99 bottles of Bellview on the wall, 99
bottles of Bellview! One film from 100 and it’s only the first week
of November. Man, this was easy! And, now that I have a lot more
free time on my hands, the only question is: 150? Maybe that is
just asking for too much.
My buddy Ross was in town this weekend, and
what better way to close out a good weekend than to catch a flick?
Ross balked on “I Spy” so we took in the indie fetish flick “Auto
Focus”, on the life and times of former “Hogan’s Heroes” star Bob
Greg Kinnear stars as the handsome
radio-turned-TV personality Crane, and the movie follows Crane from
his first season on the television program through his rough career
stretch shortly after the show ended. On the personal side, “Auto
Focus” deals with Crane’s marriage to wife Anne (Rita Wilson, Tom
Hanks’ wife and occasional actress), which is dealt a constant blow
by Bob’s excessive cheating with almost any woman that he comes in
contact with. This leads to a retelling of Crane’s sex addiction,
and his partnership with a strange video equipment specialist
(Willem Dafoe) that leads to disastrous results later in the film.
Director Paul Schrader (“Affliction”, with
Nick Nolte) does an incredible job of capturing the look and feel of
the 60s, from the costumes to the color scheme to the aw-shucks
nature of some of the characters in Crane’s life at the time.
Kinnear once again makes you forget the “Talk Soup” days with
another impressive performance, and the range of his character’s
role allows him to shine in, ahem, more ways than one. There are
lots of funny bits in the rise portion of the film, as we catch a
glimpse of Crane’s work on “Hogan’s Heroes” as well as...well, his
take on different kinds of breasts. Although this guy is cheating
on his wife of fifteen years and his three children, I didn’t hate
him...in fact, I was almost pulling for the guy to make everything
work out, even though I knew that wasn’t going to happen.
But, as in all rise-and-fall films (Ross
called out “Blow” of being guilty of roughly the same offenses as
this film), the fall portion is not very good and even though
Schrader does a good job of separating the portions of the film (his
shots in the fall portion are often out of focus, in a faded color
scheme, with jerky camera movements, etc.), what is happening
onscreen is not very interesting. Crane’s habit of trying to
explain away all that he has done wrong gets tired by the film’s
final half-hour, and there is just no way around it since we need to
have explained to us just what happened to Crane in real life. And,
my goodness, Willem Dafoe!! As much as I like the guy, I just can’t
honestly say that I like him enough to look at him for extended
periods with his shirt off. He is just so strange looking that he
is often a distraction, and this isn’t good when I am supposed to
believe that his character was regularly getting laid with Bob Crane
and random hot women. Dafoe channels his pitiful character’s agony
well as the film goes on, but sometimes, when you look at him, all
you can see is a really strange-looking guy with some of the worst
teeth in film history.
So, “Auto Focus” ends up being a mixed bag.
But, like any good Matinee film, you can’t go too wrong with it if
you see it in the daytime.
Comments? Drop me a line at
Bellview Rating System:
"Opening Weekend": This is
the highest rating a movie can receive. Reserved for movies that
exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development,
setting...or Salma Hayek. Not necessarily in that order.
"$X.XX Show": This price
changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently,
it is the $9.50 Show. While not technically perfect, this is a
movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.
"Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca",
but you'll have a great time watching. The $9.50 Show won't win any
Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see
"Matinee": An average movie
that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.
Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about
yourself. A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave
the theater saying "That wasn't too bad...man, did you see that
Lakers game last night?"
"Rental": This rating
indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your
friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one." Mostly forgettable, you
couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to
watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the
video store was out of copies of "Ronin." If you can, see this
movie for free. This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a
"Hard Vice": This rating is
the bottom of the barrel. A movie that only six other human beings
have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen. A Shannon
Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every
one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a
movie. Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or
"Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this
movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!
(Warning: strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard