What is it about a Housewife on vacation? It's like you get them outside of their native land, the savannah on which they film this glorious nature show for all of us, and they just lose their damn minds. It's like pulling a big fish out of a small pond and then putting it on the wharf and they just fitz and flail all about, coating the wood with their slimy scales. It's inexplicable the things they do when they get away. I guess that's what we all do. That is what everyone is doing this last week of August when there is nothing to do in the office and everyone shuffles off to the beach. "Oh, I'll just eat this third donut. Who cares? I'm on vacation!" "I'm not going to bother showering which means that I won't shave. Whatever. I'm on vacation. Screw you." "Holy crap, I drank three bottles of wine last night, did two tequila shots, and made out with some boy who I don't remember. I freaking hate vacation."
Yes, the Real Mardi Gras Beads of Show Us Your Tits University are on vacation which means they are all going to go absolutely bats**t insane. Carole is taking them to St. Bart's, ostensibly to meet her boyfriend and go to some blues festival that they will never make it to because Ramona is too drunk, LuAnn will want to go hang around with her "Italian friends" instead, and Sonja says she didn't pack anything blue so she has nothing to wear. They are just there to get in fights, cause drama, and otherwise behave like they they are a bunch of lab rats who were given a very virulent strain of psilocybin.
So, the gaggle flies down to St. Barts in a V formation like they're going south for the winter and they all land at this very beautiful villa. It is completely isolated, which is perfect because at any moment this vacation could turn into a slasher movie and there would be no one there to help any of these ladies from some crazed killer wearing a Hawaiian shirt and a mask made out of a boar's head. Who would be the one to survive until the end of the movie? I hope it's Carole. Or Sonja. The rest, well, sorry to see you go, but these things happen in slasher movies. "In St. Barts, no one can hear you scream."
Actually, it's a gorgeous house with multiple pools, a giant deck, a huge open floor plan that spills out into the surrounding mountains covered in green trees rising up from soil that is so, so fertile (unlike LuAnn and her withered up fallopian tubes). It's really a gorgeous house, but something about it is tugging at Carole's neurons, like a finger nail picking at a scab. She has been there before. Has she been there before? She swears she has. While taking a tour of the grounds (Carole and Heather are in the "pool house" away from the other ladies because they're not dummies) she tells the Realtor that she's been to St. Bart's before with her late husband and his mother Lee (Radziwill, who is Jackie O's sister, in case you didn't know this about Princess Carole, the most discrete royal in the land). Yes, the Realtor says, the house was much different back then. It was simpler and the owners liked to keep it that way, just a modest house in paradise with a maintenance shed. But now, it's all this.
Oh, Carole, this is your life. This is what you traded in. That Christmas she came downstairs in the little house and found Lee sitting up bolt straight (she has the most perfect posture) and totally coiffed in a casual outfit. She wrapped her robe around herself and said good morning and poured some coffee and she and Lee just sat there on the porch staring out at the jungle and all the rustles and rumbles that emanated from it, somehow both threatening and comforting at the same time. Eventually Anthony would come down and the conversation would pick up, but it would never go above a civilized rumble as they chatted and laughed and exchanged presents. Lee bought her a scarf, a beautiful light cashmere black scarf that she still wears sometimes with her leather jacket. Anthony bought her a first edition of Elizabeth Bishop's Geography III, her favorite book of poetry. She's never opened it, ever, and it sits under the night stand in her bedroom on the top of the pile so she can look at it every day.
Now, here she is, that house torn down and a new house built on top of it. A large and vulgar house informed by a standard ideal of luxury. It's so nice, it is almost devoid of character, like so many hotel lobbies smooshed together near the forest canopy. And the beasts have crawled out of the jungles and are living in the house now, howling, cavorting, and mating under her very roof. It's almost like Carole took a trip to the zoo and decided to move in and every day that old house, that fading phantasm that is lodged in her skull and feels like a knot whenever Ramona and Sonja get really really drunk, dims further and further.
Because, of course, that is what these two do, Ramona and Sonja. Ramona, of course, loves this house. She loves everything about it, the big closet, the fancy shower, the noodles in the pool, the staff she can abuse. But her favorite, the one feature of the house she wants for her home, is the wine dispenser. This is like when they got the soda fountain at Burger King and they decided it was time to trust the public with operating it themselves. You would just get a cup and go absolutely crazy, taking as much or as little soda as you wanted. You could mix Orange Slice and Mountain Dew if you really wanted (and were under the age of 12, becuase only someone would think that brackish sweetness worth ingesting). It is just like that but with wine. There are like 20 different bottles of wine and you can just "squirt" it out right into your glass. The butler (who Sonja is trying to buttle, because he is hot and bald) teaches Ramona how to use it. Somehow I feel like this is showing a lab monkey how the reward box works. You press a lever the treat comes out. You press a lever the treat comes out. This Ramona at the wine machine.
Everyone sits down for dinner and Somonja is already drunk (that is the symbiotic creature known as Sonja and Ramona and, when they have been drinking, they combine like a bleach blond Voltron and attack everything that is near them) and sitting at the table and Jean-Baptiste, their chef is cooking them dinner. "Know what I want to eat for dinner?" Sonja asks. "Jean-Baptiste. Hey, JB, baby, come to momma. Bring over that butler, because I'm going to show you my servant's quarters." She then kneels in her chair and bends over the back, smacking her rump repeatedly while giggling up a storm. Everyone else laughs too, but after dinner, she'll walk right up to Jean-Baptiste and put her arm around him, saying too loudly in his ear, her wine-stained breath dragging across his stubble, "I wasn't kidding earlier. You can go in my hind quarters if you like. I love it back there. Whatever you want to do. I'm all yours. You know where I'm sleeping. Just let yourself in and surprise me." She swatted his ass and waddled away.
But before we can get to that Sonja and Heather have to have another round of silly fighting about the toaster oven photo shoot. I don't even know what the fight is about anymore. Just let it die. Just let this fight turn into a bunch of ashes and just fly away on the wind to never come back. Heather, you're not going to win. Just throw your hands up and walk away. Go over to the wine dispenser and squirt, squirt, squirt yourself some consolation. That's what you need to do.
Carole, because she is a wise woman still dancing with the ghosts that inhabit this house, lures Ramona away from the table and drags LuAnn with her. "Just let them fight," she says. She figures they can just scream themselves hoarse and once their voices sound like sandpaper on a toilet bowl the three of them can amble back and just start their own conversation about something normal and rational. As they're away from dinner, Carole tells Ramona that she's nervous about Russ, her Aerosmith boyfriend, meeting the girls, mostly because they are all Insane Hellcats in Heat (which is the name of the first movie I ever watched on Skinemax). Let us ponder this exchange she has with Ramona:
Carole: Just don't say anything crazy.
Ramona: What would I say that's crazy? I'll just be me.
Carole: No, don't be you.
That, right there is the problem. Ramona is a screech monkey who doesn't know the sound of her own voice causes eardrums to rupture and parts of the brain to swell and expand in a way that often causes headaches and can cause death at certain altitudes. There is nothing Carole can do. Ramona is just crazy and that is it. She can not mitigate her, but she doesn't want to accept her either. Russ is like the old house, funky and familiar, like a down comforter you can curl into for the entire winter. Ramona is the new house, a plaster palace with shiny lights that will blink so fast it will give you a seizure.
OK, now we have to talk about the Countess boinking Johnny Depp.
The Crusades were a series of religious wars in which the Christians tried to reclaim Jerusalem from the Muslims who had conquered the Middle East in the 7th century. With the battle cry of "God wills it! " thousands of Europeans answered the call and were able to retake the fabled Holy City in the 11th century. Kingdom of Heaven begins in 1186 between the Second and Third Crusades. A fragile peace prevails mostly through the efforts of Jerusalem's enlightened Christian king Baldwin IV (Edward Norton) and the military restraint of the legendary Muslim leader Saladin (Ghassan Massoud). But it's difficult to maintain the peace. There are extremists within the Christian brigades--known as the Knights Templar--who want to wipe every Muslim off the face of the Earth. On top of that King Baldwin's health is failing. Once he's gone war is sure to follow. If ever there was a need for a hero this is the time. Enter the young French blacksmith Balian (Orlando Bloom) who is in deep despair over the loss of his family. He joins the Crusades after the father he never knew Godfrey (Liam Neeson) comes back from Jerusalem and convinces him it's a quest worth fighting for. As Godfrey passes his sword to his son he also passes on that sacred knightly oath: to protect the helpless safeguard the peace and work toward harmony between religions and cultures so that a kingdom of heaven can flourish on earth. No pressure or anything though.
Orlando Bloom carries his first major motion picture very well easily handling the chores of being such a gallant conscientious and morally upstanding knight. As Balian the Troy costar plays the gamut. He broods over his lost wife and child has father-son epiphanies upholds his knightly duties on a regular basis falls in love with a beautiful but troubled princess and finally bravely defends the Holy City from the encroaching Muslim army thus becoming a legend. Not bad for a day's work eh? There are even times especially toward the end when Balian is standing before the denizens of Jerusalem urging them to fight when you swear you can see a little of Bloom's The Lord of the Rings alter-elf Legolas creep in. The supporting cast also does an adequate job painting a picture of some trying times. Chief among them: Jeremy Irons as King Baldwin's right-hand man Tiberias; Marton Csokas (The Bourne Supremacy) as the evil leader of the Knights Templar; Massoud as the great warrior Saladin; and lovely Eva Green (The Dreamers) as Princess Sibylla King Baldwin's sister who captures our hero's heart but makes some bad choices with dire consequences.
Even if these sword-and-armor epics are all blending together you've got to give props to the directors who make them. These films are massive undertakings and Kingdom of
Heaven with the expert Ridley Scott at the helm is no exception. The Oscar-winning director of course has had his fair share of recreating history first with the classic Gladiator and then with the contemporary Black Hawk Down. But in recreating the Crusades Scott faces his toughest challenge to date and takes on the responsibility very seriously. He is painstakingly meticulous with details even as he is building a 12th-century Jerusalem or corralling 2 000 heavily costumed extras for the colossal climactic battle sequences. And it is always a good thing when a historical film can teach you something you may not have known like what the heck the Crusades were really all about. No Kingdom's biggest obstacle is timing. While it certainly has more substance than Alexander it is not nearly as intense and stirring as The Lord of the Rings trilogy or the granddaddy of them all Braveheart. Too many of its ilk has come before and the concept has unfortunately worn thin.