September 24th, 2008


The Mentalist

Not bad, but not all that exciting either.

The Mentalist stars strangely weathered Australian actor Simon Baker as Patrick Jane, who used to be one of those John Edward types who cashed in on pretending to talk to people's departed loved ones. Now he uses that same skill of expertly reading people's body language and demeanor to help the California Bureau of Investigation solve crimes. Why did he give up his lucrative career of duping the grief-stricken for what is surely a pay cut? Because a serial killer known as Red John (not to be confused with Red Jack from the Star Trek episode "Wolf in the Fold") killed his wife and little boy. A serial killer that's still on the loose! A more cliched motivation would be hard to come up with.

I did like tonight's premiere, but right now the problem is that the gimmick -- Patrick's ability to read people almost instantly -- is the only thing distinguishing The Mentalist from the ten thousand other procedurals on TV. Without it, the show is almost completely generic. The solution to tonight's mystery was not hard to figure out long before the final sting, but even worse, the mystery itself was almost treated as if it didn't matter because the show was so intent on showing Patrick's abilities and giving us cheesy flashbacks to the discovery of his dead family. One bright spot was Robin Tunney as senior agent Teresa Lisbon. I've always liked Tunney's work, and though she's not given much to do in the pilot, she soldiers through well enough. I'm not looking forward to the forced sexual tension the writers will no doubt be inflicting on these two characters down the line, and on the viewers.

The Mentalist is, in many ways, police procedural comfort food. Sometimes you're feeling adventurous, sure, but other times you just want that good old yummy mac and cheese mom used to make. There's still time for The Mentalist to find ways to distinguish itself -- pilots are notoriously bumpy and cartoonish because the writers and actors don't have a firm grip on everything yet -- but there's just enough here for me to tune in again, and see if this mac and cheese is worth keeping as leftovers or if it gets dumped in the trash.

This Looks Like the Best Movie That Has Ever Been Filmed

The above picture is from a new movie called Bitch Slap, and just from this single image I can already tell this movie has everything I could ever want in a film. Big guns. Smoldering wreckage. Nosebleeds. From what I gather, the plot is something of a science fiction-tinged Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!, but really, looking at this one image I realize now, finally, that plot is so unimportant.

Let's see what we can piece together from the picture. Red -- that's what I'm calling her -- has a big gun. From the looks of things, she is responsible for the smoldering wreckage behind her (you go, girl!). The nosebleed? That just shows how tough she is. Someone punched her in the face and I bet all she did was flip her hair, fix him with a steely grin and blow him away with that giganto-gun (you still go, girl!). Also, we can gather she has trouble with buttons and enjoys shopping at Frederick's of Hollywood (are you going, girl?).

Seriously, it's like someone made a movie just for me. They telepathically explored all the images in my brain, filmed them exactly as they appeared, and strung them together into a narrative.

The hilariously boob-centric (though still work safe) trailer is available at the movie's equally hilarious website. I swear, the minute that trailer is over you're going to say the same thing I did. Namely, "Oh my God, I have to see this movie!"

Mother of Tears

Dario Argento has become a parody of himself. I don't think he's made a good film since 1987's Opera, and in fact I have avoided most of his later work. (You should ask glvalentine about Argento's baffling 1998 take on the Phantom of the Opera sometime.) So it was with a great deal of excitement and a great deal of trepidation that I learned he was finally going to complete the Three Mothers trilogy he started with Suspiria in 1977 and continued with Inferno in 1980.

Mother of Tears came out in 2007, but wasn't given a wide release in the States. Now it's finally on DVD and after having seen it, all I can say is the movie is so bad I don't even have words for it.

It opens with a completely crazy kill scene. Some unfortunate soul opens an ancient urn covered with arcane symbols -- which we'll call the Clue Box -- after it's unearthed in a church cemetery. Then some monsters show up and break her face. Then they cut her open so her intestines fall out. Then they strangle her with her intestines.

Then the crazy part happens.

It is revealed that the monsters are under the command of an evil monkey. No really. Ask anyone who's seen the movie. It's an evil monkey.

Asia Argento, the director's daughter, witnesses the murder and goes on the run, being chased by the evil forces (and evil monkey!) of the recently awakened Mother of Tears, who has stolen the Clue Box. Meanwhile, witches from all over the world descend on Rome. You can tell they're witches because they look like they just walked out of a 1980s music video, all big hair and stockings on their arms and too much eye makeup. (The scene with the witches arriving at the airport is particularly hilarious. It looks like something out of a Pat Benatar video.) Rome falls into chaos, and by chaos I mean people brawling in the streets and yelling "Fuck you!" at each other. Then Udo Kier shows up for twelve seconds to supply some exposition before he gets axed to death.

Then, while the evil monkey hops up and down on a chair and shrieks at its handler off-camera, the lead singer from Midnight Oil shows up and sticks a spear up a woman's cooch. Tacky! But if you think that's phallic, wait till you get a load of the giant stone obelisk that penetrates impales the Mother of Tears at the end!

Oh yeah, the Mother of Tears. For a villain, she's actually barely in the movie. She's a thousand-year-old witch, but she's still young-looking and likes to walk around naked, even though all her power is apparently tied to wearing a red robe from the Clue Box that everyone mistaken calls a talisman instead of a robe. Also, this thousand-year-old witch has fake boobs and a shaved cooch. Authenticity!

But Asia is a witch too, kind of. During a scene when she is running from the police for no reason, her dead ghost mother (played by Asia's real-life mom Daria Nicolodi) teaches her how to turn invisible so they won't find her. Handy, no? Too bad Asia promptly forgets she has this ability and spends the rest of the movie running from bad guys when she could just turn invisible and not have to worry.

Then she meets up with the police detective who's been chasing her, but who apparently no longer cares why, and in a spooky old house, behind a door marked "catacombs" they find some unexplored catacombs (I AM NOT KIDDING!) where the witch and all her naked, booby followers are hiding out. Cue the removal of the witch's clothes, and thus her powers, and the arrival of the aforementioned giant stone penis obelisk that rams into her naked body, killing her. The evil monkey gets squished by a falling rock. Then Asia runs away, leaving the detective to die as the house falls down around everyone, but then the detective shows up, remarkably healed from his deadly chest wound, and helps her escape even though she left him to die.

Then they escape, and they laugh and laugh and laugh. End of movie. Roll credits.

Oh, Dario. You never cease to disappoint. I think it's time for us to break up. I'll always have my DVDs of Deep Red, Suspiria, Inferno, Tenebre, Phenomena and Opera to remember our time together, but I just don't know who you are anymore.