In the tradition of Batman Begins and Casino Royale the clock is rolled back on the legendary icons the D—the self-proclaimed greatest band in the world—as the curtain is pulled back on their secret origins and the demons that drive them are unveiled… OK so it’s not really that deep. Though the heavy metal/comedy combo of Jack/JB/”Jabeles” (Jack Black) and Kyle/KB/”Kage” (Kyle Gass) have long played hip clubs cut an album starred in their own short-lived HBO series and amassed a devoted cult of fans their first feature film reveals how the pudgy duo first meet form the band meet their first fan (Jason Reed as TV holdover Lee) go questing the fabled Pick of Destiny—a shard of Satan’s tooth turned into a guitar pick passed among rock’s most accomplished shredders—and ultimately smack down with the devil himself. Believe it or not it’s a love story. Thanks to their long professional partnership Black and Gass comprise two perfectly crafted sides of a very polished comedy coin: Black is the wild-eyed uncontrolled id Gass is the low-energy manipulative slacker and they meet in the middle with an equal amount of unchecked delusion about their musical ability and potential. They both deftly pull off the trickiest types of comedy: smart jokes in the guise of dumb characters and it’s nice to see Black—obviously the bigger film star of the two—share the funniest bits equally with Gass. Of course all of this hinges on the audience’s tolerance for the ambitiously clueless ego-cases (and moviegoers who only love Black for his tamer version of the same persona in School of Rock should be warned—this is the cruder ruder and more profane incarnation) but we admit we’ve long had a taste for the D. They boys carry they movie squarely on their shoulders though longtime D supporters Tim Robbins and Ben Stiller stand out in cameos—the first Stiller cameo in ages that’s both amusing and non-gratuitous! Also appearing in small bits: SNL’s Fred Armisen and Amy Poehler Oscar-nominee Amy Adams Colin Hanks hard rock hero Ronnie James Dio Foo Fighter Dave Grohl as Satan and an uncredited John C. Reilly though you’ll never ever recognize him when he’s onscreen. And kudos to whoever had the inspired notion to cast Meat Loaf as JB’s pious father and Troy Gentile as the young rockin’ JB (Gentile also played a junior version of Black in Nacho Libre). Helmer Liam Lynch who also collaborated on the screenplay with Black and Gass and directed their music video “Tribute ” understands the absurd world of the D completely and demonstrates a clever assured sense of straight-faced silliness. Indeed the first ten minutes of the film alone—a mini-rock opera in itself—announce him as a comedy director to watch. Although we’re sure the bandmates themselves would take full credit for the film’s success. After all they may not have made the greatest movie in the world but in D-speak they came up with a pretty rockin’ tribute version.
Didn't get enough of Ben Affleck in "Boiler Room"? Well, not to worry, for said heartthrob actor pretty much achieves multiplex ubiquity this Friday with the much-delayed bowing of "Reindeer Games."
In the John Frankenheimer-directed flick, Affleck plays an ex-con, fresh out of the slammer, who's coerced by his ex-cellmate (Gary Sinise) to pull one last heist on the night before Christmas -- which explains the scene in the trailer where a bunch of Santa Clauseses are walking in, or out, of, well, somewhere. But what the Xmas angle doesn't explain is why the studio (Miramax's Dimension Films in this case) kicked the film's original release date of December 1999 all the way back to mid-February. (Saving the best for last? Or, well, mid-winter?)
Here's a look at the other films opening this week:
-- Going up against Affleck and crew this Friday is Michael Douglas and his crew in "Wonder Boys." Douglas has top billing in the film - and we mean top billing. The film's poster features Douglas' mug, his name, and the film's title - with no mention of anyone else. We are pretty sure, though, he did not make the movie by himself. Anyway, as for the story (adapted from Michael Chabon's novel), Douglas (who else?) plays a novelist who's trying to live up to the success of his first book. Tobey Maguire (A-ha!) co-stars as one of his students -- a guy who diverts Douglas from writing to go in search of a rare jacket once owned by Marilyn Monroe. As further proof that "Wonder Boys" does indeed feature people other than Michael Douglas, "Dawson's Creek" denizen Katie Holmes plays a Maguire classmate.
-- The Brits and Irishmen seem to have a special way of depicting male sexuality. First, there was England's 1997 surprise blockbuster "The Full Monty" (wherein a group of men battled economic recession by stripping), and now there's Ireland's "The Closer You Get." Opening Friday in three cities (Los Angeles, Toronto and New York, to be exact), the flick follows the haps and mishaps of a group of bachelors who place a personal ad in an American newspaper -- the better to invite women to their town's annual St. Martha's Day Dance.
-- For those who like to watch films than aim to subvert the rules of popular cinema and spit at the tyranny of Hollywood, may we recommend "The Tigger Movie"? (Just making sure you were paying attention.) Actually, the pick here is "Mifune" (opening Friday in New York -- and only New York). The film, directed by Danish filmmaker Soren Kragh-Jacobsen, is a Dogme 95-approved film. For the uninitiated, Dogme 95 is something of a film collective founded by Lars von Trier and Thomas Vinterberg. It espouses making film in a non-Hollywood, non-commercial-success-oriented way. (Previous Dogme 95 flicks: "The Celebration" and "Julien Donkey-Boy.") To prove that it means business, the collective has issued a manifesto stating its tenets and goals on its official Web site (www.dogme95.dk). Strangely, "The Tigger Movie" is not mentioned.
-- And in a final note, girl-boxing flick "Knockout" (not to be confused with the big Sundance winner "Girl Fight"), baseball player doc "The Life and Times of Hank Greenberg" and "The Terrorist," the Indian film about the making of a female assassin, will expand into more cities starting Friday.