Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Journey To The Center of the DVR

Here's the deal: This past summer, I changed television providers from Comcast to AT&T U-Verse. Part of the deal, other than the cost savings, was the inclusion of a DVR, which quickly went straight to cell phone status as the invention-I-wonder-how-I-ever-did-without.

Even better, for the first two months I was given the full channel lineup (except Playboy, which is never free). Combine 20 movie channels with a brand new DVR and you've got a recipe for a gathering of films heretofore unseen!

The goal was to grab movies that fit the following criteria:

  1. Recent Hit movies which I didn't catch in the theater
  2. Movies the kids wanted to see
  3. Other movies which had somehow eluded me over the past few years

I grabbed a boatload. What will follow, on a periodic basis, is my review of said films. It might be a bit surprising to you to see some of the movies I've managed to avoid seeing. Like this one:

Kingpin (1996)
Starring: Woody Harrelson, Randy Quaid, Bill Murray
Directed by The Farrelly Brothers

Case in point: damn, how in the hell did I ever miss this movie? It was released in 1996, and I do recall several half hearted attempts a renting it a few years back. ("Honey, what about Kingpin? It's supposed to be pretty funny? No? Okay" [sheepishly puts it back on rack])

I'm going to go out on a limb and assume that just about everyone in the world who wanted to see this has already done so, so anything written after this point can't really qualify as a "spoiler", agree? Good, let's proceed.

This gem from The Farrelly Brothers explores a topic not often seen on the big screen: the cutthroat world of pro bowling. Blend in Randy Quaid's Amish character and you've got a combination that nobody would ever touch again, and with good reason. Woody Harrelson is perfect for the role of Roy Munson, and in the early scenes as an earnest, supremely gifted young bowler you can see a hint of Woody Boyd. Once tragedy strikes (sorry, bad bowling pun, of which I cannot guarantee there will not be more) and the years go by, he becomes a bitter, pot bellied, balding man with a hook for a left hand (when it's not covered by one of the worst prosthetic hands ever seen, which leads to numerous sight gags, all of which are great). There are just the right amount of hook gags as well, and the bulk are done early in the movie.

Bill Murray is great as well, especially when you consider that he improvised just about all of his dialog. He was given the script, decided to wing it using the basic framework, and the Farrelly's later said it was the right thing to do since Murray's stuff was funnier. Every scene he is in is gold, and crucial to the plot since he basically ruins Roy's career by leaving him high and dry (resulting in the hook), then meets his one time protege again in the climatic winner take all million dollar bowling tournament. Vanessa Angel, whom I remembered most fondly from her non-English speaking bra related scenes in Spies Like Us, plays the "stereotypical arm candy of the mid-movie protagonist who defects to the side of the heroes with less than good intentions only to fall in love with the main character by the end and ride off into the sunset", and does it well.

The movie works for one basic reason: it's damn funny. Sight gags abound, but don't overwhelm, and in 1996 tapping into the Amish lifestyle for jokes was still relatively fresh. You can catch this on cable from time to time, and if possible you should see the uncut version as opposed to what Comedy Central would show - I can't imagine how they would handle the sex with his landlord scene.

Phew, only about 30 more movies to go.....

Kingpin (

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