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Jahnke's Electric Theatre

Jahnke's Electric Theatre #30
Town without Pity


Jahnke's Electric Theatre - Main Page

Hey there. Remember me?

It's been so long since I've sent out one of these things, I'm not sure that I do.

The last few weeks have been surprisingly busy here at Chez Jahnke and unfortunately for those of you expecting to see movie reviews in this thing, not jam-packed with trips to the local cinema. Other obligations have kept me from seeing much of anything recently, much less giving me time to write about them. Most of what's kept me occupied is pretty dull and not worth mentioning here. But last night, I saw a play that you should check out if you're in the Los Angeles area in the next couple months. Consider this an Electric Theatre Unplugged special report.

Those of you who know me know that while movies are my primary obsession these days, my roots are actually in live theatre. So the fact that I really don't see much of it anymore is either shocking or a natural and expected rejection of my past, depending on how much psychobabble you subscribe to. And when I do go to the theatre, avant-garde experimental productions are usually pretty low on my list of turn-ons. But The Black Rider, a collaboration between experimental theatre poster-boy Robert Wilson, composer Tom Waits and the late William S. Burroughs, is a singular exception. It's a visually dazzling, sonically overwhelming cascade of impressions, mood and emotion. Design, movement, voice and orchestra combine perfectly, immersing the audience in Burroughs' and Waits' interpretation of a classic German folk tale. It's an experience that can't be duplicated by film or any other recorded medium. The Black Rider is playing through June 11 at the Ahmanson Theatre here in L.A. If you get the chance, you should definitely check it out.

OK then... movies, huh? Well, like I said, I haven't seen much. For this week's A-Picture, I refer you back to The Proposition, which I reviewed a few weeks ago. It opens Friday in New York and Los Angeles and expands to other cities in the weeks to come. Directed by John Hillcoat from a script by Nick Cave, The Proposition is a grim, gritty Australian western with echoes of Peckinpah. Anchored by a trio of great performances from Guy Pearce, Ray Winstone and especially Danny Huston (turning in without question his best work to date), The Proposition is well worth seeking out.

On the opposite side of the fence is The Sentinel which sits shame-faced in this week's Hell Plaza Octoplex. You might be wondering why, of all movies I could have seen over the past few weeks, I chose one that looked even less promising than say, Silent Hill. Let's just say it was a choice of necessity, not quality, and leave it at that. The Sentinel stars Michael Douglas as a Secret Service agent who's being framed for treason by terrorists out to assassinate the president. Kiefer Sutherland co-stars as the investigator out to get him. I love Kiefer, don't get me wrong, but I swear his copy of the script must have just had the name "Jack Bauer" crossed out and "David Breckenridge" written over it in crayon. The Sentinel is the latest in a surprisingly long line of ludicrous presidential thrillers (see also In the Line of Fire, Air Force One, Absolute Power, etc), any of which are more competently staged and more entertaining than this one. How bad does The Sentinel get? They blow up the presidential helicopter at one point, presumably with the president himself on board and it barely registers. When they shot Air Force One out of the sky last season on 24, you could hear jaws dropping in living rooms across America. David Rasche plays the president and he's fine. He's a good actor and does the best he can with the material. But the script and direction are so bland that I just kept thinking how much better this movie would be if Rasche had been playing his old character Sledge Hammer instead. President Hammer has a nice ring to it, don't you think?

And that's really all I've seen lately. Awful, I know. But the big summer movie blockbuster season is about to get underway, so all this will soon change. Since I obviously don't have much else to report, let me just ask this. Is it just me or are the marketing campaigns for this summer's movies the worst you've ever seen? Perhaps it's some major reverse psychology ploy on the part of the studios, getting me to lower my expectations for these films. But look at 'em. The relatively simple and iconic teaser poster for Mission: Impossible III has been replaced by an awkwardly composed photo of Tom Cruise looking like he's attempting some sort of David Blaine confinement stunt (this one's in German for some reason but the same thing is all over L.A.):

Mission: Impossible III poster

Then there's the atrocious "character portraits" for X-Men: The Last Stand, like this:

X-Men: The Last Stand poster

This does not say exciting super-hero action flick to me. This says, "My leather jumpsuit is so comfortable, I don't even notice that I'm leaning against a biohazard barrel. Get yours at Banana Republic."

Worst of all is The DaVinci Code. Not the Mona Lisa design posters, which are fine. That's kind of a hard image to screw up. No, I'm talking about this one.

The DaVinci Code poster

Honestly, did they really think people weren't going to see this unless they knew Tom Hanks was in it? And I don't know what he's looking at but Amelie there looks like she's thinking, "Hey, is that Tom Hanks?"

Here's hoping they'll keep the Superman Returns campaign simple. So far, the only posters that have actually succeeded in getting me excited to see the movie its advertising are these two:

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest posterSnakes on a Plane poster

Pirates of the Caribbean is at least smart enough to show us that there's a giant sea squid in this installment and I'm always down for that. And Snakes on a Plane... well, it has snakes on a plane and that's good enough for me.

At any rate, watch for reviews of the movies behind these posters and many more in the weeks to come. I apologize for the lack of reviews recently. I hope to make it up to you over the next few months.

See you next time, hopefully without the long unexplained disappearance.

Your pal,

Jahnke
ajahnke@thedigitalbits.com


Dedicated to Gene Pitney

"Electric Theatre - Where You See All the Latest Life Size Moving Pictures, Moral and Refined, Pleasing to Ladies, Gentlemen and Children!"

- Legend on a traveling moving picture show tent, c.1900


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