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Quint's look at Sundance flicks CHASING GHOSTS (a video game doco) and KING OF CALIFORNIA starring Michael Douglas' crazy beard!

Ahoy, squirts! Quint here with another pair of reviews. This is the first I've written since leaving Utah. I've seen 5 or 6 movies so far here in Santa Barbara, but before I can start writing them up, I need to bang out the remainder of my Sundance films. Here are my views on KING OF CALIFORNIA with Michael Douglas and Evan Rachel Wood and the video game documentary CHASING GHOSTS!!! KING OF CALIFORNIA Monki visited the Caribbean last year where he sent in pictures of a Q&A with Michael Douglas with his crazy wildman beard. I saw it and I thought Douglas was going insane or senile or both and then I saw the first trailer for KING OF CALIFORNIA and then felt bad about thinking Douglas was ratshit insane. Douglas plays Charlie, a nutty single father thrown in the looney bin for 2 years, getting out to find his now 15 year old daughter, Miranda (played by Evan Rachel Wood), has successfully manipulated the system to gain a complete independence. She has a fast food job, she dropped out of school, she bought a car on ebay, etc. She was able to make child services believe she was with relatives and relatives believe she was in foster care, etc. When Charlie is released from the nuthouse, Miranda's life is thrown out of whack. She had slipped into a life of convenience, keeping her responsibilities light and enjoying the peace and quiet. Though she's a dropout, she's an incredibly intelligent girl. Suddenly, Charlie is forced back into her life and he came back with a crazy plan. He thinks he cracked a code hidden in the writings of a Spanish Monk who was one of the first to travel the American West. He had a cache of gold coins and Charlie thinks he knows how to track his route, ending in his final resting place and the as yet undiscovered treasure. Is Charlie crazy? Is he on to something? You don't know as you go through. There are moments that lead you to believe one way for a few minutes, then another soon thereafter. It's not until the end where you get a definite answer one way or the other. Alexander Payne produced this flick for first time writer/director Mike Cahill and it feels like it belongs in the same universe as ABOUT SCHMIDT or SIDEWAYS. Douglas is vibrant and alive, his blue eyes flashing between concern, insanity and intelligence at a moment's notice. He gives a very great "big" performance that has a lot of depth when you look closer at it. Evan Rachel Wood has a really difficult role. She was a character of contradictions. She wants to be independent, but she also wants the love of her father. She fights to keep her quiet life, but is tempted by her father's crazy scheme. She's responsible, but does some very irresponsible things. Her character could have come off as either completely unreal or annoying, but Wood makes Miranda so likable, so sympathetic that you never really question her getting caught up with her dad's crazy scheme. The film is a little long, but I never found myself bored. It's got that trademarked Payne deliberate pacing. But, like Payne's work, there's always an interesting character to watch, even during the slowest periods. First Look picked it up after Fox Searchlight dropped it pre-fest, so it'll roll out this year, I'm sure. CHASING GHOSTS This flick was one of the many on the Sundance preview list compiled by myself and Rav. How could it not be? It's a documentary on the arcade craze and the superstars that briefly shined in the early '80s. I don't know about you, but I grew up in arcades in the Bay Area. TILT, BULLWINKLE'S... hell, I spent my 10th birthday in an Aladdin's Castle in the local mall... after hours, with 90% of the games set on free-play. That was a good night filled with all my friends playing the TMNT game and all the classics like Pac Man and Centipede. This doc is about a handful of nerds who became the best of the best in 1982. They are superstars, experts at certain games, with egos and rivalries to match. The documentary is focused on creating a reunion based around a 1982 photoshoot for Life Magazine, which featured the highest scoring geeks at the time set up in the middle of a small town street leaning on top of a row of video game cabinets. There are some crazy motherfuckers in this movie. There's one guy who collects some... graphic art. There's another that lied about his scores to stay #1. Then there's the one accused of lying about his scores... who probably did. He calls himself Mr. Awesome or something like that and comes across as a huge dickhead, an egomaniac who made his own comic book featuring black and white pictures of himself with a 50 year old woman with huge, bare tits going on crazy adventures. He also calls one of the champions named Billy Mitchell (an even bigger ego maniac, but he has a mullet) "Silly Bitchell," which was so juvenile that coming out of a middle aged, balding man... it just made me laugh. "I call him Silly Bitchell because he is a silly bitch." The coolest part of the doc had to be the animated segues. They'd be talking about a specific game and then we'd see this 3D animation that totally looks like the world. Let's take Space Invaders. The camera flies around the world, first on you moving back and forth, hiding behind the hills as the lines of aliens creep down the page and then up the ranks of the aliens as they're blasted. There are at least a half-dozen of those, each representing a different game. Too cool. I know this review is a little lame, but I'm finding it hard to talk in-depth about the film without taking away the joy of watching this film. On a purely nostalgic level, this is a joy to watch, but the guys are so crazy you can't help but be pulled along with the film. This is going to be a popular one amongst the readers of this site and other nostalgic '80s geeks. -Quint

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