One legend in Hollywood lore is that an actor/actress who wins an Oscar follows the win with a role so strange in a movie so odd that it could scramble a viewers' brain. Some examples are Michael Caine's appearance in "Jaws IV" after winning one or Halle Berry's role in "Catwoman" following her win for "Monster's Ball."
But these all pale in comparison to the movie "Shadowboxer" with Helen Mirren, released just prior to her win in "The Queen." (NOTE: The director of "Shadowboxer", Lee Daniels, was recently in Tennessee, making the movie, called "Tennessee" which features Mariah Carey.)
Now I really love Mirren's work - she can plan darn near any part and bring something fantastic to the screen. But "Shadowboxer" is a movie that could kill a career, turn your brain upside down, and is nearly impossible to explain - just as it is nearly unwatchable. A viewing of the movie from start to finish should earn the viewer some kind of Endurance Oscar.
It's oddity and strangeness did compel me to watch it all, as I kept wondering just how strange it could become and with each passing scene it exceeded my expectations. Strange was just the beginning point of this odyssey into the bizarre. The cast includes some other notables, and more on that in a minute. First, let me try and lay down the schematic here.
It opens with a young boy toying with a real gun. Dad enters and warns him said gun is no toy. Mom looks on fearfully. Fast forward to the future and young boy is now a grown man, played by Cuba Gooding Jr (yet another Oscar winner who just can't seem to connect to good movies at all anymore). Gooding now enacts odd criminal plots with Helen Mirren, who, we learn as the movie continues via moody montages and artsy flashbacks, is both his step-mother and lover and teacher.
What is she teaching him? How to be a hitman. Seems Mirren is a top-tier hirtman. They share weird assignments and then she bathes Gooding when he's feeling low. Just one of many scenes which leave the viewer .... well, confused barely describes it.
Oh, and we also learn Mirren is dying of cancer. It's like some weird blend of a Lifetime movie and a Steven Segal script or something.
The daring couple get a contract to kill some other crooks who have angered their crook-boss, played by Stephen Dorff. Like Gooding, Dorff seems to have a knack for finding the strangest of scripts. In addition, the contract calls for the killing of Dorff's girlfriend, who is pregnant. (The girlfriend is played by actress, Vanessa Ferlito who had a short but excellent performance in the "Death Proof" portion of "Grindhouse", and in "Descent", and I hope she continues to find better films.)
As the crooks are killed off one-by-one, Mirren walks in on said pregnant gal and just as Mirren takes aim at her, the gal's water breaks and Mirren decides to help birth the child -- "Get some water and towels!" she tells her confused partner/step-son/lover Gooding.
Not to give too much of the plot and story away (yeah, like anyone other than me would watch this from start to finish) Mirren and Gooding take the mother and child to a new home with new identities and only take occasional hit-jobs to keep the family financially well off. "You take care of her!" Mirren says of their semi-adopted young woman, and then there's a scene where Gooding and Mirren get naked and do the nasty in a public park while blossoms and such flutter artfully in the breeze and Gooding then shoots Mirren in, I suppose, an act of mercy to avoid a painful death by cancer.
Other casting oddities here are Joseph Gordon-Levitt ("Brick", "The Lookout"), who plays a doctor to the criminal underworld and his girlfriend is hilariously played by Mo'Nique.
This movie almost falls into the neo-exploitation genre of movies like "Hustle and Flow" and "Black Snake Moan." And it absolutely qualifies as Obscure Find of the Month.
OTHER MOVIE NEWS
Quentin Tarantino showed an expanded full length version of "Death Proof", from the "Grindhouse" double feature at the Cannes Festival this week. Judging from reports, producer Harvey Weinstein says the full version is better.
Reviews are in for the new Coen brothers feature, "No Country For Old Men" by Cormac McCarthy and the reviews are solid. I look forward to this one big time:
"Cinematographer Roger Deakins captures everything from mid-day open-sky vistas to claustrophobic night time urban action; in timing and tension, No Country for Old Men is one of the most suspenseful films the Coens have ever made, which says a lot. Cormack McCarthy's novel has also been impressively well-adapted -- improved and altered, but nonetheless full of McCarthy's clear, concise yet poetic voice."
Looks like the FOX network will try another sci-fi series. This time, it's a spin-off from "The Terminator" series called "The Sarah Connor Chronicles." A nifty preview reel was on YouTube earlier this week but got taken down. Sarah Connor will be played by Lena Headey ("300", "Brothers Grimm") and yes I have a crush on her. A future cyborg sent back to help the Connor family is played by Summer Glau, who was River in the series "Firefly." Sadly, given FOX's track record for sci-fi, this show will air four episodes and then be cancelled.
A preview which has been left on YouTube this week is for the movie "Rambo 4". Jeez, does Stallone look rough and old and rather ill. The preview also boasts buckets of gore and violence, especially the shot of a guy getting turned to hamburger meat while sitting in a jeep.Reports say they are fighting hard to keep it from being rated NC-17. And his co-star is the lovely Julie Benz, who was Darla in "Buffy The Vampire Slayer" TV show.
Clip of the week -- Was Sanjaya of "American Idol" a Joke??? Or is the whole dang show a joke at the expense of music itself ....