Mr. Sandy and I watch a lot of movies at home because 1) we never go out and 2) knowing that, we splurged on a cool projecter and speaker setup. Now I can watch Star Wars 72 inches wide and loud enough to shake the foundation of the house. It is awesome. And it's paying for itself in babysitters not hired.
This weekend was kind of a cinematic mixed bag. Friday night we watched Lonely Hearts (2006), a 1940s period piece based on the true story of two Long Island homicide detectives (John Travolta and James Gandolfini) who track down and capture Ray Martinez and Martha Beck (Jared Leto and Salma Hayek). Ray and Martha, lovers posing as brother and sister, run a con in which they swindle young war widows they meet through the personal ads, and often kill them in horrible ways afterwards. There are no light moments in this movie. None. It's an awful story. One scene in particular contains some of the most disturbing sexual imagery I've ever seen, and I'm not prudish about stuff like that. Leto and Hayek crossed into some truly scary emotional territory to play those roles. Travolta's performance, as a gifted detective but damaged man with his own demons to confront, was terrific as well. Gandolfini plays a donut-snarfing stereotype; you mentally beg him to stop with the constant chewing, already. (Please! Just for ten seconds, could you not have something in your mouth! Gah!)
It's a very good film that I'm maybe not so glad to have seen.
For Saturday night I thought Steve Martin's Pink Panther (2006) could take us in the polar opposite direction. We looked forward to some silliness and laughs. I'm sorry to report that this one fell almost completely flat. There were a couple of weak chuckles, but the script was mediocre (it even tried to include a sympathetic/sad moment. Why, why?) and the bottom line is that somehow Martin's goofiness (think The Jerk) just doesn't fit Clouseau. Kevin Kline was OK as Dreyfus, but it wasn't enough. My favorite performance was by the heavy-lidded Jean Reno as Detective Ponton, assigned by Dreyfus to work with Clouseau and report on his whereabouts, but gradually changing his loyalties. He will reprise the role in the inevitable sequel, due out in 2009. John Cleese is going to be Dreyfus, which may make that worth seeing, but I have to say the overall effect of this one was to remind me what a true comic genius Peter Sellers was. As culturally dated as the Sellers Pink Panther movies are (Martin's Clouseau chats on the internet, and certainly doesn't have a "little yellow friend"/Asian sidekick, instead taking the occasional, mildly amusing jab at Ponton), Sellers's timing, facial and body language, and accent are just plain hilarious in a way that can't be topped. He accomplished more in two lines than Steve Martin did in all 93 minutes of this remake.
"I thought you said your dog did not bite."
"That is not my dog."
A matter of taste perhaps, but to my mind, Clouseau doesn't get better than that.