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Bubba-Ho-Tep (Don Coscarelli)


Bubba-Ho-Tep (2002, Don Coscarelli)

Bubba-Ho-Tep is the best movie ever made about an aging Elvis in a rest home fighting a mummy dressed as a cowboy with a black man who thinks he’s JFK. Well, it’s probably the only ever made on the subject, but it’s still very good. Alternately hilarious and touching, this film by notorious horror director Don Coscarelli (Phantasm, Beastmaster) adds a new level to the Elvis myth.

Bruce Campbell is utterly convincing as Elvis, who swapped places with an impersonator and then got stuck in that position when the impersonator died. He’s now in a rest home, thinking about what he’s done wrong in his life and what he wishes he could change. Ossie Davis plays Jack, who has papered his walls with Lee Harvey Oswald’s mug shots and is convinced that Lyndon Johnson is after him. The story (based on a short story by Bram Stoker Award nominee Joe R. Lansdale) could easily be simply campy fun, and it is hysterically funny, but it also has real feeling, real humanity, and allows Elvis to finally go out a hero.

I didn’t think a movie about old men in a nursing home could make me laugh, but you haven’t laughed until you’ve seen Bruce Campbell fighting a “big bitch cockroach” with a bedpan. I didn’t think a movie about Elvis and JFK fighting a mummy could make me cry, but watching the look on Campbell’s face as the nurse rubs ointment on a growth could’ve done that. Fiercely original, Bubba-Ho-Tep is not one to miss.

Opening Friday, November 21: Mayan Theatre, 110 Broadway, Denver
Check for times.


Anything But LoveAnything But Love (2002, Robert Cary)

We’ve been seeing a lot of homage-type movies lately, and after the success of Down With Love and Far From Heaven, it seems like a good time for Anything But Love. Neither as campy as the former nor as serious as the latter, this movie is set in the 2000’s but feels like the ’50’s.

Billie Golden (Isabel Rose, also co-writer) is a cabaret singer in Queens, NY. She has Rita Hayworth hair and dresses like she just walked off the set of Gilda or Breakfast at Tiffany’s, and her mother (Alix Korey) accuses her of trying to live in a Technicolor musical. Two men cross her path at the same time: one (Cameron Bancroft) the high school hunk that sweeps her off her feet, and the other the pianist (Andrew McCarthy, of Pretty In Pink and St. Elmo’s Fire) who screws up her audition, but becomes her piano teacher anyway. Eartha Kitt pops up, playing herself, to help nudge Billie in the right direction.

It doesn’t take a genius to figure out where Anything But Love is headed. It’s not a story you haven’t seen or heard before, and in fact it has as much in common with the 80’s classics that McCarthy is recognizable from as it does with Old Hollywood. But the characters are likable, the costumes wonderful, and I think I could watch the movie again just to look at Rose’s hair. The movie is lit and shot like the Technicolor musicals Billie idolizes, and a few (almost too few–it seemed like there should’ve been more) fantasy sequences add to the fun. And though it’s a movie about love, it’s also about choosing a career over being a pampered wife, and knowing who you really are. Sometimes it’s refreshing to watch something that is not trying to be witty, ironic, or edgy.


The Singing DetectiveThe Singing Detective (2003, Keith Gordon)

The Singing Detective is based on a British miniseries of the same name, and maybe it needed to be 6 hours long to make any sense.

Robert Downey Jr. is Dan Dark, a writer of detective-noir novels who is suffering from
psoriatic arthropathy (basically, his skin is covered in scabs and sores, and his joints are locked up). While hospitalized for the disease, he mentally rewrites (or works on the screenplay? It’s unclear) his first novel, The Singing Detective, about a detective investigating the murder of a hooker who knew too much. The film jumps back and forth from the world of Dark’s novel, to the real world, to Dark’s paranoid-fantasy world where doctors burst into song, hoods show up to kill him, and his wife is cheating on him, to Dark’s memories from his childhood. Sound confusing? It is. By the end of the film I had no idea which bits were real and which were fantasy.

Mel Gibson was buzzed about as being “nearly unrecognizable” as the psychiatrist who helps to heal Dark, but a bald cap doesn’t make someone unrecognizable. Robin Wright Penn is better as Dark’s wife Nicola and the femme fatale victim of the novel’s crime. Katie Holmes makes an appearance as a cute nurse, but doesn’t have much to do. The most fun, though, was the appearance of Adrien Body and Jon Polito as a couple of hoods who get dragged from one world to the next in Dark’s twisted consciousness. I can’t really tell if this movie would benefit from a second viewing, if maybe I missed some clues as to what was going on, or if it just could’ve benefited from being long enough to explain things more fully, but for the most part, it was fun. Though the people across the aisle from me did get up and walk out a third of the way through.

The Singing Detective is currently playing at Chez Artiste Theatre, 2800 S. Colorado Blvd., Denver. Check for times.


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