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The Bottom Shelf #138

12.13.2007

My curiosity was piqued in David Hewlett when I first watched him in Natali's CUBE (previously reviewed by me on TBS). I then watched his directorial debut of A DOG'S BREAKFAST and developed myself a little crush. So I watched his catalog of films and found that he's worked with Natali on a regular basis. These are a couple more of their joint ventures which warrant another look.

CYPHER (2002)
Directed by: Vincenzo Natali
Starring: Jeremy Northam, Lucy Liu

-- click here to buy this DVD at Amazon.com --
-- click here to rent this movie at NetFlix.com --

There's something about Vincenzo Natali which is beginning to get my knickers in a twist. Here's a director (and sometimes writer) who takes material which is tired and runs through it in the typical fashion all while keeping his direction within a simplistic, bare bones attack. I should hate him. Instead, I'm mesmerized. The first movie that I watched of his was CUBE of which I was impressed that it was a low budget thriller that managed to actually thrill using a tired concept of being trapped in some monstrous, unknown origin killer, device. I've since watched NOTHING (also reviewed) and CYPHER, both about things that aren't groundbreaking, filmed in a style that couldn't be described as flashy in the most exaggerated sense of the term. The man is steady like a vanilla wafer. And dammit, you can make a lot of good shit with a vanilla wafer.

In this case, you have a man with a boring life looking for a little excitement. So he signs up to be an undercover operative for some strange, undefined company that sends him through the paces and then gives him jobs which seems pointless. On one of these business trips, Mr. Vanilla meets Ms. Ginger Snap and is smitten. Until it turns out that she might not just be a spicy little sweet treat. Pills, injections, hints of everything from THE MATRIX to MINORITY REPORT are spotted throughout the flick. Operatives, double agents, who's screwing who, who's behind what, what's the hell and why's hell on first?

There are some weak points to CYPHER other than the obvious retreads. The not-so-special effects look at best like something out of a Sci-Fi Channel movie and the ending just plain sucks. But from the start, I was interested. Perhaps because Mr. Vanilla is usually the guy with the most up his sleeve. Every guy that I've known who has appeared boring on the surface manages to be one of the most interesting story tellers at the end of the evening with the catch being that all of his stories are true. So you sit around and wait until the crowd dissipates, trying to keep an eye on him while everyone else goes about their business. Damn... now I don't even know what the hell I was talking about. I suppose the easiest way to put this is that Natali seems to have mastered the K.I.S.S theory when it comes to film making. It ain't fancy, but it's damn satisfying.

Favorite Scene:

Oh my dog, the eye scene. Sure it's been done before, but ACK!!! Still effective.

Favorite Line:

"This place is tighter than a nun's asshole."

Trivia Tidbit:

The phone number encoded using Job 13:17 is 436-726-3993, which uses the apparently unused area code 436, and does not comply with the convention to use 555 as a prefix for fictional phone numbers.

See if you liked:

THE BOURNE IDENTITY, FLIGHT PLAN, THE FORGOTTEN

NOTHING (2003)
Directed by: Vincenzo Natali
Starring: David Hewlett, Andrew Miller

-- click here to buy this DVD at Amazon.com --
-- click here to rent this movie at NetFlix.com --

In most stoner movies, stuff is always happening. People are meeting up with other people, or going on adventures, getting into trouble and whatnot. In reality, if you're a stoner, you sit around doing a whole lot of nothing. (Although if my mom asks, sitting around for 6 hours working on my Sims improving their lifestyles doesn't qualify as "nothing.") For a movie to be really funny to a stoner, all you've got to do is feature two guys sitting around making fart jokes. As long as those jokes are sincere, the parties watching the goings on will be in stitches.

Nothing much goes on in NOTHING. I mean, there's stuff that happens. It focuses on two men who have been friends for over 20 years, one (Andrew) of which is homebound after the deaths of his abusive parents and the other (Dave) of which is just one of those social misfit types that you can never really identify the reason why so many people dislike them, they just do. When Dave announces that he's going to move out of Andrew's house to start a life with his girlfriend, Andrew panics, locks himself out of the house, has to be rescued by whatever the Canadians call their Girl Scouts, and gets accused of trying to kiss the kid. All the while Dave is accused of embezzlement at work which turns out to be the handiwork of the new girlfriend who dumps him. So Dave returns to Andrew and in the middle of the two being surrounded by the outside world trying to tear the house apart, everything vanishes.

The house sits in a vast pool of white, something that the men refer to as being like tofu because it has the appearance of nothing like tofu does. The come to the conclusion that they've "wished" all the bad stuff away. At first, I kept waiting for the other shoe to drop. I'm cynical. I'd prefer not to believe that you can literally wish all the shitty stuff in your life away (otherwise, why hasn't it worked for me by now, dammit??) and that these two losers were bound to be shown sitting in an empty padded room in some institution. But nope. They really did wish it all away. And in the grand tradition of never knowing to quit while the (not)getting is good, they turn things from nothing to... a bigger inclusion of nothing. Andrew and Dave are never seen as toking it up, but this is a movie poised to be embraced by that crowd of video renters. Who needs plot, point, purpose and something when you can just as easily be very entertained by NOTHING?

Favorite Scene:

The discussion over the dog blow job.

Favorite Line:

"We can't be dead. We have cable."

Trivia Tidbit:

NOTHING marked the fourth time that Natali and Hewlett have worked together.

See if you liked:

CUBE, CECIL B DEMENTED, CONFETTI

Since I've been getting flooded with penile enhancement spam through my zara@joblo.com email address, please make sure to title all future correspondences with me, "I swear this has nothing to do with your penis." Because - surprise, surprise! - I don't have one of those.

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