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DOG DAYS

DOG DAYS

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Without you my life would be meaningless, says the unfaithful- and-sorry-for-it Porter (Warren Beatty) to his scorned wife Ellie (Diane Keaton) in Town & Country. What he means to say is that this comedy is meaningless, guilty of gratuitous humor of the laziest fashion, haphazard in its storyline, though it does contain two priceless scenes that, in the end, don t count for much at all. Town & Country is a comedy about being married a long, long time 25 years to be exact for Porter and Ellie and their best friends Griffin (Garry Shandling) and Mona (Goldie Hawn). It s a steady-as-she-goes sort of life for the foursome. They have fabulous New York homes plus vacation houses, expensive clothes, pedigreed dogs, and three-day trips to Paris. It s ideal in the comfortable sense (Porter has all his black socks in one drawer, all his white underwear in the next) and in the quirky sense (Porter and Ellie happily roll their eyes at their teen children s choices of oddball mates). When Griffin is busted cheating with a redhead, the ideal is not shattered; there s just more eye-rolling. Mona is angry, vengeful. Griffin is sheepish. Ellie and Porter are supportive. So supportive, in fact, that Ellie urges Porter to accompany Mona on a trip to her home in Mississippi. Too much booze and the lack of air-conditioning lead to comforting of the carnal kind. Mona high-tails it back to the city with Porter in pursuit and anxious to straighten things out. Mona and Porter agree mum s the word, get busy once again, and are interrupted by Ellie who, unaware of Porter s presence, tells Mona that she s just found out that Porter has been cheating on her Whew! But that s not all. Griffin and Porter go on a sabbatical to Sun Valley, where Porter gets tangled up with a crackpot named Eugenie (Andie MacDowell) and her virtue-protecting father (Charlton Heston). The next night Porter and Griffin attend a Halloween party that ends up with Porter, dressed as a polar bear, wrestling with a hardware clerk who s dressed as Marilyn Monroe all witnessed by Porter s son. Now we re up to Porter s meaningless speech. And while all the events above should add up to screwball, these moments feel random, patchy. You can just picture all the wadded up paper remains of gags tried and discarded by the screenwriters (among them Buck Henry, who also has a bit part as a divorce lawyer). Among the jokes that stayed are two about falling from heights, two about foreigners, and one about a golf ball driven into an unsuspecting man s backside. Having Keaton, the ultimate straight (wo)man, burst into a stream of genitalia-bent expletives is hilarious until a wheelchair-bound old woman does the exact same thing minutes later. Casting Heston as a gun-toting crazy stands as a weak highlight. Nothing, really, can disguise what looks to be a vanity vehicle for Keaton, Beatty, Shandling, and Hawn. Town & Country is the stars goof, a chance for the older guys to get together and have a little fun. If the end result comes off as a little weird, then maybe the combined strength of their names will draw the people in. Or maybe not. Amores Perros, the film by Mexican director Gonz lez I¤ rritu, translates as Love s a Bitch, a sentiment that is hammered in and clings to the moviegoer. The film is divided into three entwined stories: Octavio and Susana, Daniel and Valeria, and El Chivo and Maru. In Octavio and Susana, Octavio (Gael Garcia Bernal) lives in crowded squalor with his mother, his brother, his brother s wife Susana (Vanessa Bauche), and their baby. The family has no money; only the television serves as a distraction. Octavio falls in love with Susana. He urges Susana to take her baby and leave with him. Susana tells him that he doesn t understand; he tells her the same thing. To make money for the getaway, Octavio offers his dog, Cofi, up for fights. He grows rich and a little bold, buying himself a new car, standing up to his dangerous brother, and seducing Susana with a wad of cash she hides in a suitcase. Octavio has enough money to run away when he decides to have Cofi fight one last time. Circumstances, all of his own making, pile up hard on Octavio until he crashes, literally, in a serious car wreck. Valeria (Goya Toledo) of Valeria and Daniel is the one he crashes into, leaving the model, who just moments before was celebrating her married lover s separation, with a seriously injured leg. Valeria is just beginning to feel the possibilities of her career disappear when her dog falls into a hole in the floor of her apartment. She and Daniel (Alvaro Guerrero) can hear him underneath the floor, but the dog can t seem to find his way out. Valeria is crushed by her poor health, by her concern for the dog, by the way these changes in her life have affected her relationship with Daniel. Like Octavio, she, too, crashes. Passing by at the moment of the car crash is El Chivo (Emilio Echevarria) of El Chivo and Maru. Once a rebel, he has emerged from years of prison bearded and wild-haired. He is dead to his daughter and to most of society. He digs around in dumpsters, lives in filth with a pack of dogs, getting by through occasional gigs as a hitman. El Chivo stops at Octavio s crash site and takes to the injured Cofi. He nurses the dog back to health so that the dog has the strength to commit an unthinkable act. ******* ******* ******* ******* ******* ******* Here and there throughout Amores Perros are dog-fight scenes. The dogs are shown at first impact, then I¤ rritu steers the camera away so that the fight ends in a yelp and a blood-soaked body. The message is clear and hard: this thing that makes animals, humans or dogs, tear at each other with something like instinct. But there are choices, too, and consequences, and maybe even redemption. Amores Perros is brutal and heavy-handed, memorable and grim.

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