Shawskank Redemption*

I was watching CNN this afternoon, and someone was talking about Paris Hilton’s hearing. Because cameras weren’t allowed in the courtroom, the “reporter” held up artist sketches of the heiress as she spoke, having apparently forgotten that we Americans now have a portion of our brains devoted to Paris Hilton imagery. So all she really need to do was just say some keywords–“Paris sad,” “Paris indignant,” “Paris naughty bits”–and the corresponding visual would involuntarily flash before our mind’s eye.

Scientists believe that the “Frontal Hobe” is an evolutionary adaptation, similar to the camel’s hump, allowing us to weather those stretches of 30 to 40 seconds when CNN accidentally covers actual news.

* Thanks, Daily Show!

The Bad Review Revue

Mr. Brooks: “Has more tonal shifts than a Philip Glass concert.” — Michael Booth, DENVER POST

Ocean’s Thirteen: “Why put so much sheen on a movie that warrants and provokes nothing more than mild diversion? It’s like serving sloppy joes on fine china.” — Chris Vognar, Dallas Morning News

Firehouse Dog: “The lesson to be learned is that just because we can use computer technology to give dogs goofy faces, that doesn’t mean we should.” –Marrit Ingman, AUSTIN CHRONICLE

Delta Face: “If you’re hungry for comical interpretations of an errant war, may I suggest any episode of M*A*S*H–or, indeed, any episode of Fox News.” — Michael Harris, GLOBE AND MAIL

I’m Reed Fish: “Like being forced to read the diary of a dull-witted teen who is breathlessly beginning a lifelong fascination with himself.” –Kyle Smith, NEW YORK POST

Miriam: “So bad it doesn’t ever approach being good, doesn’t even go from bad to good and back to bad again–just bad bad bad, all the way through.” — Charles Petersen , VILLAGE VOICE

That Lady

I was in the grocery store check out line last night, trying to buy a six-pack of beer, and wound up stuck behind That Lady. You know, the one who, forty seconds after the total of her items is announced, fishes a crumpled up coupon out of her pocket, laboriously smooths it out on the check-writing stand, and presents it to the skeptical cashier, only to be told that it expired during Clinton’s first term. My lady launched then into an extended defense of why she should be allowed to us the coupon nonetheless, despite the fact that it was essentially just a scrap of paper.

Out of sheer irritation I listened for a while, but then I got bored and kind of zoned out. The next thing I knew, the cashier, with an exasperated sigh, left her post and wandered off toward the back of the store, apparently in search of something, and That Lady shouted after her “It’s not that I don’t trust you, it’s that I don’t trust Safeway. As if she and the grocery store chain had been BFFs in middle-school, until the July when she totally caught Safeway making out with her boyfriend at Garrulous Pines Summer Camp.

And this was in the express lane, too. You know, the lane would be more “express” if they changed the sign to read “12 Eccentricities Or Less.”

Movies: Hot Fuzz

Hot Fuzz was not the movie I’d hoped it would be.

And then, suddenly, it was.

The premise sounded great: Nicholas Angel (Simon Pegg), a gritty supercop from the mean streets of London, is reassigned to a quaint countryside village. Based on this, I expected something along the lines of Shaun of the Dead. In that, writer / director Edgar Wright pulled off the neat trick of both faithfully recreating and parodying the typical American zombie movie simultaneously. I figured Hot Fuzz would be similarly over-the-top.

Instead, the film quickly settles into a city-mouse-country-mouse comedy of manners, more Fawlty Towers than Dirty Harry. Angel wiles away his days collaring underage drinkers, eating ice cream cones with his big-boned partner (Nick Frost), and cursing the local paper for repeatedly misspelling his name as “Angle.” When someone actually dies in the idyllic burg, Angel leaps into action, seeking clues and questioning suspects. But the townsfolk pooh-pooh his efforts, and insist that the death was nothing more than an accident. And although Angel is committed to solving the crime, he seems determined, alas, to do so via detective work and deductive reasoning, rather than to let his guns do the talking. One of Angel’s colleagues even dismisses him as “Miss Marple.” At this point, the comparison seemed apt: the film felt like a satire of PBS’s Mystery.

Which was okay, I guess. But I knew going in that Hot Fuzz was 120 minutes long. At about the 75 minute mark, I could feel my enthusiasm waning. In fact, I was a little mystified about all the good reviews the film had received.

And then, hoo-boy. Things changed gears, and how.

In some ways, Hot Fuzz reminds me of the Half His Heads Was an Orange joke, or any shaggydog story where much of the humor is derived from the overly-long punchline. And, in this case, the setup is pretty funny too–so long as you know it’s not going to occupy the full two hour running time. It doesn’t quite reach the heights of inspired insanity on display in Shaun, but it demonstrated that Wright’s first film was no fluke–and has me looking forward to whatever he and Frost pair up in next.