Monday, June 30, 2008

Wanted: More

Wanted is one of those movies that exists because the makers of the film imagined some wonderful action sequences and thought, "Let's build a movie around those." Anyone who's ever seen the movies of John Woo knows how this model of movie making works. You get awesome scenes of guy jumping through windows, taking out 3 assassins before smashing through a window in the next building and taking out the fourth. When that's over, you get scenes like Morgan Freeman explaining how God tells us to kill people by causing looms to occasionally miss a stitch and that is not a joke. The way to judge a movie like this is to determine whether the entertainment value of the cool parts outweighs the "What the hell is this crap?" value of the non-cool parts. As far as Wanted goes, I'll say yes, but not by much.

When the movie opens, we're informed that a society of assassins called the Fraternity has been around for 1000 years killing all the world's big meanies. Anyone who paid attention in history class knows right off the bat what a crap job these guys have been doing for the last millennium. Why didn't they take out guys like Napoleon and Hitler? Was there a Charles in Charge marathon they days they were supposed to do that or something?

Anyway, apparently a guy named Cross, one of the Fraternity's very best people, has gone rogue. The scene I described in the first paragraph is where Cross confronts the loyal Fraternity man who's been sent to kill him. Since Cross seems to be the movie's villain, you can guess who wins that fight. Enter Wesley Gibson, played by James McAvoy. Having only seen McAvoy in movies like Becoming Jane and Atonement, I was surprised to see that he owned pants that weren't made from uncomfortably tight leather and shirts that weren't puffy. Anyway, Wesley works for a company that may as well be called GeneriCo because it's one of those movie businesses where you can't tell what the hell it is that they actually do. Wesley leads a hopeless existence of quiet desperation in his cubicle where he's constantly berated by his sadistic boss about billing reports while his best friend has sex with his girlfriend. Only the anti-anxiety drugs he takes make his life bearable and it's when he's refilling his prescription for those that his life changes.

Wesley meets the aptly named Fox who is aptly played by Angelina Jolie. She seems unnaturally interested in him but before he can try to impress her with pickup lines that, knowing him, would almost certainly would have referenced comic books or Monty Python, a gun battle breaks out. It turns out that Fox is there to protect Wesley from Cross who's after him for unbelievable reasons that will be made clear later. At this moment, all you, the audience, have to do is marvel at the extended stunts and car chases that ensue as Fox and Wesley try to elude Cross. They do and Fox brings him to meet the Fraternity, headed up by Morgan Freeman's character, Sloan. They tell Wesley that he has super powers he never knew about (the anti-anxiety drugs were actually suppressing them) and that he inherited them from his father, the guy Cross killed when the movie opened.

After a series of rigorous and sadistic training exercises, Sloan shows Wesley the Loom of Fate. It turns out that the Fraternity was founded 1000 years ago by a group of weavers who discovered that AND AGAIN THIS IS NOT A JOKE God or Fate or whatever talks to us through the stitches in cloth and tells us who has to die to make the world into a bright and cheery place. It's a hell of a thing to think that someone has to die because someone else's T-shirt has an end out or a pinhole but who are we to judge the wisdom of that big creel in the sky? Believe it or not, this was one of the smarter plot points and the turns and twists of the story get dumber from this point on. The question is, does it matter? A movie like this doesn't have an intelligent storyline because coming up with an intelligent storyline is hard and the movie doesn't really need one. Wanted is a series of action sequences with a plot stuffed into it so that you can relax and catch your breath in between fights and car chases and I think the action was pretty good.


I think I'm going to have a problem with movies like this for a while and the cause of that problem is Iron Man. Iron Man was a great action movie that had interesting plot developments and intelligent characters that you actually cared about. If a character dies in Wanted, not only do you not care but you barely notice. If Tony Stark or Pepper Potts had died in Iron Man, you'd be pissed. Iron Man has raised the bar for what would ordinarily be mindless summer action films and it's going to be a while before I stop comparing movies like Wanted to Iron Man.

Oh well, you'll have to excuse me now. The threads in my pants are telling me that I have to track down Kim Jong Il and give him a wedgie.

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Friday, June 27, 2008

He Also Gave Away Free Drinks From A Public Fountain

With the release of Hancock just a few days away, I was reminded of an event that happened back in January. Big stars usually give gifts to the crews of their movies when filming wraps up. Movie stars need their huge paychecks to pay for $50 trucker caps and swimsuit model mistresses half their age so they don't have loads of cash on hand to buy decent gifts. Will Smith, however, took this concept to a new low.

At the wrap party for Hancock, Will Smith gave out gift certificates good for free personality tests at any Scientology Center. I'm not going to do some extensive anti-Scientology rant although Xenu knows I could. What I usually ask people, though, is how do you get so smug trashing a religion that believes an evil galactic emperor infested the world with the tortured souls of dead criminals and then go on about the awesomeness of a carpenter born of a virgin who could walk on water, turn the water he was walking on into wine and use the wine to celebrate when he returns from the dead*. No, my topic of conversation today is Will Smith and his crappy choice of gifts.

See, those gift certificates are, as I said, for FREE personality tests. You could walk into any Scientology Center in the world and get one of those tests whether you had one of those certificates or not. After, the test, you will almost certainly be diagnosed with various mental and personality disorders and that's when you start paying them for their treatments, but that initial test is free.

Which means Will Smith, super rich movie star, spent exactly jack and shit on the gifts he gave to his crew. He may as well have given them free sunshine or a certificate that gave them the right to speak the English language.

Clearly, Will Smith belongs in Scientology as the thetans have obviously so thoroughly infested him that he's become a major cheapskate. Hopefully by his next movie, he'll be Clear and his crew will get the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air DVD collections and Red Lobster gift certificates they all so richly deserve.

*This, of course, is aimed at the Christian audience out there. If you aren't a Christian, feel free to substitute a story that makes perfect sense to you but sounds batshit insane to outsiders, such as that eight armed elephant you Hindus seem to fancy.

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Thursday, June 26, 2008

Just Smart Enough

My favorite moment from Get Smart is when Steve Carrell's Maxwell Smart character is being complimented on a test he's recently taken to get a promotion at the spy agency CONTROL. The Chief (Alan Arkin), head of CONTROL, saysn he particularly liked Max's essay on existentialism. "But I left that blank, sir," Max says and the Chief laughs thinking that Max is such a thorough master of existentialism that he would understand the ironic beauty of submitting a blank essay on the subject when, in fact, Max simply knows nothing about it. That's one of the reasons that pulls Get Smart above the standard summer movie stupidity that keeps trying to drag it down.

I wasn't expecting much from Get Smart for several reasons. The first one is that it's a comedy and most comedies are seemingly made by and for retarded people who think that "comedy" means to have several scenes where someone falls face down in cow flop. The second reason is that it's a movie version of an old TV series and I would say that most of those suck except that would be an insult to things that suck. The third reason is that it stars Steve Carrell who proved with The 40 Year Old Virgin and Little Miss Sunshine that he could do no wrong and then went on to prove that, in fact, he could do buttloads of wrong when he starred in Evan Almighty. However, I actually ended up enjoying Get Smart.

Maxwell Smart in this movie is not the idiot he was when Don Adams played him back in the 60s. In fact, he starts off as an extremely competent analyst who writes overly detailed reports that no one reads because they're hundreds of pages long and contain details like what sort of muffins were eaten that morning by suspected terrorists. Smart unfortunately is more like an idiot savant. He's a masterful analyst who is fairly inept when dealing with people and situations in the real world instead of analyzing them.

Smart gets to live his dream of being a field agent when a raid on CONTROL headquarters by the evil organization known as KAOS gives KAOS the name of CONTROLS's undercover field agents so Max must now fill in. He is partnered with the beautiful and highly skilled Agent 99 played by Anne Hathaway. Since they're destined to be lovers, she must thoroughly loathe Max when she first meets him. Their first assignment together is to investigate Anne Hathaway's ex-boyfriend HA! but I kid. Sorry Anne, I couldn't resist. I guess this means that my dream of us someday playing together on the same bowling team will never be fulfilled.

Seriously, their first assignment is to investigate a Russian black market dealer who may have been supplying KAOS with nuclear materials. This leads to a funny take off of those scenes in Bond films where the spies go to a posh party. 99 dances with the dealer and tries to get him to spill everything he knows for no other reason than that she's hot (it works). 99's flirtations make Max jealous and cause him to join the dance with a very large Russian girl that actually goes off much better than you'd expect.

One of the movie's biggest weaknesses is the villain, Siegfried. In the show, Siegfried was played by Bernie Koppel (who has a cameo in this movie) and was a cartoonish stereotype. I should add that he was a very funny cartoonish stereotype and I used to like it when Siegfried was on the show. The movie's Siegfried is played very seriously by Terrence Stamp. On the other hand, Get Smart have a nice compliment of funny supporting characters including Dwayne Johnson as the nearly perfect Agent 23 who makes Max feel inadequate both by his competence and the fact that he's 99's former boyfriend and no, this one never fraudulently claimed to represent the Vatican HA! I did it again. Anne Hathaway, on the off chance that you Google your own name so much that you got to page 135 of the search and found this, I feel dirty now if that's any consolation.

As with most big summer comedies, it devolves toward the end into a series of chase scenes. Also, KAOS is secretly run by a traitor working inside of CONTROL and if you can't guess who it is, it means that you've never seen a movie before or, for that matter, ever been out of the house before. Still, it has lots of good parts and only a few bad ones and, in the end, you can't really ask for much more than that. Well, you could, but you'd be wasting your time.

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Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Things I've Learned From Watching Movies Part 29

Scientific facts are boring which means they couldn't possibly be true. Therefore, when trying to determine what's in the center of the earth, don't believe what "science" tells you but, rather, believe what's COOL!

Monday, June 23, 2008


How many pounds of drugs had been consumed by the studio executives who heard this pitch...
So I want to make a movie about 90s hip hop where Ben Kingsley makes out with Mary-Kate Olsen and contains lines of dialogue like, "I see the dopeness in everything, and you just see the wackness."

...and actually thought it would be a good idea to allocate millions of dollars of his company's money to make that into a movie? There was a time when movie guys would have heard that and said, "I love that. Any way we can have Ben Kingsley's character played by Brad Pitt and toss in some car chases and a meteor heading toward Earth?"

The Wackness. Buy your tickets now.

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Friday, June 20, 2008

Things I've Learned From Watching Movies Part 28

There is no such thing as an idea so stupid that it won't convince major movie studios to spend millions of dollars of their money to make it. There is simply NO SUCH THING!

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Boycott WALL·E Part 2: Apples And Oranges

In my previous post, I made an attempt to warn the world about the upcoming Disney/Pixar film WALL·E. At the time, I seemed to be alone in the view that WALL·E, seen by most as a simplistic and entertaining film about a cute little robot, was actually the harbinger of humanity's doom at the hands of bloodthirsty machines whose main imperative is to destroy mankind*. Here was my vision of the future:
  1. Everyone goes to see WALL·E.
  2. It becomes a mega-hit and all the little kids want their own robot.
  3. The robots become self-aware and our only choice after that is whether we get conquered by Skynet or the Matrix.

I realize now that I was, in fact, wrong about part of that. We could also be conquered by the Borg. Anyway, I did what I could to get the message out and, from what I can tell, had at least a small amount of progress toward preventing the end of the human race. At least that's what I thought until I read this comment from someone called Nekura20x6 over on Digg:
If Johnny 5 didn't manage to destroy our generation, I think our future is secure. (Can Wall*E reprogram three robots to do the Three Stooges? I think not...)

WRONG WRONG WRONG! This is exactly the kind of thinking that will lead us into machine-run death camps. Listen up Nekura20x6, if in fact that is your real name. As soon as Johnny 5 became self-aware, he did 2 things. One was to gain and constantly repeat the philosophy of "No Disassemble". The other one was to constantly put himself into inappropriate situations with Ally Sheedy. You just know he'd have nailed her if he could have, but that's not the same as wanting to exterminate her along with her fellow humans.

So, to Nekura and everyone else, I must warn you not to let Short Circuit lead you into a false sense of security. Comparing Johnny 5 and WALL·E is like comparing apples and oranges only in this case the apples are as friendly as they are tasty and the oranges are an evil demon fruit whose intention is to either kill you, enslave you or assimilate you into its collective. Am I being ridiculous? Perhaps. BUT DO YOU DARE TAKE THE CHANCE? I think not. I'm the last guy in the world to want to sound overly dramatic, but for the love of all that is good and holy, you must boycott WALL·E lest thousand of years of human experience and memories will be lost Time to die.

*I've always wondered what the hell machines who Must Destroy Mankind would do if they actually managed the feat of destroying mankind. It's like last week when I decided to spend my weekend organizing my comic books but finished up with that after only a few hours and sat around bored till Monday. I'm thinking it'd be the exact same thing with the robots and their Destroy Mankind deal and is probably why they never manage to finish the task. They know that they'll have squat to do.

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Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Boycott WALL·E

Yeah, I said it, boycott the little bastard. Sure, it's a Pixar film which means it'll probably be good, possibly an instant classic. The film's quality has nothing to do with it. What I am trying to avoid is its blatant pro-robot agenda. Here's how I see the future:
  1. Everyone goes to see WALL·E.
  2. It becomes a mega-hit and all the little kids want their own robot.
  3. The robots become self-aware and our only choice after that is whether we get conquered by Skynet or the Matrix.
This would be the point where some killjoy skeptic comes along to tell me that toy robots wouldn't have that kind of brain power and where I would invite that skeptic to please kiss a generous portion of my ass while I put the finishing touches on the underground shelter in which I will ride out the rise of the machines.

Anyway, if my call to boycott WALL·E is successful, please knock on my shelter door and let me know.

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Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Where Women Glow And Men Chunder

Australia's Tourism Minister Martin Ferguson is as chuffed as chuffed can be over the upcoming Baz Luhrmann epic Australia starring Nicole Kidman and Hugh Jackman. He thinks that this will pump up Australia's tourism industry that has been flat ever since the 2000 Olympics were held there. While I admit it's probably better than the controversy generated by their last big ad campaign that centered around a sexy swimsuit model asking, "Where the bloody hell are you?", and the lesser know though far more controversial follow up to that where we heard the slogan, "Australia: It's Not That Bad Here, I Mean, Come On, There Are Worse Places,"* this quote from the article telling me all of this caught my eye and I feel it makes Martin Ferguson look like a silly little drongo:
With sweeping Outback scenery and set in northern Australia on the eve of World War Two, "Australia" will see Kidman and Jackman take 2,000 cattle overland and caught in the wartime bombing of Darwin by the Japanese.

So, the movie centers around the hellish wartime devastation that was wrought upon the northern city of Darwin in World War II, an attack that resulted in hundreds of deaths, thousands of refugees and untold property damage. Yeah, that ought to fill the hotels and populate the beaches. Hot on the heels of this success, you could make the next Australian movie a drama about the 1918 influenza epidemic that spread all across the country and claimed 12,000 lives.

Oh well, I guess you work with what you have and it beats the hell out of those movies that make people think that Australians are moronic crocodile poachers who have appointed themselves on experts on what is and is not a knife or that they all dress up in spiked shoulder pads and drive around the Outback in souped up motorbikes and dune buggies looking for gasoline.

*Only one of those is a joke, the other is something they actually did.

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Monday, June 16, 2008

What's Happening Now?

I seem to be one of the few people, or at least one of the few people writing reviews, who actually liked The Happening. Perhaps this is because I am a transcendent being whose ability to see quality is far beyond that of mere mortals such as yourself. Or maybe it's because I always appreciate a horror film that doesn't involve sadistic geniuses who go on laughably stupid killing sprees that work only because the writers who control their destinies say that they work. Or maybe this is a case of the subjective taste of the audience in action and that even the worst movies ever made can usually garner at least a few fans (case in point: this piece of crap is getting remade). Anyway, all I can do is explain why I liked it and why anyone who disagrees with me is a doofus.

First off, M. Night Shyamalan is someone who can truly be described as a guy who was born to direct movies. Shyamalan shoots scenes in The Happening such a way that you suddenly tense up simply because the wind starts to blow or because a child is playing on a swing. I make the same point here that I recently made about The Strangers, that the flaws of the movie lay not in the directing but in the writing. The movie opens in New York's Central Park. This hasn't been a good year for movies set in Central Park. The last time we saw it was in Cloverfield when some some ten story tall fish monster went rampaging through it. In this movie, people suddenly and inexplicably go crazy and start killing themselves. New York City should really start reading some of these scripts before they grant film permits to people who want to portray Central Park as a dramatic slaughterhouse before it starts impacting tourism.

After the mass suicide, we cut to a classroom in Philadelphia where teacher Elliot Moore (Mark Wahlberg) is giving his class a lesson in how to foreshadow horrific events by asking them about the possible causes of mysterious bee disappearances all through the country. After dismissing numerous answers, he finally gets the stupid answer he wants: that it's an act of nature no one will fully understand. I'll talk more about that later. Elliot gets pulled out of class for an emergency teachers meeting to discuss that they were sending the students home early because what is believed to be a terrorist attack in New York City and OH MAN are they ever wrong about that but we don't find that out till later.

The event, whatever it is, starts spreading to other cities so Elliot grabs his somewhat neurotic wife, Alma (Zooey Deschanel), and gets the hell out of Philly along with his buddy Julian (John Leguizamo). Jess doesn't like Alma for vague and unimportant reasons that end up having zero impact on the plot but that doesn't stop him from constantly being hostile toward her. Alma also may be having an affair, a subject that could probably wait until after the apocalypse is over to be dealt with but let's just say that Alma seems to disagree with me on that.

Circumstances cause Julian to leave his daughter, Jess, with Elliot and Alma and the three start journeying across the countryside trying to outrun the event that is attacking smaller and smaller populations. This, I suppose, is symbolized by the fact that they keep running into crazier and crazier people as they try to stay alive and figure out what the hell is going on.

So what is going on? I don't want to reveal too much but I will say that, while watching The Happening, I kept thinking about the classic Hitchcock film The Birds, partly because I believe it's fair to compare Shyamalan to Hitchcock and partly because of plot similarities. I will say that, like The Birds, nature itself seems to be rising up against humanity. The various theories espoused in the movie have predictably gotten it on the right wing hit list but has also gotten left wingers going. Right wingers have gone into rant mode because possible reasons for the event are global warming which they don't think exists and nuclear power plants which they think should be placed in every neighborhood except for the ones in which they live. Lefties don't like it because of the movie's supposed advocacy of Intelligent Design and the anti-science attitude I alluded to in the first paragraph. As for the Intelligent Design, sorry folks, I just didn't see it. This seems to be coming not from what's on the screen but from interviews being given by M. Night Shyamalan like this one where Shyamalan speaks wistfully about how even Albert Einstein thought that maybe the hand of God could be seen in the workings of the universe. Thinking about the movie itself, however, I just can't think of anything that could be interpreted as, "Jesus is making all these people kill themselves."

What's definitely there is the dumb idea that some things simply can't be explained. Shyamalan is lucky that I am able to enjoy a movie that espouses ideas with which I disagree since that backward idea of "There are things man was not meant to know," was stupid when Mary Shelley wrote Frankenstein (pronounced Frahnk-en-steen). If we listened to the people who said that some problems will never be solved, we'd never have gone to space, found the vaccine for polio or made it possible to download pictures of Scarlett Johannson in her bikini anytime we want them. Think about that next time you feel like shooting off your mouth, Shyamalan.

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Saturday, June 14, 2008

Emergency Warning: Incredible Hulk

Most of you probably know that a movie came out on Friday called The Incredible Hulk. What you may not know is that it has nothing to do with an aging wrestler who wears a rag on his head. Hey, don't feel stupid. No one was more shocked than I was when I saw some nebbish turn into a big, green monster and realized that this was the movie's plot. So, if you were curious as to the fate of Hulk Hogan's jailbound son or just wanted to watch his hot daughter lounge around in her bikini, you won't see any of that in The Incredible Hulk. Glad I was able to help.

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Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Spoiling Is The Right Of Every Sentient Being

Apparently, some blog called managed to get its hands on a call sheet from the upcoming sequel, Transformers: Revenge Of The Fallen. It was quite a coup for them as the sheet apparently contained spoilers not just for the day's filming that the sheet covered but for other parts of the movie as well and I encourage you all to go and take a look at it here.
Eh? You're saying that the blog doesn't seem to exist? Well, that's no problem. The movie site managed to scan the same sheet and put it up themselves. Heck, what are you waiting for? Go take a look.

And now you see the problem. Paramount, or, as I will now call them, the Devil's Rolemodels, actually seems to think it's a bad idea to have the details of their expensive new movie's plot spread around the internet a year before it's actually going to come out. This, I'm assuming, is because Paramount is an organization run by Communists. Listen up, Comrades. Spoiling movies is one of the reasons that the internet exists (the other two reasons being to tell people that Barack Obama is a Muslim and to watch barely legal Asian girls pee on each other). If you stop people from leaking spoilers, our computers become nothing but expensive paperweights on which we can watch jpegs of our kittens. Therefore, I will now perform a spoiler of my own. I'm going to spoil the central planning of Paramount's Politburo by revealing here the details of the new Transformers movie.
  1. Big shiny robots that can turn into other objects ranging from trucks, cars and toasters will fight other big shiny robots that can also turn into those things except that they burn the toast because they're evil.
  2. Actress Megan Fox's Mikaela character will return to provocatively bend over stuff.
  3. Shia LeBeouf's Sam will return to once again, with the aid of the Transformers, valiantly struggle against his parents and complete his sacred mission to nail Mikaela.
  4. Sam will make a lame joke while Mikaela is inadvertently striking a provocative pose. For example, if she's bending over while looking for something to eat in a freezer, he'll say, "How does she make something that cold look so hot?"
  5. The words, "I got a bad feeling about this," will be uttered at least once.
  6. Thousands of lives will be endangered and billions of dollars of property damage will be incurred during a Transformers fight. The government will successfully cover all this up.
  7. Optimus Prime will make a flowery speech about how freedom is just so darn swell.
  8. Director Michael Bay will come to a point in the movie where he just says, "Screw it," and just blows everything up for no particular reason.

So suck it, Paramount! There's no reason for anyone to see your dumb little movie. Want to come after me? Try it. You can have my spoilers when you pry them from my cold, dead hard drive.

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Monday, June 9, 2008


You Don't Mess With The Zohan is a movie I was sort of looking forward to mainly because the commercials always made me laugh. It's also a movie I was dreading because it's an Adam Sandler Movie. I've talked before about how there is a difference between The Adam Sandler Movie (a movie in which Adam Sandler is more or less in control of the script and the movie's content) and a movie that has Adam Sandler in it (in which Sandler is primarily an actor and most of the creative control lies with others). Spanglish is an excellent example of the latter. While still a comedy, it was more serious in its tone and presentation. In fact, Sandler's John Clasky character was actually more of a supporting character to Paz Vega's Flor Moreno*. An excellent example of the former is my favorite Adam Sandler movie, 50 First Dates. You may remember that as the movie where Drew Barrymore played a woman with no short term memory thus making it difficult for Sandler's character to win her love. In addition to often being quite funny, it was also often very touching. Mixed in with all this was a scene where a German she-male was vomited on by a walrus and approximately 8000 jokes about a guy whose testicles are shrinking due to steroid use. When that happens, you know you're in An Adam Sandler Movie and that Teh StoopiD has only just begun.

Zohan establishes very quickly that it is An Adam Sandler Movie. It opens on an Israeli beach that apparently has one of the most strongly enforced No Fat Chicks policies on the planet. In fact, they seem to have gone beyond that and only allow Maxim models. In the midst of this we meet Sandler's character Zohan, Israel's top counterterrorism agent. Just walking along the beach, we see that Zohan possesses super-human abilities just by the way he plays hacky-sack. We also get our first Adam Sandler Movie Moment when he catches the sack in his butt and shoots it high into the sky. Our next Adam Sandler Movie Moment comes when he and his buddy scoop up the 3 hottest women in Israel for a private beach party where the girls don't mind in the least that he grills fish stark naked, throws them around and, in a radical creative departure, catches one in his butt. At that moment, Zohan's army comrades land a helicopter on the beach to fetch him for a terrorist crisis that suddenly popped up and we get to see Zohan angrily pull the stained fish out of his butt, get dressed and disco dance his way onto the chopper.

We are then treated to an amusing collection of Jewish stereotypes including his commanding officer who passive-aggressively gets Zohan to agree to raid a Palestinian compound by himself by talking about the large civilian casualties that would occur if the army sent in a squadron of soldiers. Zohan then raids the compound where he almost floats to the roof, kicks through walls and catches bullets in midair before meeting his old nemesis, a Palestinian known simply as the Phantom (John Turturro). The Phantom seemingly kills Zohan, an opportunity that Zohan uses to disappear and sneak off to America where he feels he can fulfill his heart's desire, to be a hair stylist.

After getting laughed out of every large styling salon in New York, he winds up in a small shop run by, of all things, a Palestinian girl named Dalia (Emmanuelle Chriqui). Or, as I should say, the hottest Palestinian girl on the planet. Anyone who's ever seen a movie before knows that it will only be a matter of time before Zohan falls for her completely and wants to, shall we say, build a settlement in her territory. Until then, we get lots of Adam Sandler Movie Moments. The dumbest one is where he has endless sex with every one of the female clients. What elevates that from dumb to Adam Sandler Dumb is that he does so in a way that literally shakes the walls so that everyone else in the salon, including Dalia, knows exactly what he's doing. So, does Dalia ever take him off to the side and say, "Hey, I appreciate all the business you've been bringing and I don't want to tell you how to live, but what you've been doing is very rude and improper and has to stop," or, more likely, "WHAT IN ALLAH'S NAME DO YOU THINK YOU'RE DOING? IS THIS THE FIRST TIME YOU'VE EVER BEEN AROUND OTHER PEOPLE? GET THE HELL OUT!" Nope, she and the other stylists just smile and get back to work.

And so we come down to the main point: is Zohan worth seeing? I'm going to say yes, though barely. Ultimately, I feel that there is enough genuine humor to overcome the Adam Sandler silliness. Hell, for once even Rob Schneider, a staple in Adam Sandler Movies, made me laugh. He plays a a Palestinian immigrant who recognizes Zohan and tries to call Hezbollah's Help Line to find out what to do about it. So go ahead, see Don't Mess With The Zohan and rest assured that, when you're seeing something stupid that, as with all things, this too shall pass and the funny stuff will start again.

* Thank you, IMDB, for making me look like I have an excellent memory for character names and other cinematic trivia.

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Friday, June 6, 2008

Dumb Ideas With A Lemon Twist

So you're sitting there thinking, "Hey Mike, is there such a thing as an idea so stupid that it couldn't possibly be made into a movie? And how the hell are you reading my mind?" The answer to the second question is, "I was bitten by a radioactive spider that could read minds." The answer to the first question is, "No. No. Sweet Lordy Lord, no." You want proof? Sure, why not. For your consideration, I submit three words and a number:

Beverly. Hills. Cop. 4.

Yep, that's right, and I lay the blame for this at the feet of Sylvester Stallone, Bruce Willis and Harrison Ford. In the past year, these three guys have dug up the bodies of their long-dead franchises, tied strings to the rotting corpses and marched these zombies across the screen to varying degrees of success (Ford-decent, Willis-ok, Stallone-bleh). One thing they had in common, though, was that none of them measured up to earlier efforts in their respective series. Maybe the public has been desperately yearning to see the further adventures of Axel Foley while making damn sure to keep that desperate yearning a deep, dark secret. Hell, maybe the odds of a new chapter in a very old series being bad are bound to change and BHC 4 will be the most awesomest movie ever. But no, that won't happen because of three words:

Director. Brett. Ratner.

Brett Ratner's movies have a wide range in quality from "Totally Sucks" to "Ok, This Doesn't Quite Totally Suck". Ratner also has a history of taking a hit movie (Rush Hour) and making a mediocre sequel years after people ceased giving a crap about the first one (Rush Hour 3). But wait, this isn't all. Everything so far has been the lead up many words:
When asked what is biggest challenge would be, Ratner seemed to indicate that his new film would be geared towards a very PG audience.

“10-year-old kids, 12-year-old kids don’t really know the old ‘Beverly Hills Cop.’ So it’s an opportunity to make it new for kids,” Ratner said. “The same way it felt for me watching ‘Beverly Hills Cop’ when I was a kid, that’s what I want to do for kids today.”

Yes, you read it right. Brett Ratner wants to take a series famous for its R-rated hijinks and gear it to pre-teens. "But Mike," you're thinking, "does this mean that we'll still get rousing scenes of ultra-violence mixed in with Eddie Murphy pretending he's a gay man with herpes so he can con his way into a fancy restaurant?" NO! It means the exact opposite. My God, what a stupid question. What kind of brain damage case asks a question like that? Your stupidity aside, this is just a horrible idea. I'm not ready to officially make part of Movies I Haven't Seen and declare it hopelessly horrible, especially since it is at least a year away from being made. Perhaps watching a middle aged Eddie Murphy making sure to wear his seat belt during car chases and substitute, "Kiss my ass," with, "Kiss my grits," will be in Ratner's, "Ok, This Doesn't Quite Totally Suck," category. And maybe all the world's unicorns will show up in Times Square to all touch their magical horns together and thus bring about world peace and a cure for shingles.

Oh well, may as well start writing the post I'll write someday when Beverly Hills Cop 5 is announced.

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Thursday, June 5, 2008

Delusions Of Alba

As I was watching Hillary Clinton's speech on Tuesday, the one where she showed us all that she's not the kind of gal to give up on a fight just because she has lost and the other guy is now giving his victory speech, something occurred to me. Hillary Clinton thinking she can still win the presidency is like me still thinking that I can someday get together with Jessica Alba.

"Get together" could mean a number of things. Everything from a one-time encounter in the toilet of an airplane to us picking out china patterns together would be acceptable. Still, I am not insane and realize that Jessica Alba and I will never so much as discuss the weather together (which is a shame as I have been told that I am enchanting when talking about the humidity). No, J-Bear* and I will never have anything other than the fantasies I have about her and the fantasies she has about me.

Or will we? If I adopt Hillary Clinton's view of the world and attitude toward lost causes, I could not only hold out hope of an eventual Clear-Alba romance but could even afford to form a dangerous obsession for her.

For example, Jessica Alba and I have never met and probably never will as we live 3000 miles apart and move in completely different social circles. Is this an impediment to someday having her jeans rolled up on my bedroom floor and her underwear rolled up in my mouth? HELLS NO! Really, this problem could be solved with money. If I was rich, I could move to Hollywood and start hanging out with the bigs of the movie business so all I need do is win the lottery or invent a car that runs on water. Hence, our meeting is virtually assured.

Another problem is our age gap. I'm about 15 years older than she is so if we did meet, wouldn't she spend our whole time together trying to politely or maybe not so politely get away from the creepy old guy who's clearly imagining her naked? WHY THE HELL WOULD SHE? Using the Hillary Clinton mindset, I can see that she would instead recognize that I clearly have the experience necessary to be her boyfriend. Plus, maybe she has some sort of daddy issue that she can work out by having several reckless sexual encounters with me.

Okay, now for the big problem. She's been in a committed relationship with another guy for several years now. In fact, he knocked her up and she has since married him. I can't remember his name so let's just call him Queerboy Von Douchebag**. How could I think that Jessica would leave her precious Queerboy, the love of her life and father of her child, for me? BIG FAT HAIRY DEAL! Remember that this is Hollywood, a place where neither earthquakes nor marriages are regarded with any particular seriousness. Here's my winning, Clintonesque scenario: J-Bear and I meet. Naturally, she is charmed by my wit and observations about the humidity. She quickly sends Q.V.D packing, moves in with me and we raise the baby together.

Can this work? OH YEAH! J-Bear and I can make it work. Yes, we can!

*The nickname I would have someday given her. Her name for me would have been Mac-Attack.

**That would explain why she kept her maiden name.

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Wednesday, June 4, 2008

A Hazy Shade Of Winter In June

This isn't a good time for DVD releases since what we're getting now is all the crap that came out in January, February and March.

Sadly, the best title coming out is Semi-Pro which I reviewed here back in March. I'm fascinated that this mediocre comedy that didn't exactly set the box office on fire somehow rates being released as 2-Disc Special Edition. Maybe some of you out there can't wait to see the 3rd unit director's track where we find out about the care and feeding of Will Ferrell's fro and how Woody Harrelson would chug down absinthe between takes, grab people by the throat and demand that they explain to him how a guy who once headlined movies directed by Milos Forman and Oliver Stone ended up playing second fiddle to Ricky Bobby.

Moving on, the fact that old guys dying and Spartans break dancing failed to get people to leave their warm homes, walk through the snow and take out a second mortgage on their homes so they could afford the price of movie popcorn came as a surprise to no one save possibly the mothers of the people involved with those two films.

I didn't see Jessica Alba's The Eye but did I really need to? From what I saw in trailers and clips, it almost certainly failed to rise above the level of, "Cheesy remake of cheesy Japanese horror film that is so popular in American cinema these days." Those movies aren't hard to spot since they all have the same look and plot: Deformed ghosts march around in poorly lit environments getting pissed off at everyone around them for very vague reasons and always make damn sure that they aren't completely defeated so they can come back in the sequel. I'll probably rent it in the next couple of weeks and if I felt I was wrong, I'll say so. If not, you'll almost certainly never see me mention it again even though that almost certainly means that Jessica Alba will never give me oral sex. (I had the odds on that ever happening at a trillion to one but even that was good enough for me to rehearse what I was going to say as she was blowing me. It would have been something along the lines of, "Wow, you blowing me feels so good, Jessica Alba." Yeah, I know, I was still working on it but now I guess I shouldn't even bother.)

Well, that's about it. Oh, look, Jumper is coming out next week. Yay!

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Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Stranger Still

So there I am, feeling very smug about my smackdown of The Strangers that I wrote yesterday and satisfied by the fact that my meager readership had once again been saved by me from having to view an example of cinematic stupidity when I finally got around to reading Roger Ebert's review. He didn't like it either, a fact that was hardly surprising but he then had to go ahead and make me feel sorry for director Bryan Bertino. There are movie fans who obsess over behind-the-scenes details of movie making. They can tell you the life story of the guy who worked as key grip on Iron Man or that the actor who played "Guy Holding Hotdog" in Forgetting Sarah Marshall was a real trooper because he had an infected hangnail yet never let go of the hotdog even during multiple takes. I, however, am not one of those people. When it comes to movies, I care about what's on the screen and how it got there is generally immaterial, at least to me. If I know any sort of background, it's usually because it was some heavily publicized story. Bryan Bertino's story was not heavily publicized.

I knew this was his first movie both as writer and director because I looked that up as soon as I got home. That explained a lot of the film's story gaps and poorly made creative choices. Bertino's full story is a Hollywood dream come true. He was working as a laborer on some nameless low budget thing when he pitched his idea to his bosses and they not only picked it up but actually wanted him to direct it. I read once how Jack Palance got his role on Shane by lying when he said he knew how to ride a horse. Bertino takes that story and beats the crap out of it by agreeing to direct the movie then literally buying books on how to direct a film. If I take those facts and judge the movie by that standard, it's damn near a masterpiece. In fact, the job of direction was not what was wrong with the movie. Bertino did not make the mistakes that many first time directors make of taking every trick they learned in film school and combining them into an incomparable mish-mash that looks like it was made by a schizophrenic. These would include using every imaginable angle, having the camera spin, excessive use of slow motion* and telling half the movie in flashbacks**. Bertino may have actually been aided by the fact that he had not taken classes on these things. In an online interview, Bryan Bertino talks about his love of 70s genre films and I believe it shows up here. Instead of looking as if he'd swallowed everything he learned in film school and vomiting it all onto the screen, The Strangers more closely resembled the look and feel of movies like The Exorcist, Don't Look Now and even Halloween.

So Bertino has potential as a director. The flaws of the movie came from the writing which gave us villains who can seemingly move at super speed, walk through walls and see in the dark and heroes who often behave like idiots. Mr. Bertino, on the off chance that you are someone who obsessively Googles his own name and is actually reading this, you may not want to use old horror movie cliches like having your male lead say, "I'm going out to the shed to use the old radio," when everyone watching the movie knew that he shouldn't do that? And why shouldn't he do that? As I mentioned in my original review, at that point of the story he and his girlfriend had found the best position in the house and were defending it with A DAMN SHOTGUN!

Ebert also talks about something I had meant to address but simply forgot to do so. The movie opens with the words, "Inspired By True Events." If you ever see those words in a movie, you can rest assured that you are watching a work of complete fiction. Chronicles Of Narnia can probably make a better claim to being inspired by reality than any movie that actually claims to do so. Texas Chainsaw Massacre makes similar claims and it turned out that the "True Events" had nothing to do with an inbred Texas family headlined by a deformed chainsaw wielding psycho but rather by Wisconsin serial killer Ed Gein. In this case, "True Events" behind The Strangers were the murders committed by the Manson Family.

So, to sum up, despite newly found mitigating circumstances, The Strangers is a work of fiction that still sucks though perhaps we'll all pay attention to Bryan Bertino's next movie which will doubtlessly be about a psychopath who hacks apart a convent full of nuns that was inspired by a guy who accidentally stepped on a nun's foot.

*The Strangers opens with a slow motion sequence that made me wince as I figured it would be done again and again but that ended quickly and slow motion was not used again. so thanks for that at least, Bryan Bertino. That alone raises you above the level of Talentless Fuckwit.

**Again, there are a few flashbacks and I was worried we'd be seeing considerably more but they stop when the terror starts. This was another good decision and feeds into my classification of Bertino as "Not a Fuckwit."

Monday, June 2, 2008

Stranger Days Indeed

When I first heard that a movie was coming out called The Strangers, I assumed it was a sequel to the world famous Albert Camus novel, The Stranger. I was looking forward to a rousing exposition of both the existential and absurd and figured the movie's tagline would be something like, "This time, the search for relative truth is PERSONAL!"

Alas, it's a slasher film. More than that, it's an exercise in poor decision making and bad judgment. What sort of bad judgment, you ask? In addition to Liv Tyler and Scott Speedman, the only other actor in the film that I'd heard of was Gemma Ward. Never heard of her? This is what Gemma Ward looks like:

As you can see, she's more than a little bit cute. In fact, she's so pretty that people pay absurd amounts of money to take her picture or to get her to wear their clothes. Gemma Ward is a top fashion model who has been sought by top designers in every part of the world and has been on the cover of Vogue and other fashion magazines several times. So, Gemma Ward is a famous model with zero to no acting creds. When I heard she was going to be in this, I figured we'd get gratuitous bikini and underwear scenes which is normally why you hire a girl like her to be in your horror film. At the very least, Gemma Ward's role in The Strangers turned out to be a huge surprise. Instead of playing "Slutty Girl #2" or "Naked Girl In Shower" she plays a character listed by IMDB as Dollface, so called because, for most of the movie, one of the world's top models keeps her face hidden by a doll mask. The decision to do that is Mistake In Judgment #1 and, for me, defines the movie.

Mistake #2 was the decision to take all the potential that the movie showed in its earlier scenes and flush it right down the crapper. First time writer/director Brian Bertino does nothing to make people say, "Wow, this guy is a first time writer and director? This film is so professionally made that I'm just shocked." Instead, he studies and identifies the mistakes made by hundreds of other horror films and says to himself, "Awesome. That's what I'm going to do." Thus, the marvelous bit of foreshadowing where Gemma Ward knocks on the door of James and Kristen (Speedman and Tyler) at 4 AM, making sure to unscrew their porch light so they can't see her face, and proceeds to be as creepy as can be before saying, "See you later," and wandering off is completely undone by the horror movie cliches that follow. Dollface shows up with 2 other deranged psycho killers and Man Oh Man, did they ever hit the Deranged Psycho Killer Lottery. God must really love sadistic killers because He makes sure that one of the characters leaves his cell phone in the car and that the other one didn't bother to charge hers that day. For the next 90 minutes, He also allows them to effortlessly control these 2 innocent characters in a game of cat and mouse and aren't even stopped when James manages to get hold of a shotgun.

Yeah, that's right, one of the movie's heroes find a damn SHOTGUN! One would think that the killers, who are armed only with an ax and their ability to be staring into windows at the exact moment that the two victims happen to be looking out of them, would be at a distinct disadvantage. If you thought that, you would be suffering from an annoying urge think realistically and not realize that the true advantage lies with the killers. This is because the killers are extraordinarily lucky and because one of the prizes of the Deranged Psycho Killer Lottery is that your victims are extraordinarily stupid. At one point, Dollface, referring to her group's intent to commit future acts of terror and murder, says, "It'll be easier next time," which almost caused me to stand up and yell, "NO! It will never be easier than this because you will never again find people so stupid that they'll leave their defensible position so they can go running into the dark forest and trip over stuff," and yes, those things actually happen.

Anyhoo, from then on horrific acts of terror are mixed on both sides with blatant acts of stupidity, such as when Kristin fails to pick up her bigass butcher knife before trying to hide and when the killers make sure to act really creepy while shwoing their faces to witnesses in the neighborhood where horrible crimes had just occured. If you ever want to hear an entire theater full of people groan, go to this movie and watch the scene just before the credits roll. Otherwise, don't see The Strangers at all.