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The Black Dahlia Review


Weak
Sure, the man's had a bad run of things. When Brian de Palma directed Snake Eyes, a corker of a plot that went nowhere, it seemed like a fluke. When he did Femme Fatale, that ludicrous sapphic French diamond heist flick, it could be written off as just an idiosyncratic minor joke by a former Hollywood heavyweight in self-imposed Euro-exile -- something to keep him occupied until he went back to the big leagues. Well, that moment of return finally arrived in the form of the long-gestating adaptation of James Ellroy's 1987 novel The Black Dahlia, a mystery about the infamous 1947 Elizabeth Short murder which seemed purpose-built for de Palma's needs. Ellroy's fever dream of a novel has everything that the famously self-referential director could utilize: doppelgangers (male and female), seedy urban underbelly, and psychosexual perversities galore. Given the limp, campy joke of a film that resulted, however, it seems time to stop making excuses for the man -- Brian de Palma has become one very bad director.

The generally limp script by Josh Friedman starts off smartly, setting us up for the bruising friendship between the stars, a couple of L.A. cops who also happen to be boxers and get paired up for a publicity-machine fight that touts them as "Mr. Fire and Mr. Ice." Ice is "Bucky" Bleichart (Josh Hartnett), a cool and low-key guy charitably described as a loser who gets his shot at a good chunk of change as well as reassignment to the LAPD's hotshot Warrants department for agreeing to the fight. Fire is Lee Blanchard (Aaron Eckhart), one of those bigger-than-life cops who cuts corners with aplomb and seems happy enough to bring Bucky on as his partner after knocking his teeth out (literally) in the ring. Further binding the two men together, besides work and friendship, is Kay Lake (Scarlett Johansson), the sultry blonde dame on Lee's arm who takes a shine to Bleichart that doesn't seem to be entirely platonic.

Continue reading: The Black Dahlia Review

Party Monster (2003) Review


Very Good
In real life, Michael Alig was a nobody from the Midwest who moved to New York in the 1980s, decided to become absolutely fabulous, and did. He became a nightclub impresario, the "king of the club kids," who reigned over bacchanalian fests with names like "Bloodfeast," did more drugs than a half-dozen Studio 54 habitues, and murdered his dealer, leaving the corpse around his apartment for a few days before hacking it up and dumping the mess into the river. It's nice to see Macauley Culkin working again.

The closest thing to a best friend that Alig had was James St. James (Seth Green), a trust fund kid with pretenses of writing the Great American Novel but who dulled the agony of his writer's block with endless clubbing and drugging. Sauntering about the streets of New York in a collection of designer trash togs, James was the role model for Alig when he first came to town. When Alig started making a name for himself, throwing parties at Limelight for easily-charmed Peter Gatien (Dylan McDermott in a fierce eyepatch), he put together a band of self-created "superstars" decked out in baroque costumes, modeled on Warhol's Factory of people who were famous for being famous, and James was the biggest; after Alig, of course. "I didn't want to be like the drearies and normals," he says, "I wanted to create a world full of color, where everyone could play. One big party that never ends."

Continue reading: Party Monster (2003) Review

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The Black Dahlia Movie Review

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