"Shadows present, foreshadowing deeper shadows to come." -- Herman Melville

Send all adoration/vitriol to marc@shadowbloom.com

January 12, 2007

Tenacious D in The Pick of Destiny
US 2006, Directed by Liam Lynch
Written by Jack Black, Kyle Gass, and Liam Lynch
(*** and 1/2) of four

A pot and rocket sauce powered magical mystery tour guided by The Greatest Band on Earth™, Pick is a hit or miss ride, but it's a nice little valentine to their devoted fans. I won't pretend I was at all unbiased walking in--as a D disciple for many years now, the movie would have had to be a complete train wreck for me not to enjoy it--but it's a relaxed burst of unabashed stoner comedy goodness that will be too trifling for some, but a tasty confection for others. Extra credit also for the D's soundtrack. While it's not as consistent as their tremendous debut album, I'll take any new Kage and Jables I can get (I'm still worried they shot their load on the first album and we'll never get a proper follow-up), especially gems like "Kickapoo," "Classico" (more beautiful Jack Black poetry-via-obscenity), and the hallucinatory "Papagenu (He's My Sassafrass)." Blink and you missed it in theaters, but a feature-packed two-disc DVD is due out on February 27 (I'm looking forward to seeing the deleted scene with David Koechner featuring "The Government Totally Sucks" from the soundtrack--check out interviews with Liam Lynch here and here for more details). Toke up, kick back, and obey the D.

The Fountain
US 2006, Directed by Darren Aronofsky
Screenplay by Darren Aronofsky
Story by Darren Aronofsky and Ari Handel
(***) of four

Darren Aronofsky certainly deserves credit for ambition and determination. After his big-budget, Brad Pitt-starring version was shut down due to creative differences and ballooning expenses, Aronofsky reimagined the film with a much smaller scope, replaced stars Pitt and Cate Blanchett with Hugh Jackman and Rachel Weisz, and, years later, The Fountain was reborn. I'm still not sure how I feel about it, though. On one hand, its imagination and passion far exceed the usual studio cookie-cutter dreck (it's surprising that it hit nearly 1,500 screens, though it performed poorly). The CGI-eschewing special effects are mesmerizing (especially on the big screen, but I can't wait to see them in HD also) and Clint Mansell offers another hypnotic soundtrack (performed by Kronos Quartet and Mogwai). Unfortunately, the screenplay doesn't fulfill Aronofsky's creative ambitions. It straddles the line between more literal science fiction and an evocative mood piece, but never really finds its place, leaving us confused (Weisz as tree?), but also not emotionally invested enough to be swept up in the lavish visuals (sadly diminishing the 2001-esque climax). I don't know. I've switched my rating a few times working on this review. It's not nearly as successful as Aronofsky's earlier films, but it's not to be summarily discarded either and I am looking forward to watching it again. For now, I'm going to give him the benefit of the doubt. I'm glad there are filmmakers like him willing to take these chances; I just hope his next film comes a little easier for him.