Monday, March 31, 2008

Things I've Learned From Watching Movies Part 9

Strangely, the presence of a homicidal madman killing all those around you isn't necessarily enough to get you to leave where you are and go someplace else.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Super Zero

One of the signs of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. So what does that say about people who keep making these parody movies? You have Scary Movie 3 and Scary Movie 4, both occasionally funny but ultimately mediocre movies. One of the guys who wrote both of those movies is now writing and directing Superhero Movie, the imaginatively named parody of movies like Spider-Man and X-Men. How is it that the people who authorize and pay for these things figured that they'd get something other than an occasionally funny but ultimately mediocre movie this time around? My theory is they simply didn't give a crap because both of the Scary Movies made at least a small profit and, seen from a perspective of sanity, this one will also make at least enough money to justify making Fantasy Movie or Jane Austen Movie next year. At least I hope that my cynical theory is true. I'd hate to think that the producers of Superhero Movie made this thinking, "Yes! Yes! This will be one of the great classics of cinema and will be how people remember me when I'm dead."

I will say this is a small cut above other parody attempts like Epic Movie or Date Movie. I never saw Meet The Spartans but I'm assuming this is better than that because I can't imagine a movie containing break dancing Spartans could cause you to feel anything but pain. There hasn't been a truly great parody film since the last Naked Gun movie. I liked Dewey Cox a little but it still wasn't in the same league. It may seem odd that so few of these are any good since so many of them are made. The reason for this is simple. Comedy, to look good, must look like it was easy to do. This goes doubly so for parodies. A good parody like Naked Gun or Young Frankenstein looks almost disgustingly easy to make. I imagine that many filmmakers of below average talent see a good one and think, "That's it! I'll just make fun of all those Harry Potter movies, throw in some dick and fart jokes and maybe have a Donald Trump look-alike come along and tell everybody that they're fired. How could that not be comedy gold?" The fact that they don't recognize the buttload of ways in which this could not be comedy gold is why so many bad parodies are made.

There's a good example of this in Superhero Movie. There's a scene where the nebbishy alter ego of the super hero is trying to romance the girl he likes when the boy's sleeping aunt begins farting. The good news is that this starts off funny and stay that way for about 12 seconds. The bad news is that the whole routine goes on for about 3 minutes as the anal gas is is expelled with greater and greater force, eventually blowing the girl's hair around. The reason this isn't funny is because you ask yourself, "Why don't they just move to a different spot?" Makers of parody movies think they can get away with stuff like this because absurd and outrageous situations and behavior and suspension of disbelief isn't as necessary as it is when you're trying to tell a story logically but incompetent filmmakers violate even those oh-so-minor limits and that's what happened here.

The plot is more a take-off on the first Spider-Man movie than it is superhero movies in general and you know what? I'm not even going to talk about the plot anymore since it's not really all that important. It exists as a clothesline on which to hang various jokes and sight gags.

When broken down, about 25% of the jokes in Superhero Movie work and the rest blow so, stay the hell away from it and sit back until the next crappy parody movie comes out. All this has happened before, all this shall happen again.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Mist-y Water Colored Memories

I wasn't doing this back around Thanksgiving when The Mist first came out in theater which is too bad because I could have vented the anger and rage that The Mist invoked in me here. Instead, I was forced to take it out on society. Mind you, my way of taking it out on society was mainly confined to saying, "What's good about it?" when people would say, "Good morning," to me. Not that it's coming out on DVD, I can now purge from my psyche the demons it left and heal the damage it did to me.

The Mist is, quite simply, one of the worst movies ever made. A lot of people didn't like The Mist but what truly amazes me is that they don't hate it for the reason I hated it. Many critics cited things like wooden acting, needless gore, characters doing stupid things for stupid reasons and the other usual laundry list you can cite for hating most big budget Hollywood films. It even made the right wing hit list because one of the main antagonists is a Christian nutjob whose usual end-of-the-world rhetoric doesn't sound so crazy when the world actually seems to be ending and because all the bad stuff in the movie is caused by a failed military experiment and this was looked down upon by people who fetishize the US military. Yet all of the reviews I read either barely mentioned the ending or went into a bit only to quickly dismiss it so they could concentrate on the other things they didn't like about the movie and the ending is the reason to hate The Mist. The rest of the movie could have been comparable to Citizen Kane but, if it had the same ending, it would still earn the contempt of the world. The ending of The Mist is something that H.P. Lovecraft would have described as, "having risen from the stygian depths, its very nature evil, its very existence blasphemous and its very presence an affront to the world of light, sanity and reason." I am not exaggerating. The ending of The Mist is indeed that bad.

To get to the ending, let's explore the beginning and middle so the ending makes sense. Ok, already I'm wrong since the ending of The Mist makes no sense whatsoever, but let's go back a bit anyway.

The plot is more or less faithful to the Stephen King story it was based on (up until the godawful ending). A fierce storm in a rural Main town causes damage at a local military base where, rumor says, strange experiments are being conducted. This realeases a thick, otherworldly mist that is occupied by all sorts of vicious, demony beasties who trap several of the townsfolk in a local supermarket including author Davids Drayton, played here y Thomas Jane. They don't fare that badly once they figure out and apply certain rules like, "Staying inside where there are no beasts capable of tearing a person into tiny pieces is preferable to going outside where there are loads of creatures like that." They do well, that is, until people actually begin to take seriously a woman previously regarded as the town kook. Mrs. Carmody (Marcia Gay Harden) has an obvious paranoid mental disorder that she expresses through Christian extremism and apocalyptic rhetoric that, as I said before, usually gets ignored but takes on a new meaning when the Apocalypse may actually be happening. As more and more of the supermarket dwellers are swayed to her way of thinking and words like, "human sacrifice," begin to get thrown around, Drayton and his allies try to come up with a plan to escape the store before Mrs. Carmody forms her own megachurch.

This will sound odd, but I actually liked The Mist up till this point. Oh, it wasn't particularly great or memorable, especially surprising since it was helmed by Shawshank Redemption director Frank Darabont, but it was mildly entertaining and up until the end, I could have gone blissfully through my life never thinking about it again.

Oh dear, I suppose now I must deal with the ending. I've gone back and forth as to whether I should reveal the ending here and have decided not to. In fact, I just got done deleting the paragraph where I spoiled the whole thing. What I will say now is that, if you ever see the ending, you will wish that the movie had balls so you could kick them again and again. You will want to slap Frank Darabont over and over in a way that you haven't wanted to slap a director since Gus Van Sant thought it would be a good idea to remake Psycho. You will wonder how anyone could have thought it was a good idea to take Stephen King's original ending, an ambiguous piece of work that finished the story on notes of both mystery and hope, and change it into something that makes you think that now is the time for humans to step aside and give rule of the planet over to its new cockroach overlords.

Or, to quote a teenage girl who sat a few rows in front me, "THAT SUCKED!" That pretty much sums it up.

UPDATE: A commenter has called me out on the ending saying I have to post it. Ok, got a nice little spoiler space (I couldn't make the code work that turns text invisible) so just scroll down if you want to see it.



















In King's original ending, Drayton, his son and a few others from the store drive into the mist. They heard a stray radio signal mention Hartford, Connecticut and bank everything on the slim hope that maybe the mist has stopped its spread there. In the movie's ending, Drayton, his son and a few others from the store are still driving along until they run out of gas. Drayton has a gun and decides that a shot to the head is preferable to whatever the creatures in the mist have in store so he shoots everyone, including his own son. Not having a bullet left for himself, he exits the SUV and shouts, "COME AND GET ME!" Just then, the mist lifts and reveals a military rescue caravan meaning that all the murders he had just committed were, in fact, the stupid idea that everyone in the theater knew that they were. It ends with Drayton kneeling in the road screaming next to the blood-and-gore-filled SUV. Now that I've had to relive all that, I have to go punch something.

Monday, March 24, 2008

The Passion Of The Medved

Crooks And Liars today talks about recent remarks made by Michael Medved on CNN about the recent Jeremiah Wright controversy.
Yes, I think it was a courageous speech in some ways, and yes — but it was also an attempt to change the subject. Because the truth is that people responded indignantly to Reverend Wright not because he’s black. It’s not about race, it’s not because of the racial outlook of the church, which very specifically defines itself as an afrocentric church and emphasizes blackness, blackness, blackness.

They didn’t respond to it that way. If a white pastor had made the comments that Jeremiah Wright had made, people would have been equally indignant.

To put that in context, C&L links to an article Medved wrote last year about how awesome slavery was for black people.

I think C&L picked the wrong article though. To me, the name "Michael Medved" is a synonym for stupid. Someday, I think people say things like, "That retarded guy is such a Michael Medved." The main reason for this is because, when he was a film critic, his opinions of movies were almost always the exact opposite of how good the movies actually were. I used to read his reviews because he was the perfect reverse barometer. If he loved something, it would be unwatchable. If he hated it, it would be Oscar material. I don't mean he occasionally bucked the consensus of opinion of his fellow critics, which most of them do from time to time. I mean this guy was wrong almost every single time. As evidence, I offer two examples.

First is Pulp Fiction. This is generally considered one of the greatest and most influential films of the 20th century. It is considered by many to be a crime that it didn't win the Best Picture Oscar. Here's what Medved said about it:
I hated it! I hated every frame of it! Well, I won’t say that I hated every frame of it. I mean, Bruce Willis and John Travolta have never been so mediocre, but I found it just rampagingly mediocre. But that’s enough about Pulp Fiction, let’s get to one of the films on my ten best list The Swan Princess.

Please not that I did not alter that quote in any way. He hated Pulp Fiction and loved The Swan Princess. If you've never heard of The Swan Princess, it's because it's a trite and forgettable feature length cartoon ripoff of just about every fairy tale you can think of. And Medved loved it. That's not the only stupid movie he ever loved by the way, which brings me to example #2, It Takes Two:
"Absolutely delightful! The Olsen twins are natural charmers with irresistible appeal. Well acted and crisply directed. It will please parents and children with its winning blend of humor and romance."

Yes, he loved a movie with the Olsen Twins which was mainly a ripoff of both The Parent Trap and The Prince and the Pauper. Not only did it have someone who would someday be mysteriously connected to the death of Heath Ledger but it also starred Steve Guttenberg and if I have to tell you why that automatically raises the movie's suck rating by 10 then you don't know a lot about movies made in the 80s. In his New York Post review, he gave it 4 stars. This is the same number of stars you would give to The Godfather, On The Waterfront or (for most people) Pulp Fiction.

And that's why you don't listen to anything Michael Medved says. He lacks judgment and taste in all things and, someday, society will come together as a whole, shove him onto a spaceship and send him to the Moon where he will never harm anyone again. Until that glorious day, though, we must all keep a constant vigil lest his idiocy spread and mutate until, someday, we all have to watch as Steve Guttenberg receives a Lifetime Achievement Award at the Oscars.

Be Careful, Drillbit Taylor. You May Not Like What You Find.

Last month, I gave Drillbit Taylor a 40% chance of being a movie worth watching. That prediction has come true, kind of, as I consider only 40% of the movie to be worth watching. It's not a horrible movie and I laughed several times but there were too many flat jokes and stupid plot developments to recommend this to other people.

Owen Wilson plays the title character, a homeless veteran who hires himself out as a bodyguard to protect three nerdy high school boys from the bullies who torment them. Pop quiz: where in that last sentence do you see one of the stupid plot developments I was talking about? If you said, "...hires himself out as a bodyguard to protect three nerdy high school boys..." then give yourself a big, fat zero. That's not a stupid plot development. It's an outrageous premise upon which the entire movie is built and most big budget studio films, good or bad, are built on an outrageous premise. No, the stupid plot development lies in the words, "homeless veteran." Sure, there are lots of homeless veterans out there, but I simply can't figure out why Drillbit Taylor should be one of them. He's not a drunk or an addict. He doesn't hear voices or think that the CIA has implanted a microchip in this teeth. Taylor is mainly a shiftless, laid back, amoral conman who's perfectly willing to do things like steal from children and should be able to scrape together enough money to afford at least a dumpy apartment that would be far preferable to the streets he's living on.

This brings me to another stupid plot development. If this movie is to be believed, being homeless is AWESOME! Drillbit Taylor lives a very pleasant existence that mainly consists of begging for change in the morning then hanging out with his homeless buddies all day at a posh sidewalk cafe stealing food from the other customers. Up to this point in my life, I was under the impression that upscale Los Angeles restaurants wouldn't let a group of homeless men sit around at their tables all day so they could steal food and tips but, apparently, I was mistaken since that's exactly what happens.

Taylor is hired as a bodyguard by three boys (basically, the same three characters who were in Superbad, not surprising since this was written and produced by the same people) who are being tormented by a sociopathic bully. Taylor manages to convince the boys that he's a warrior of extraordinary skills even though at one point the three manage to overpower him. This leads to another stupid plot development where he decides to impersonate a substitute teacher and it works because, apparently, if you show up at a Los Angeles school and claim to be a substitute, the principal there will simply take you at your word and not check to see if you are a pedophile or just there to shoot up the place. Taylor manages to connect with the prettiest teacher there who has sex with him before she finds out his first name (or rather, the fake first name he is using, but that doesn't make it any better). Anyway, from there, hilarity ensues etc etc.

As I mentioned above, Drillbit Taylor is made by some of the same people who did Superbad and it doesn't measure up. The similarities kept making me think of the much better Superbad. This starts right from the opening where they copy Superbad's first scene: the skinny, gangly nerd talking on the phone to his fat, crude, curly haired best friend. It's not a raunchy sex comedy like Superbad was which is a shame because some raunchy sex would have taken our minds off of stupidity of the rest of the movie.

So, I guess my point is, go rent Superbad. Sure, it doesn't teach you the things that Drillbit Taylor does like that deserting from the Army during a time of war merits an extraordinarily light sentence or that sexy teachers don't really mind when their lovers lie about their backgrounds, occupations and names and will go on banging them even if they go to prison. No, Superbad doesn't have things like that, but it does have things that a comedy like Drillbit Taylor does not have, those things being actual comedy.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Things I've Learned From Watching Movies Part 8

No matter how dumpy he looks, how whiny he is or how stupid and immature his behavior may be, there isn't a guy on the planet who can't score two hot girls at once. Do I dare to get my hopes up that Lindsay Lohan and Scarlett Johannson will someday have a brutal fistfight with each other over who gets to be the first one to give me oral sex? The movies say that yes, I should dare.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Right Wing Movie Reviews -- Horton Hears A Who

Recently, I was contacted by right wing blogger Götterdamerung who posts over at conservative site Bushpocalypse.org. He took me to task for my recent review of "Horton Hears A Who" claiming that it was filled with liberal bias and that I was clearly and blatantly using a children's film to indoctrinate those same kids into my far-left agenda. I had no idea what the hell he was talking about but, when I asked him if he'd like to publish his own review here for the sake of balance, he graciously and sincerely thanked me for the opportunity though he thought it may all be part of my liberal jihadist plot to destroy America. --MC

Hey folks, Götterdamerung here. I know all you limpwristed Democrat gayboys out there probably went with your boyfriends to see that new French film The Other Boleyn Girl this past week which means you missed out on the most ass-kicking balls-out pro-America movie I've seen since 300, the movie where Spartan King Leonidas kept the Persian army from invading the United States. I'm talking about Horton Hears A Who. This movie gets your heart pumping, your feet stomping and your flags waving and convinces you that America should rule the world under the wise leadership of George Bush's third term.

The movie starts off in Whoville, a place that's totally screwed. It turns out that they live on a mote of dust, most likely due to liberal policies that inhibit the wealth creation that would have allowed them to live somewhere else. The dust starts blwoing all over the place and it looks like it'll be curtains for Whoville. They need help, they need a savior, they need GEORGE W. BUSH and they get him in the form of an actual Republican elephant named Horton.

Like Bush, Horton is just a regular guy who likes to have a good time. He doesn't spend a lot of time thinking which is good because, when he finds the Who, he doesn't stop to think. Instead, he goes with his gut and right away figures that he has to bring Whoville to a safe spot. That makes sense, right? Who could argue with that? The killjoy Kangaroo voiced by Carol Burnett, that's who. She's a crazy feminist in charge of the forest for some reason and she shows why feminists should never be in charge of anything except dinner. She goes on and on about how the kids in her socialized schools can't be exposed to the idea of tiny dust people just because there's no evidence that they exist. There's a term for that: Liberal Fascism.

Meanwhile down in Whoville, the Mayor, another manly Republican type clearly modeled after Dick Cheney, is told by his pussified city council that there's nothing wrong so he increases he goes it alone by seizing vast new unitary executive powers. He manages to get a warrantless wiretap to the outside world and thus forges a masculine bond with Horton and together, they save Whoville.

This movie helps Bush. A liberal would have tried to save Whoville by raising taxes to finance a committee to form new Whoville regulations and celebrate by drinking soy milk and singing Kumbayah. But that's not what Horton did. He showed that if you make a decision, stay the course and not let defeatocrat busybodies interfere with you, everything will work out in the end. Horton Hears A Who loves everything that Bush and the right wing hold dear. Things like honor, courage and masculine values. If you don't love this movie, that means that you don't love masculinity and anyone who hates masculinity is obviously gay.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Things I've Learned From Watching Movies Part 7

Attractive young people will always think it's a good idea to follow the advice of a creepy local who tells them to visit some eerie, obscure location. I suppose it'd be a really short movie if they said, "Um, you want us to go that old burial ground 30 miles off the highway? No thanks, we'll just stay here in town for karaoke night." You just have to accept the tradeoff, I guess.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Who's On Horton?

There are lots and lots of problems when it comes to making cinematic versions of Dr. Seuss books. Hopefully, we will never again see a live action adaptation made. Dr. Seeus' artwork simply doesn't translate into the real world. Seeing the wonderfully goofy Cat In A Hat turned by Mike Myers and heaps of makeup into creepy and disturbing nightmare fuel inflicted wounds upon society that still haven't healed. Horton Hears A Who, on the other hand, shows you that an animated adaptation of Dr. Seuss can be like watching a dream being filmed. Horton not only wonderfully captures Seuss' visual style but actually expands upon it and fleshes it out into a full-on cinematic world while never making you think that you were seeing something that Dr. Seuss wouldn't have done himself. It's been a while since I've seen a movie with this kind of visual imagination and it was a wonderful place for us to watch Dr. Seuss' timeless childrens story come to life.

Which brings us to another problem with trying to adapt Dr. Seuss. His books are so short and simple that you simply can't make them into a 90-plus minute movie. There just isn't enough material to do so which means you have to start padding and, unfortunately, the go-to place for padding is sitcom style jokes and improvs made by comedian voice actors like Jim Carrey and Steve Carrell. Some of this can be quite funny but it's out of place in the world of Dr. Seuss. He wrote books entirely for kids that were so good that, decades later, adults can still tell you the stories of the Grinch and the Cat In The Hat and Sam I am. Adding references to the 70s and 80s, ironic references to the absurd world in which they live and gentle mockery of Seuss' work may be entertaining for adults but it goes over the heads of the children for whom this work was intended. They miss out and don't get why Mom and Dad are laughing when Jim Carrey's Horton begins talking like Henry Kissinger or Steve Carrell's Mayor of Whoville points out that it's kind of dumb to put the word "Who" in front of everything such as saying he has to go to the dentist for his Who-Root Canal.

None of the references are dirty with the possible exception of when Mayor McDodd tells Horton that he has 97 children and Horton says that he must be a busy guy. In fact, I was shocked to see that it was rated G. I can't remember the last time I saw a G-rated movie as movie makers intentionally try to get a PG rating even when it's for kids. That's all about money, of course, though I see that Horton did quite well on its opening weekend and that the filmmakers did the right thing to resist the studio pressure to have Whoville institute a needle exchange program so the movie could get the PG.

I don't think I have to talk about the plot since, if you don't remember it from your childhood then I have very little respect for you. It's all there. The dust speck on the clover. The animals who think Horton is crazy. "A person's a person no matter how small." And, of course, "YALP!"

Despite my complaints, I can tell you that Horton Hears A Who is a wonderful and enjoyable film no matter your age or background. I don't know what to do about the padding since the movie almost certainly wouldn't have been made with it and any future Dr. Seuss film will contain similar content since thtis movie was a hit. I can just imagine Green Eggs And Ham containing Apocalypse Now references about how they just love the small of ham in the morning and the end when everyone sings Thriller. Oh well, gotta take what you can get.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

August Rush

I was writing something about August Rush when I realized that what I was writing was very similar to a column that written on another website when the movie first came out. I even had a similar title so I'm simply going to give you the link to that column. Thus, I both save myself the trouble of creating my own original material and avoid getting sued for plagiarism.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Things I've Learned From Watching Movies Part 6

Automotive stunts like this are impossible until you stop thinking that what is possible is determined by firm scientific laws and start thinking that what is possible is determined by loosely enforced scientific guidelines. When you start thinking that, you can do things make the Kessel Run in 15 parsecs and turn into a lizard when you reach Warp Factor 10.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Title Should Have Been "Straight To DVD"

If you took this Friday's new movie Never Back Down and changed the title to Taking It To The Max, In It To Win It, All Or Nothing or Failure Not An Option, would anyone even notice?

10,000 O.C.

Today, I finally saw No Country For Old Men on DVD. That's a wonderful, fascinating movie that deserved its Best Picture Oscar. It also taught me something. Never, ever watch a movie that has the potential to become a timeless classic on the same day that you are planning to go out and see a crappy, mindless, forgettable action film. I probably should have known that already so that's one on me. A movie made by the guys who made Fargo, Blood Simple, and Miller's Crossing really magnifies the flaws of the movie made by the guy who made Independence Day, Stargate and Universal Soldier. Not that I hate 10,000 B.C. director Roland Emmerich, mind you. He occupies a warm place in my heart for the sheer chutzpah he showed in his last movie, The Day After Tomorrow. In that movie, he found not one but two variations on the old "outrunning a fireball" gimmick that you've seen in every movie since Die Hard. First, his characters outran a tidal wave. Later on, they outran a cell of supercooled air that was brought down to Earth by some sort of reverse space tornado or something. Unfortunately, no comparable scene exists in 10,000 B.C.

10,000 B.C. opens in what I suppose is the year 10,010 B.C. when a little girl with blue eyes wanders into a village of mammoth hunters. Despite the fact that the local priestess/shaman/whatever has a vision that she'll grow up to be a major league pain in the ass for the tribe, they accept and raise her as one of their own and name her Evolet. A boy named D'Leh instantly develops a crush on her and vows that he will always be with her, making him the world's first stalker. A few years later, Evolet and D'Leh grow up to be adults who look like models and thus, the world's first superhot power couple is born.

It turns out that the only way D'Leh can make Evolet his woman and spawn super cute babies whose descendants will someday fill the pages of Maxim is for D'Leh to not only participate in a mammoth kill but to actually be the one who kills it. You'd think that a society who live in a mammoth-killing-based economy would be pretty good at it but, if you thought that, you'd be wrong as they proceed to use a "scare the crap out of the mammoths so they run away as fast as their mammoth legs can carry them" strategy of hunting them down. When one manages to stumble into their nets, it promptly breaks free. D'Leh manages to get his hand wrapped up in the net that's tangled around the charging mammoth and lucks into the magical mammoth kill that will make it possible for him to finally be allowed to violate Evolet's nether regions. At this point, I realize that I have neglected to tell you all the D'Leh is a whiny dumbass who throws away his dream of coupling with what is literally the only hot girl on the planet by confessing that the mammoth basically tripped onto his spear. In my view, he still technically met the requirements but, since it would have been inconvenient for the plot for that to be the case, he is stripped of his "Screwing Evolet" privileges.

Anyhoo, all this becomes moot when some slave traders show up and steal several of the mammoth hunters, including Evolet. These are the ones that Old Mother foresaw coming years earlier and you'd think that the hunters would have prepared for their invasion in some way. Again, if you thought this, you'd be 10,000 percent wrong. D'Leh then leads a rescue party to get his chick back and manages to do things like get stalked by carnivorous ostriches and stumble into saber-tooth tiger traps. The meet several other large villages and societies who've also had their people kidnapped by the slave traders which caused me to wonder how, again and again, what were maybe a half dozen slave traders on horseback were managing to defeat one village of hearty hunters armed with the same spears they had after another. Again, this happened because it was convenient for the plot. Eventually they encounter a kingdom of super-smart people who need slaves to build their pyramids (a feat of engineering most likely utterly unknown back in 10,000 B.C. but that's hardly the stupidest thing in the movie so I'll just let it go) and absolutely LOVE to whip those slaves while they're busy trying to work.

In case you couldn't tell, I thought that 10,000 B.C. sucked. It had a dumb plot about dumb people doing dumb things that commits the ultimate sin of a Hollywood action film by not having decent action sequences or special effects to make up for all the dumbness. It does have some unintentionally hilarious scenes like a really bad looking CGI saber tooth tiger, one muttering prophet after another, vaguely homoerotic scenes of loincloth-wearing men hugging and touching foreheads and an alleged living god who dresses like Celine Dion. Even under the principle of, "I'll take what I can get," it's not enough.

IMDB says that Roland Emmerich's next movie is a return to his roots called 2012, another story about large chunks of the planet facing extinction through natural disasters. Hopefully there will be a scene where the heroes have to outrun something like a giant marshmallow and I can have good feelings about Emmerich again.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

The Bank Job -- Movie Review

Man, that's a boring title. Know why it's so boring? It's boring because I liked The Bank Job. This annoys me because, had I not liked it, the title of this review would have been, "The Blow Job." That would have been cool and almost certainly would have gone viral and shot me to the heights of internet superstardom. Instead, I ended up liking and now have to end my master plan to write a series of bad reviews using the word, "Blow," like I did last week with the review I called Semi-Blow. Next week, I could have written something called, "Horton Blows a Who," but now the momentum has been lost. Oh well, on to the movie.

The Bank Job is a very entertaining movie that opens by saying it was based on true events. Here's a helpful tip that will carry you far through life: when a movie says it was "based on true events" 9 times out of 10 you will see a work whose fiction is so pure that you'd have to cut it with baking powder or else people would overdose while watching it. Harry Potter or Nightmare On Elm Street are probably closer to true events than something that claims to be a true story. The Bank Job manages to do a pretty good job, though, of mixing in some indisputably true events with stuff that they claim they got from a secret source.

The story centers around an actual robbery of a Lloyds Bank in 1971 London where the thieves tunneled in from a nearby building and managed to get into the vault containing safety deposit boxes and they managed to steal amounts speculated between 300,000 and 4,000,000 pounds (many of the box owners declined to say what was in them). The movie claims that the robbery was committed by some small time crooks headed by a guy named Terry Leather (played very well by Jason Statham) who were unwittingly put up to it by MI5, which is, for you Americans who don't have BBC America and know jack about foreigners, Britain's very secretive intelligence agency. You would think that, in the 1970s, MI5 would be really busy tracking down IRA members but, if this movie is to be believed, MI5 actually spent most of its time covering up sex scandals that involve highly placed members of the government. Supposedly, the Queen's sister, Princess Margaret, managed to get some very naughty pictures taken of herself which then fell into the hands of a radical black activist who called himself Michael X. Michael X was a real guy who, again according to this movie, managed to stay out of jail despite committing various crimes. He supposedly did this by threatening to publish the pictures of the Princess if he was ever convicted of a crime, pictures he kept in his safety deposit box in Lloyds.

MI5 decides to entrust their entire operation to a woman named Martine Love (Saffron Burrows), a woman who got caught smuggling drugs into the UK and makes a deal to put plan and execute the bank robbery. Again, they thought it was a good idea to hire a FAILED CRIMINAL to conduct their extremely important and sensitive illegal operation and were shocked when things started going wrong. And oh, do they ever go wrong. The movie takes place in 3 parts. Part 1 is where high ranking member of the British government has sex with whatever they can get a hold of. Part 2 consists of the bank robbery itself. Part 3 is the series of missteps where everyone from the robbers, low level mobsters, corrupt cops, Members of Parliament, the Queen's in-laws and men who are ironically described as British Intelligence manage to take a fairly straightforward and successful crime and manage to turn it into a complicated mess that threatens lives and has the potential to drag the entire government into serious scandal, or, rather, more of a scandal that it is normally dragged into.

I really liked The Bank Job. It has good performances, jokes in the right places, interesting characters and unbelievable plot twists that I didn't question until after the movie was over. And that, anyway, is a true story.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Those Who Do Not Remember The Past...

Schindler's List had more laughs than Date Movie, Epic Movie and Meet The Spartans combined. On the heels of those rip-roaring comedy successes, we now get this.

Friday, March 7, 2008

The Missing S

Question for Dirty Harry: Seriously? No come on, this is for real? It's not some elaborate joke? You've actually decided to take a stand over THIS?

Okay, need loads and loads of background for any of that to make sense. Dirty Harry is the main blogger/film critic for a web site called Libertas which describes itself as, "A Forum For Conservative Thought On Film," but is actually an excuse to espouse extremist right wing ideas while pretending you're just reviewing I Am Legend. I've described it to people as a gold mine of stupid. As of this writing, Libertas' front page contains posts that
  1. Criticize Jim Carrey for starring in Jason Reitman's new movie about a Frenchman who rediscovers his love for France. The point of the post is murky unless you're wearing your Right Wing Nutjob Decoder Ring and you know that France is where the devil lives, or rather a lazy, wine-swilling, totally gay version of the devil who smells like cheese. The only blatant criticism of France is also when Harry puts on his "I UTTERLY LACK SELF-AWARENESS" T-shirt and points out that France once lied about Iraq having WMD. Yes, because lying about WMD is the worst thing you can possibly do and you should hate any country that lies about WMD which means that Dirty Harry must also hate America and I am sorry but I'm not going to sit here quietly while this ungrateful little hippy bitch criticizes my country. Harry should just go back to France where he came from.
  2. Talk about how box office attendance has dropped steadily since 2002 and claims that this is because Hollywood hates America and God.
  3. Talks about misogynistic movies so that he can slip in his belief that feminism has actually hurt women.

Still, this isn't any worse that you'd read on Red State or Instapundit and normally wouldn't rate a mention. No, what's really upset my apple cart today is the OTHER post currently on the front page.

Harry opens by talking about how British theater chain Odeon is refusing to show Rambo. After claiming he thought this was no biggie (unlikely considering that, in his review of the movie, he held Rambo up as an example of neocon awesomeness that will surely poll vault George Bush's approval rating back over 30%), he connects that incident to Canada's decision to do something similar. Are they refusing to show Rambo? Oh, Lordie Lord no. They're refusing to show Witless Protection. Yes, that's right, Harry could have spent his time and energy writing yet another post about how movies like Lions For Lambs will usher Osama bin Laden into the White House or that the 2,000 year history of Christianity is threatened by a movie where one talking bear beats the crap out of another talking bear but no, he decides to go to the wall over WITLESS FUCKING PROTECTION.

So now, let's hit REWIND.

Question for Dirty Harry: Seriously? No come on, this is for real? It's not some elaborate joke? You've actually decided to take a stand over THIS? I'm trying to think of something more clever than "COME ON, SERIOUSLY?" but I can't think of anything that better expresses what I'm thinking. This is a movie that is hated by pretty much everyone. Even most Larry the Cable Guy fans don't like it. It scored a rare and surprising 0% on the Tomatometer. It made people look back longingly at Larry's other movies, Delta Farce and Health Inspector, and say, "Now that was when Hollywood knew how to make comedies about hick morons. Why couldn't we appreciate that Golden Age when we were living through it?"

And yes, I judged the movie before I ever saw it. However, I'm one of the very few people who actually bought a ticket to see this steamer and I can tell you that everything that I and everyone else said about it is true. Well, what they said about the first 15 minutes are true anyway. That was when I walked out and snuck into National Treasure 2. I can also tell you that Witless Protection's greatest sin is not that it offends, well, everybody. It's that it does that while failing to make you laugh. It insults your intelligence while movies in the same genre like Borat, Superbad, and South Park actually compliment it. Those are offensive movies that are so funny and well constructed that you can't believe what you are laughing at.

So, Canada decides not to take up valuable theater space with a universally offensive, thoroughly hated movie that committed the ultimate Hollywood sin. No, not being politically incorrect. The ultimate Hollywood sin is that, despite a huge marketing campaign, it made no money. Most people see this is as signs of Canada's good taste and excellent business sense. Dirty Harry, on the other hand, puts on his Jonah Goldberg X-Ray Specs and sees the ascendancy of Liberal Fascism. That's fine, man. You want Larry the Cable Guy? He's yours.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Things I've Learned From Watching Movies Part 5

If terrorists capture you so that you will use your intellect and techinical expertise to build them WMDs, they will leave you completely unsupervised so you can instead build a battle suit and escape.

On a serious note, while Iron Man was never my favorite comic book character, this movie does have potential and having Samuel L. Jackson play Nick Fury is one of the coolest things anyone ever thought of.

Things I've Learned From Watching Movies Part 4

In Ann Arbor, Michigan, it's possible for an apartment to explode in full view of several witnesses on the street yet neither the police nor the fire department will ever bother to show up to investigate.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Semi-Blow

Semi-Pro was simply painful to watch. When it comes to movies, there is nothing worse than a bad comedy. If you're watching a bad action film, there can still be some thrilling moments if it contains some competently performed stunts. If the hero successfully outruns the fireball, you find yourself momentarily overlooking the time when you questioned how the terrorists were going to take over the country by putting marshmallows in the water supply or the stupid dialogue like, "If we don't do this, it won't get done by us." It doesn't work that way in comedy though. Something is either funny or it's not funny. There's no middle ground. A movie can be mildly exciting, somewhat sad, or a little frightening and you may still walk away thinking, "Well, it could have been worse." In comedy, it doesn't work like that. Oh sure, you may get a mild chuckle when, say, a little kid tries to flush a ham down the toilet but mild chuckles don't cut it which is bad news for Semi-Pro, a movie just chock full of mild chuckles.

Semi-Pro takes place in the year 1976 so right off the bat you figure you'll be getting jokes about polyester suits, disco and afros. Sure enough, Will Ferrell plays Jackie Moon, a guy with an afro who wears polyester leisure suits and owns a disco. I wondered why Ferrell would return to the 70s after he did Anchorman, another movie set in the 70s that already made all these jokes. Unfortunately for him, he was forced to go back to the Carter years by the stupid plot. Turns out Jackie Moon owns a losing basketball team in the ABA at a time when that league is about to merge with the NBA. We're told that the NBA will only take the top 4 ABA teams into its league and that the rest of the teams will cease to exist. As I was watching this, I was wondering if there actually had been a second basketball league called the ABA and if they really did merge with the NBA in 1976 and, golly gee, there was. It is very bad news for this movie that I was thinking this as the movie was playing instead of after it was over. I should have been too busy with all the hysterical laughter. Instead, I'm thinking that I can't wait to get home and fire up The Google.

Anyway, Jackie Moon is a horrible basketball coach but he tries to make up for it by being a wonderful promoter. Well...that's the claim constantly being made by the people in the movie. His promotional stunts such as having him perform his (fictional) hit disco/funk song, "Love Me Sexy," and doing a daredevil jump over his cheerleaders on roller skates actually result in mostly empty stands. Things don't turn around until Jackie (amusingly) trades his washing machine for washed-up former NBA player Ed Monix, played by Woody Harrelson. This leads to a whole side plot where Monix tries to get back with his old girlfriend and leads to one of the few laughs where her current boyfriend is such a huge fan of the basketball player that he's actually turned on when she starts cheating with Monix.

I went into this movie expecting to like it which is another reason I want to slap its face. Will Ferrell seems best suited to play what, fortunately for him, is known as the Will Ferrell Character. The WFC is a man who has attained a nearly mythic stature in whatever glamorous profession he happens to do, be it an anchorman, race car driver, or whatever. The WFC is also both a complete narcissist who's also a complte doofus. In Anchorman, Talladega Nights and Blades of Glory, the WFC formula has produced successful and often surprisingly funny results. In the case of Semi-Pro, it's almost as if slapping crazy wigs onto Will Ferrell and having him manically shout all his dialogue isn't an automatic formula for box office success and I don't think any of us wants to live in a world where that's the case.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Things I've Learned From Watching Movies Part 3

Hip references, sitcom style jokes and 80s songs are surely at least 10 billion times better than the poetic, memorable prose of Dr. Seuss that people remember well into adulthood and has kept his books beloved and in print for half a century.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Things I've Learned From Watching The Movies

When the Apocalypse finally happens, the only survivors will be leather clothing makers, punk hairstylists and auto mechanics who specialize in souping up high performance vehicles.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Our National Nightmare Has Ended

President Bush today signed into law a bill that most of the country feels was long overdue. With a stroke of the President's pen, it is now illegal today the phrase, "I drink your milkshake!" unless you have actually seen There Will Be Blood, the movie that contains that line. Violation of this law, which enjoys strong bipartisan support, include penalties as severe as 5 years in prison and a $50,000 dollar fine.

In his official statement after signing the bill, President Bush stated, "As our military fights overseas for our freedom and to protect us from terror, it's equally important here at home to be free from the terror of having to hear the same thing over and over again when most of the people who say it have no idea what they're even talking about. I know that one of my top aides just last week said that he was going to drink my milkshake and I was drinking an orange soda. I got so confused that I had under my desk until he went away." The President then smirked and giggled at his own remark for several minutes after which he said, "I'm never going to see There Will Be Buds or whatever it's called so that weirdo line will never make sense to me. I'm pretty busy being President so the only movies I ever get to see are those awesome Veggie Tales DVDs that Laura gets for me. Have you all ever seen those? They are awesome. You get a tomato and a cucumber talking. I mean, what's that all about?" after which he smirked and giggled again.

Republican Presidential nominee John McCain said during a campaign stop in Texas that he would have preferred a different approach to this crisis. "I would have gone more in the direction of free market solutions such as offering tax incentives to go and see the movie or encouraging people to use catchphrases from other films like, 'Freedom is the right of every sentient being,' from Transformers which, frankly, I think should have won the Oscar instead of There Will Be Blood." When an aide informed him that the actual Best Picture winner was No Country For Old Men, he shrugged his shoulders. "Whatever. Anyway, I don't fully support the bill and feel that there are ways in which it violates my conservative principles." In keeping with his style as a maverick, he voted for it anyway.

Presumed Democratic frontrunner Barack Obama had an entirely different take on the issue. "This situation required President Bush's leadership weeks ago yet, as usual, he was nowhere to be found until it reached crisis level." Senator Obama stated that, had he been President, he'd have pushed for a national holiday during which people could go and see There Will Be Blood and this whole issue would have largely been moot. "Had more people seen the movie, they could explain what it means to the people who hadn't and a national dialogue could have begun that would have healed our wounds and brought us closer as a nation."

Hillary Clinton refused to speak on what she considered to be a throughly trivial issue, causing Senator Obama's office to issue a statement that this was another example of how dangerously out of touch she is.