Comedy fans will find the documentary Mel Brooks: Make a Noise irresistible. Part of the upcoming American Masters series on PBS, Noise is more than just a retrospective of Brooks' career. He gives new interviews to filmmaker Robert Trachtenberg, as do many of his cohorts including frequent partner Carl Reiner, Nathan Lane and Joan Rivers, Rob Reiner, Cloris Leachman and Barry Levinson. Each of them sit at a simple table, nothing much in the way of a set around them, looking straight into the camera and recalling highlights (and insider jokes) about Brooks' career. There are, of course, some film clips: Young Frankenstein, The Producers and Blazing Saddles among them. Interviews with the late Anne Bancroft (the second Mrs. Brooks) and Madeline Kahn, two of his favorite collaborators, round out the portrait we see of Brooks.
Brooks plays down his own talent, insisting he got some lucky breaks but never tried to engineer his success. He says he played to an audience of one: "I've got to admit something, I don't really do anything for the audience ever. I do it for me, and most of the time the audience joins me." We've been among the many happy fans to have joined him on what's been one of comedy's most prolific and influential careers.
From the Small Screen
Charlaine Harris, author of the Sookie Stackhouse books that are the basis for HBO's supernatural drama True Blood , reportedly never liked actress Anna Paquin's interpretation of the psychic waitress who falls in love with a vampire. Legions of television fans, however, disagree with her. The new Season Five release of the show shows why. Paquin is captivating as Sookie. Paquin's Sookie is different from Harris' Sookie, to be sure, but they are both ambitious, sexy, interesting, emotional women caught in something of a Neverland inhabited by vampires, werewolves, fairies, shape shifters and assorted other other-worldly inhabitants.
HBO viewers already know the Season Five storylines. Lots of vampires, more pairings between humans and non-humans, blood, blood, blood, a fight to control vampire-ville, sex, sex, sex, more blood, a little more sex and frequent displays of extreme loyalty between lovers and friends. And just when you think it's over, a little more blood.
The show is exactly what you've seen over the last season, so no surprises there. The extras on the Blu-ray copy we saw include lots of on-screen interviews with writers and cast about everything from in-depth looks at individual episodes, story background, vamp lore and sneak peeks at future plot points. Each of the 12 episodes also includes audio commentary by Paquin, Stephen Moyer, Alan Ball, Carrie Preston and others.
A Horror-Slash-Love Story
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Writer/director Kevin Barker's Last Kind Words is a slow-moving Southern Gothic fairy tale. Spencer Daniels (Star Trek) gives a gentle performance as Eli, a 17-year-old who moves into rural Kentucky with his family. Wandering in the nearby woods, he meets a beautiful, mysterious girl named Amanda (Alexia Fast, Jack Reacher), who's both more and less than she seems. The two fall in love during afternoon walks and skinny dipping sessions in the lake. But their time together is marred by frequent intrusions from his seriously dysfunctional family (dad's an angry, violent drunk and mom's his doormat). Like all good Gothic tales, the sins of the fathers - and in this case, the brothers and sisters - are revisited on the sons. Eli's father and a local recluse (Brad Dourif, Halloween 1 & 2) have a score to settle, over the man's long-dead sister... a beautiful and mysterious girl named Amanda.
There's just enough blood in Last Kind Words to keep horror fans happy and more than enough supernatural, otherworldly plot twists to engage even the most casual fan of ghost stories.
If we've got one complaint about Last Kind Words, it's the overly angst-ridden music in the film's final scenes. it distracts from the wonderfully haunting cinematography by Bill Otto. Instead of adding another layer of pain and suspense to the film, it takes away from the action. Instead of being quiet and blending into the background, it screams, "I'm sad, I'm lonely, I'm really, really sad and lonely!" Yeah, and you're really annoying, too. Shut up , already; we're watching a movie.
Check in next week when we review The Numbers Station with John Cusack and Malin Akerman, an Alfred Hitchcock boxed set and a couple of British imports.