We’ve all heard of the wonders of “Movie Magic.” No, I’m not referring to the screenwriting software, but rather to that thrilling enchantment of wondrousness that goes into every aspect of filmmaking. It’s something that simply fascinates the general public, unless they have been involved in making a movie, that is, in which case, they can become either disenchanted, bored, bitter, bloated, or — in the worst case scenario — a Scientologist. The plus side of the latter fate is that its believers seem to be very happy — in a “Look, pal, I don’t care what you do, but stay the hell away from me and my family” kind of way, mind you — whereas the negative side is that said advocates tend to live the rest of their life in some bad B-movie.
But I digress.
I have come to the conclusion that there are two types of “Movie Magic.” The first is that awe-inspiring charm I allured to (briefly) in the first paragraph. The second is when Hollywood succeeds in creating a truly timeless masterpiece. Essentially, this happens because all of the pieces in the production simply snap into place without a hitch. Sure, it can wind up becoming dated within just a couple of years, but it remains timeless in the sense that it is something that shall never grow to be forgotten within the annals of filmdom. Unless L. Ron Hubbard was right, of course, and some esoteric dictator of a galactic confederacy comes crashin’ out of the stars and erases everything we’ve ever accomplished involving anything out of the universe forever — just like in that great big stinker of a moving picture, Battlefield Earth.
Damn, I did it again.
Hey, speaking of that great big stinker of a moving picture, Battlefield Earth, its star/producer (and Scientologist) John Travolta has been involved in a couple of instances of “Movie Magic” himself. His breakout performance — 1977’s Saturday Night Fever — was one of them; though few people can attest to why it became a “masterpiece” in the first place (save for that epic soundtrack, that is). Then, several years following Travolta’s fall from cinematic grace (which, coincidentally, occurred after he made such classics as Perfect and Staying Alive), there came 1994’s Pulp Fiction — a film that has actually retained most of its tour de force characteristics.
In 1995, Travolta signed on to a film entitled Get Shorty: a tongue-in-cheek jab at the movie industry itself based on a novel by Elmore Leonard, wherein a East Coast loan shark named Chili Palmer (Travolta) decides to muscle his way into the filmmaking business in Hollywood. Now, while the film definitely has that “Movie Magic” quality to it (it’s a flick that clicks on several positive levels), I can’t help but wonder if it will ever be truly appreciated for what it is when it comes to the whole “timeless” thing. Sure, it was a hit, but it doesn’t seem to be as well-remembered as Pulp Fiction. Worse still, the folks in Tinseltown decided they would make a sequel — based on another novel by Elmore Leonard — and retain all of the “Movie Magic” that was inherent in Get Shorty.
Or, at least they tried to retain all of that magic. The result was Be Cool: a movie that seemed to forget its own titular piece of advice as soon as they started writing.
Travolta returns once more as Chili Palmer. This time ’round, Chili decides to leave the moving pictures behind and venture in to L.A.’s notorious music industry after his pal, music producer Tommy Athens (James Woods), is gunned down by some Russian mobsters. Vowing to help Tommy’s widow, Edie (Uma Thurman), sort out the mess her late hubby has left behind, Chili soon makes the acquaintance of a lovely young performer (Christina Milian) and takes it upon himself to promote her as the next new singing sensation. In order to do so, though, Chili has to first “detach” the lass from the all-but-deadly contract of her current employers: an “ethnically-challenged” suburban white gangsta Raji (Vince Vaughn) and evil promoter Nick Carr (Harvey Keitel).
And, thus we dive into an all-too familiar story wherein our hero is pit between the Russian mafia and murderous music biz folk, from the aforementioned Vaughn and Keitel to an entire regiment of pistol-packin’ rappers led by Cedric the Entertainer and André Benjamin. Dwayne Johnson (formerly known as “The Rock”) co-stars as Vince Vaughn’s gay bodyguard, whose presence is to make sure that everyone everywhere is offended equally. Additional roles are filled by Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler (as himself), Danny DeVito (returning as actor Martin Weir, though this time in a less important part) and Robert Pastorelli (his last role), with several cameos by various artistes from the music world including Fergie — whose presence alone probably caused the movie to suck.
If you’ve ever read Elmore Leonard’s original novel, you’ll find Be Cool to be a vastly-dissimilar and altogether unlikable motion picture. Now, as for those of you who either a) haven’t read the novel, b) think the modern music/movie industries are cranking out quality work, and/or c) are incapable of distinguishing shit from Shinola, you might find this to be a worthwhile waste of your time. I wouldn’t say it’s completely atrocious, though: Be Cool does have at least one moment or two going for it. Don’t ask me what said moment(s) consisted of, however — as I cannot remember now. I guess the best way to sum up Be Cool is this: it makes for decent, mid-afternoon “I’m stuck in a hotel with nothing else to do and this is all that’s on” fodder.
And, while the movie itself might be too damn Cool for its own comfort, it’s High-Def presentation is almost on fire. Be Cool boasts a beautiful 1080p/AVC transfer that preserves the movie’s 2.40:1 widescreen ratio. Colors are rich, blacks are well-defined and detail is very sharp indeed. This is most certainly a nice change from the old Standard-Definition release, which you can compare once you boot up any of the disc’s special features (more on those in a bit). Accompanying the film’s luscious video presentation is an equally-impressive DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 lossless audio mix that definitely brings out the “boom” in the movie’s selection of tunes and sound effects, while never taking much away from the dialogue too-terribly much (though most of the dialogue isn’t worth listening to at times, anyway). Additional soundtracks include a French DTS 5.1 and Spanish 2.0 Surround, and optional subtitles are provided in English (SDH), Spanish and French.
Back to the disc’s selection of bonus materials. Everything included here has been recycled from the 2005 SD-DVD release, and consists of a behind-the-scenes documentary, deleted scenes, a gag reel, music video, and some “Close-Up” synopses of several of the film’s characters and actors. All of these items are presented in Standard-Def, with the original theatrical trailer being the only other thing presented in High-Def here. There is no menu for the disc at all: the movie boots up and loops continuously — you can access scenes, audio/subtitles or special features by pressing your remote’s menu button.
In short: Be Cool is an excellent example of how Hollywood egotists trying to recapture the very essence and charisma that they once inadvertently created can completely botch things up.
But then, perhaps it was all Xenu’s fault.