for having stolen jewels from some dignitaries. The other is a man who straddles the borderline to being known and accepted amongst the wealthy circles within Paris. Striking a deal that will get them both out of the clink on the agreement that they will be in cahoots to execute some robberies, the story then sets out to tell how twisted social status can be. The men gain access to the parties among the affluent, but in order to maintain the look of wealth that is needed to do that, Miller's character must constantly throw away the money that they've stolen to remain clothed properly and to have the money to gamble.

The movie never really decides if it wants to stay within the parameters of a period piece or embrace its youthful ties and be a little bit of old and new school mixed together. Miller and Carlyle as well as female co-star Liv Tyler never really look as if they are meant to be a part of the 18th century, but they are the only bright spots in what otherwise is filmed to look at dark and dank as those times really were. I'm torn in deciding whether or not this is a movie that I like, but I will give it the recommendation that it deserves, since it is not really like any other recent film that I've seen. If you're looking for something that will be a break from the current norm, then this is the film for you. You'll have to let me know just how original you find it to be, or condemn it to the pile of ideas already reproduced and just repackaged.

Favorite Scene:

The discussion over the diseased unit of Miller's.

Favorite Line:

"Oh, so you are a gentleman?"
"Yes."
"What a shame."

Trivia Tidbit:

Director Jake Scott is the son of well-known director Ripley Scott.

See if you liked:

TIME BANDITS, CASANOVA, BROTHERHOOD OF THE WOLF

Even if they're deemed to not be original, I think even Judge Wapner would have been impressed with Sam Rockwell's body. You'd have to be dead not to. Speaking of which... is that dude still alive?

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