Tuesday, January 22, 2008

In Memoriam

April 4, 1979 - January 22, 2008

My bud called me at 5pm today to tell me Heath Ledger was found dead. He was a great actor and he will be missed. It is with great sadness I present a double
Repeat Bidness in tribute to Heath Ledger.

Lords of Dogtown
"More of a whirlwind than a zephyrous brood are they."

Release: 06/03/2005
DVD Release: 09/27/2005

Rated PG-13 (DVD: UR)
1 hour, 47 minutes

Price ($$$$) <> Matinee ($$$)

Skateboarding legend Stacy Peralta brings audiences another rendition of his teenage years as one of the Z-Boys of 1970’s era Venice Beach. This film follows the rise of the Zephyr skateboarding team from their no worries lifestyle of surfing and skating when not in school to their skyrocketing fame in American pop culture. In particular, the film focuses on the lives of Jay Adams, Tony Alva, and of course Stacy Peralta, who are played by relative newcomers Emile Hirsch (The Girl Next Door), Victor Rasuk, and John Robinson. The film mostly evades the kids’ personal lives, instead focusing on their real home atop urethane wheels.

Sophomore director Catherine Hardwicke brings a life and vitality to the film that is immediately engrossing. Countless scenes are filmed from a behind the board perspective, chasing the kids up the walls of swimming pools and down broken sidewalks, giving the audience a slight taste of what it was like to roll with the Z-Boys. The Z-Boys team was created by surfer/pirate/shop owner Skip, played astoundingly well by Heath Ledger (Monster’s Ball) who seems to be channeling his inner Val Kilmer. In fact, acting on the part of Ledger, Hirsch, and Rebecca De Mornay makes them nearly unrecognizable as their true selves. Acting on the parts of many of the other characters, however, does not garner nearly as much praise. Being a landlubber, I cannot honestly comment on how true to the history this rendition of the Dogtown legacy is, other than knowing that Peralta also wrote the award winning documentary “Dogtown and Z-Boys.” The story with its stunt packed segues moves quickly, allowing you to live in the limelight alongside the characters and keeps your eyes from wandering to your watch.

Dirty Undies
If you’re one of the few people drawn to this film by Rebecca De Mornay, be excited for her portrayal of Jay Adams’ mother but steer clear if you’re looking for any sex appeal. Rebecca is to’ up from the flo’ up in this pic, and I am not understating this in the least! Now I’ve got to give a big HOO-HAH! to America Ferrera (Real Women Have Curves). This young Honduran actress will have you down with the thickness as she portrays the hot-to-trot skate groupie, Thunder Monkey. Yeah, you heard me right. I can bet that her character in Dogtown is vastly different from her role in The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, which also opened this weekend. All of this exposure should prove fruitful for someone who has a very bright future in acting. Although the main actors play high-schoolers, keep in mind that they are 19 years and older, so drooling over their machismo, long hair, and bare chests is legally allowed. The best part is that shirts come off frequently and you meat hounds can be sassified within the first two minutes!

What kind of movie about teen angst would be complete without a little casual drug use and random throwdowns? These kids, and even a few of the adults, are powder kegs of emotions fueled by fame, fortune, drugs, and personal problems. While nothing drastically violent or disturbing occurs, the tone is apparent. The film features many cameos by the original Z-Boys, though unless an avid fan, you will be likely to miss them as they are mainly “Party Guy #2” type roles. Still, it’s nice to know that Peralta and several of his friends could show their support for a film about themselves. As an added treat for current skate hounds, Tony Hawk drops in to make a fool of himself.

The Money Shot
Overall, it is a riveting film, worthy of shilling out a few bucks to become part of the seedy yet luxurious world of 70’s boarding.

Brokeback Mountain
"Rough Riding Romance on the Range."

Release: 12/09/2005
DVD Release: 04/04/2006

Rated R
2 hours, 14 minutes

> FULL PRICE ($$$$)

Ang Lee (Ride with the Devil) directs this ‘incredibly true adventure’ of two cowboys in love adapted from the E. Annie Proulx short story. Set in 1963 Wyoming, the audience first meets Heath Ledger (*Monster’s Ball) who portrays the emotionally shielded yet fierce ranch hand Ennis Del Mar. Ennis is joined by the talkative, wild-at-heart wannabe rodeo cowboy Jack Twist, played by Jake Gyllenhaal (Donnie Darko). The two get hired to herd sheep on the rolling slopes of Brokeback Mountain. After their secluded summer ends, the film chronicles their love over the next two decades.

Lee has created an emotionally stirring, beautifully crafted film. Every sequence shot has the feel of a masterful portrait capable of telling volumes. Each moment, gesture, look, or exchange has a meticulously wrought feel. Ledger’s throaty portrayal of Ennis as the lone ranger of very few words will leave you heartbroken. His rigidly clenched jaw and glowering eyes convey the range of feelings broiling beneath his rough exterior. Ledger’s performance is overshadowed only by that of Michelle Williams (*The Station Agent), who plays his wife, Alma. Williams blends into the struggling life of the Del Mars, with child on hip and secrets weighing her conscience. If Williams does not get nominated and win the Academy Award, there truly is no justice in the world. Gyllenhaal is vibrant and full of energy; he acts well opposite Ledger and Anne Hathaway, who plays his wife Lureen. Gyllenhaal’s bright blue eyes are almost equally as expressive as Ledger’s stoic features but his character benefits from being far more communicative.

Lee’s film is as enchanting visually as it is emotionally. The Brokeback Mountain landscapes are breathtaking. Seeing the rocky slopes and plush grasslands onscreen helps you understand the meaning behind the phrase, “God’s Country.” The film uses the most miniscule details to expound upon the blossoming love between the cowboys and its resulting hardships. As the story’s timeline is progressed through both characters and events, subtle changes in appearances suggest the passage of months, sometimes years. If I had to nitpick any single detail of this film, it would be Ledger’s weathered look as his years on the plains affect him. The make-up looks slightly less than spectacular, but it’s such a minor flaw in comparison to the work as a whole.

Dirty Undies
Ledger and Gyllenhaal not only bare their souls but their asses on the sunny mountainside. The fellas display their ravenous sexual appetite as they prove equally adept at satisfying their women. Williams and Hathaway, not to be outdone, display their bouncy bits as much as the boys flaunt their firmness. Passion is often accompanied by a darker edge, and Brokeback Mountain is marked by a few disturbingly violent images that will linger in your mind.

The Money Shot
’s simple and profound tale of love will haunt you. I found myself thinking of Jack and Ennis days after leaving the theater, and not just in a sexually affirming kind of way. The film is deserving of its hype, and worthy of everyone’s patronage. If the film’s homosexual subject matter keeps you away, you would be doing yourself a disservice.

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