Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Oh Lord, I'm Going To Miss New Episodes Of "Brooke Knows Best"

UPDATE 1-1-09: Thanks a crapload to the rational adults at Viacom and Time-Warner who managed to reach an intelligent compromise and keep the Viacom channels on the air, thus making me look like a jerk for bringing it up. Happy freaking New Year.

Those of you who have Time Warner Cable may have heard that they're kicking all the Viacom-owned channels off their menu at 12:01 tonight. That means that T/W customers like me will lose MTV and VH1 and everything with MTV and VH1 in their names as well as Nickelodeon and Comedy Central. It's the last one that affects me the most since I am an avid viewer of The Daily Show and The Colbert Report, both of which are available online at which means I'll mainly be affected if I want to watch them when they come on at 11 which I hardly ever do. To sum up, the effect of this on me is minimal. This should come as a great relief to those of you who share my view that life is all about me.

In fact, just about all the original content on all those stations is available online, ranging from Comedy Central's crappy South Park clones to MTV and VH1's crappy reality shows. Apparently, this is one of Time Warner's sticking points. They're saying all the money on the internet that isn't being spent on foot fetish porn is going to Viacom which means Viacom can afford to pay more to Time Warner. Or something like that. Frankly, it hurts my head when two wealthy corporations start whining to the public about how they want to be slightly wealthier. Of the two scummy players, Viacom seems to be the slightly less scummy one in this case and I imagine many Time Warner customers will switch to DirecTV if an agreement can't be reached and having those channels is important to them.

As I prepare for a new, post-Viacom-on-my-cable-thingie year, I reflect on the fact that, a few years ago, this would have been a big deal. Now, instead of watching Jon Stewart on my high def TV, I'll watch him on my high def computer monitor or just burn him onto a DVD and still watch him on my high def TV. Or I'll just watch him on my damn phone.

Happy New Year, all, except for you who have decided to pull popular channels off the air on a holiday weekend. I'm sure that will work out very well for all involved.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

The Truth Is Out There...But It Ain't In Here

I saw a trailer over the weekend for an upcoming horror film called A Haunting In Connecticut. It's about a family who buys a house that turns out to have been built on top of an old mortuary which, in horror movies, is basically the equivalent of pissing on ghosts and daring them to haunt you. There was one thing that caught my eye, though, and that was when the phrase, "Based on a true story," popped up on screen. Those of you who pay attention to this site have seen this before and know that, when a horror film claims that it's based on a true story, it is going to be one of the purest examples of fiction you have ever seen. Porn films have plots more firmly based in reality than horror movies that claim to be true.

From what I've read, the story behind A Haunting In Connecticut is a hoax in the style of The Amityville Horror. A best selling book was written about the "true" events which is why we now have this movie.

As I was poking around trying to find the facts behind this story, I ended up looking in the comments section of the movie's page in IMDB. I try to avoid comments sections the same way I try to avoid venereal diseases. They almost always devolve into one person saying "U R GHEY!!!!!" and another responding, "thts not what yur mom said when she was cuming". Still, one thread caught my eye. It was titled "What a Load of ..................... ......." and was started by a fellow calling himself Campbe33. Mr. Be33 was of the opinion that the whole story was a crock since, among other things, no one who lived in the house before or after the family in the story had ever reported anything out of the ordinary there. This caused famed internet scholar Mider1985 to respond:
even if other people didnt report past haunting activity it might be because of several factors supposidly ghosts lie dorment as well as demons or maybe the previous owners caused the haunting, but you could always go to the location and live there if your so brave and sure of yourself i personally dont believe in all that catholic nonsense because im a prodistant

First off, you know that Mider1985 is passionate about this since his SHIFT and apostrophe keys as well as his spell checker were all broken when he posted this yet he charged ahead anyway. He's also clearly has very long arms since he managed to reach very far up his ass and pull out the whole "ghosts lie dorment" idea, thus allowing him to reject the simple, logical and likely idea that it was a hoax. Perhaps this is a trait he shares with other "prodistants".

Further down, we are treated to this treat from jluvdr:
and capbe33 (it's campbe33, actually, but I'm sure his failure to grasp this simple fact in no way indicates that he will be making stuff up later on. -- MC)you must not pay attention or know much about this case. Their is very vivid recorded video documentation of events in that house. Including chairs moving across the room, children being harassed, and mattresses moving like they are breathing. Does anyone have some troll off for this forum? We need some.

OH SNAP! What an epic burn. Troll off! That concept will never, ever be topped. Also, his revelation of the existence of a tape with all that supernatural stuff on it pretty much closes the case on whether the story is true or not. When campbe33 asked where he could see this tape, I'm sure that jluvdr had a devastating answer for him:
I don't think its my responsibility to impress your campb with real evidence. Their are those who believe, and those who have to experience it for themselves to understand. I say you should experience a real haunting.

Yeah campb, or whatever the hell your fake name is. I said there was this totally mega-awesome evidence and that should be good enough for you. Sure, I could produce this tape but I can't the fuck up, that's why I can't. I tried to find this tape myself but could only find recreated footage from a Discovery Channel documentary. I'm sure, though, that jluvdr will someday show us all his little tape and demand apologies from those who dared to say that he was a big stupid buttface. Actually, that apology will have to come from me. Dude, you are a big stupid buttface.

I also enjoyed the intellectual musings of Maddison77:
Or simply just say, You don't believe it. Just because you don't believe something doesn't mean something didn't happen. Got anything you need to get off your chest about the Santa Clause movies. How about any of the hundresd of films about Bible stories. Even better, why not start telling us Harry Potter is fake. Come on, get over yourself.

The sad thing is that this guy probably believes he made an intelligent point from which no skeptic could possibly recover. I doubt his brain could entertain the idea that none of the film subject he mentions tries to say that they are based on true stories (even Biblical films usually say that they are based on the Bible and not on reality).

At this point, I managed to pull myself away from this lively, harsh and utterly pointless debate. I thought about joining in but internet arguments like this can go on so long that they have to be continued by your ancestors. I'm sure there are still Usenet flame wars raging that started in 1996 when someone went to a Babylon 5 newsgroup and said, "x-files is way better than this crap. the people who make B5 wouldn't know good tv if it gave them all handjobs"

Monday, December 29, 2008

Things I've Learned From Watching Movies Part 54

If a horror movie is worth doing once, it's worth doing a second time.

What's wrong, Hollywood? Too busy to remake New Year's Evil? Oh, I hope I didn't just give someone an idea.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

The Spirits Of Christmas Past, Present and Yet To Dumb

The Spirit is much like a kick to the balls. Those of you with balls can attest to the fact that, at first, it doesn't hurt and you think you'll be fine. After a little bit, the pain starts to build and you accept the fact that it's only going to get worse but there's nothing you can do. Then, the big one hits and you fall to the ground crying. That's what The Spirit is like. It starts with some promise and you think, "Hey, this may be pretty good." Then, slowly, it starts to go down the Suck Spiral until it's dragged you down to a level where you are convinced that you're seeing Samuel L. Jackson and Scarlett Johannson wearing Nazi uniforms while moronic triplets walk around them and they chatter on an on about various evil plots while they pass up the opportunity to kill their nemesis, the tied up and helpless Spirit, and you realize that, oh God, this ISN'T the stupidest scene in the movie.

This should have been good. Take a popular graphic novel that is a loving salute to old style pulp fiction detective stories, use special effects to copy the style of the graphic novel, cast some of the sexiest women working in movies and toss in Samuel L. Jackson in the role of campy, over-the-top super villain, mix it all together and it should have been a recipe for, "fun time at the movies." Instead, we got this cinematic shot to the gonads. So, what happened?

I suspect a great deal of the blame can be placed at the feet of director Frank Miller. For a few years now, Miller has watched as other filmmakers managed to take Sin City and 300, graphic novels he created that were described by almost everyone who ever looked at them as unfilmable, and make movies that not only made money but garnered considerable critical praise as well. He figured, "Well hell, I can do that," and pulled off the amazing feat of convincing Lionsgate Pictures to allow a first time director to do a big budget holiday release. Well, technically, it's his second time directing if you count Sin City when Robert Rodriguez allowed Miller to follow him around and nod whenever Rodriguez would say, "Here's what I'm going to do. You agree, right Frank?"

Miller made the critical decision to use the "filmed entirely inside some guy's Macintosh" look of Sin City but to also use that visual style far less artfully than Robert Rodriguez did. Thus, we get unintentionally funny shots of the Spirit running along telephone lines as well as a memorable scene where we got to see the bottom of some cop's shoe.

The title character of The Spirit is played by Gabriel Macht, known affectionately around Hollywood by his nickname, "Who The Hell Is" Gabriel Macht. He's actually pretty good in the role of a Denny Colt, a man who died and, somehow, came back to life with a super healing ability. He did what any of us would do in that situation, namely put on a mask and become a super hero called the Spirit. As I said, the movie starts off with some cool stuff. The Spirit gets word that his arch enemy, the Octopus, is doing something at least vaguely evil down by the docks. I must say, Samuel L. Jackson really does know how to play a flamboyant, over-the-top "BOW DOWN BEFORE ME, SON OF JOR-EL" super villain. He seems to be as in indestructible as the Spirit and constantly taunts him with mysterious facts about the Spirit's origin. He's really the best thing in the movie. Well, second best after Eva Mendes' wardrobe. Eva Mendes plays Sand Serif, a jewel thief who, in her professional life, has discovered that the best way to steal jewels is to dress up in tight, revealing outfits and spandex and is after the same thing that the Octopus is, that being a pair of cases containing...stuff. They each manage to get away with one of the cases but it turns out that each has the one that the other wants.

Sand Serif, it turns out, was the Spirit's high school sweetheart who, in an example of why people should never become comic book characters, turned to a life of crime after the brutal death of her police officer father. Naturally, she doesn't recognize the Spirit as the first boy she ever loved cause, you know, he has a mask around his eyes. I mean, yeah, the rest of his face is right out there but it's obviously one hell of a mask cause she doesn't have a clue. Sand was in town to procure the ultimate "shiny object," the legendary Golden Fleece. In what was apparently a two-for-one deal on mythical objects, it also came with a vase containing the Blood of Heracles. She got the Blood, the Octopus got the Fleece and now they need to swap. The Spirit wants her to help him nail the Octopus. Will she put aside years of criminal behavior and ice cold bitterness just because the guy to whom she's inexplicably attracted wants her to? I won't spoil the surprise.

The plot only gets dumber from there but don't worry because there's laughably bad dialogue to distract you from that. Frank Miller is a visionary and a genius in the medium of comic books and graphic novels but that doesn't mean he can direct a movie. He joins Stephen King in the Writer's Who Can't Even Direct Their Own Work Club. If movies so bad that they make you laugh out loud are your thing, try to find a copy of 1986's Maximum Overdrive. It makes The Spirit look like Citizen Kane.

Sin City 2 is coming out next year and, once again, Frank Miller is listed as co-director with Robert Rodriguez which mean Miller may manage to fool studio execs into thinking it'd be a good idea to let him direct the movie version of his classic 1983 graphic novel Ronin. That may actually manage to make Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (originally a parody of Ronin) look good.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Why I've Never Won The Lottery

Because I'm horrible at prediction. Marley and Me has taken the #1 spot for the Christmas weekend (a weekend which hasn't really ended yet but that, apparently, isn't how it's done anymore). I wasn't even considering Marley and Me for the top five. I, along with the rest of the planet, had Benjamin Button and Bedtime Stories coming in at #1 and #2 (they did finish at #'s 2 and 3 which doesn't help in the "I totally suck at prediction" department). And I feel stupid for not seeing this coming.

Marley and Me is a mediocre comedy. In the last two months, two mediocre comedies have managed to defy expectations and premiere in the number 1 slot (Four Christmases and Yes Man and I really am going overboard in the usage of parentheses today. It's like I'm getting paid for everyone I use). Plus, it has a damn dog. People love dogs. Hell, I love dogs. So why didn't we all see this coming? We haven't yet adjusted to the new reality, that's why. We must all accept the fact that movies with plots about immature dolts who do something stupid (usually with the loves of their lives in tow DAMN I DID IT AGAIN), predictably get into trouble for it, do two or three wildly funny things and many, many more insultingly unfunny things in the process and come close to losing everything only to have their fat pulled out of the fire just in time for the closing credits to roll are now King Of The Box Office.

I will now miss the days when two-fisted loners who, in the cause of justice, sometimes had to go outside the law were the Kings, but that's the way it is. Oh, and just in case I AM getting paid for these:


Friday, December 26, 2008


Seven Pounds suffers from the fact that I am a genius. Yes, it's true. If I were a blithering idiot, Seven Pounds would have been a much better film, at least it would have been from my perspective. A few days ago, I bragged that I suspected how this movie was going to end and joked that I would not reveal my suspicions so I could lie in case I was wrong. Realizing the hit given to my credibility by that statement, I will say now that my suspicions were correct and that my general ideas of the movie's plot and how it would end turned out to be true. All the clues are in the title and the trailer. The movie's first 30 minutes filled in all the details so that I was put in the position of knowing the insane plan that Will Smith's character had undertaken and hoping that someone would be able to put a stop to it.

Will Smith plays Ben Thomas, an IRS agent whose actions aren't supposed to make sense until the end of the movie. Why was he so cruel to a blind customer service rep (played by Woody Harrelson)? Why is he moving out of his beautiful beach house and into a fleabag motel? Who's the boy named Tim? And who are the people whose names he invokes when his dedication to his plan begins to waiver? I will only say that they play a part in what I described as his insane plan and my, oh, my what and insane plan it is. The reason his plan is so insane is because events and the guilt and depression he has incurred because of them have driven Ben Thomas insane. I'm surprised by how many film critics and regular moviegoers have missed this. Oh, he's not violent. He doesn't hear voices that tell him to kill or to masturbate on his feces but do not be fooled by Ben's rational demeanor and calming smile. Ben Thomas is a man who did something for which he cannot forgive himself and has broken under that burden and now feels that the only way to redeem himself is to do something horrible.

Ben Thomas must have amazing powers of persuasion since he's managed to convince Dan (Barry Pepper), a lawyer who is also a life-long friend, to assist him. I don't know how a good friend could be talked into doing what Dan agrees to do. If Ben had come to me with his crazy ideas, I'd have gone to his family and made damn sure he was locked up. Ben's brother, whom we see from time to time, knew something was going on but didn't realize how truly serious it was until it was almost too late. The only hope for pulling Ben back from the brink is a woman named Emily Posa.

Played by Rosario Dawson, Emily Posa is a woman who is slowly dying of a congenital heart defect. She also plays a role in Ben's plan. He didn't intend to get to know her in any serious way and she didn't intend to become dependent on his company and his kindness, but both of those things happened and they begin to fall in love. It really wasn't fair for Ben since it would be very difficult even under the best of circumstances to avoid falling in love with Rosario Dawson and it's impossible here where she's alone, vulnerable and in need of someone to help alleviate the fear of her impending death. It's a testament to Will Smith's acting ability that he never has to say out loud that his love for Emily is making him doubt his choices. Whether it will be enough to pull him back from the brink is another matter.

The payoff most moviegoers will receive from Seven Pounds comes when all questions are answered and you receive what M. Night Shyamalan has called a Paradigm Shift where you suddenly realize the significance of what you have been watching and see the logic behind what, up till then, had appeared to be nonsense. Since I figured it out early, my payoff had to come mainly from Will Smith's performance. He's the kind of actor who makes you root for Ben, who infuses him with the certainty that his actions are correct and are the only way for him to make up for his sins. They aren't, of course. As I've said here and to some fellow audience members, Ben's actions were the actions of a man who struggled so hard against his guilt and his grief that he was driven mad as a result.

So, did I like it? Yes, I liked it as a character study of a good man who makes the wrong choices because of his warped view of the world. Most others will like it because of the mysteries involved. They will say, "Oh, of course," at the end and wonder how they missed all the clues.

I wonder if, these days anyway, there's another actor who could have made enough people come out in cold and snowy weather and get them to watch a movie that deals with depressing subject matter during the holiday season. The very idea is madness, which probably made them identify with the character even more.

*Using today's exchange rate, this is the current value in American money of seven pounds.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Getting A Happy Ending From Tom Cruise

One of the problems with seeing a lot of movies is developing the ability to know what's going to happen before you even see them. Take, for instance, Tom Cruise's WWII pic Valkyrie coming out this week. You know how it's going to end just from the advertising. I understand it's based on story about high ranking members of the Nazi Germany who tried to assassinate Hitler but I didn't pay attention in History class and don't need to know the true events anyway. It's a big Hollywood Christmas season release featuring a major star. Movies like this always have happy endings so you know that they will succeed in killing Hitler and Cruise will take over Germany, end World War II and celebrate by having hot sex with some shapely Nazi woman with whom he will have been flirting the entire film. Really, movie studios don't even try anymore.

This is the same reason I never saw JFK. I just assumed the President Kennedy would live to be elected to a second term and didn't see the point of going. Honestly, it's like movie studios think that I'm some sort of know-nothing idiot.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Skin-Jobs And Little People

One of the reasons I got digital cable was to get the channel BBC America. British television almost works on a different level than its American counterpart. It's not that the British don't have their unwatchable clunkers or that the Americans don't have shining successes. It's that the best of the BBC's shining successes outshine America's so as to be buffed to a much higher shine shinier...screw it, you know what I mean.

Those of you who've seen shows like Doctor Who or Jekyll or Torchwood know how common it is for the British to push norms and boundaries in ways that scare the crap out of most American TV producers. Oh sure, we have shows like Lost or Damages or The Shield but those are exceptions while the quality and daring storytelling of those shows has been the norm on the BBC for decades.

And we in the U.S. definitely don't have a show like Skins.

Skins comes out on DVD next month and you'll be doing yourself a great favor by renting or buying it. It's probably the best show about teenagers that's ever been made. It will quite literally make you laugh, cry and cheer, often all three at once. Skins came into being when an actual 18 year old teamed up with a veteran television producer and together they created a show that has realistic characters who have just enough drama in their lives to make them interesting to watch.

American shows about high school students usually have wealthy characters who, even though they're supposed to be around age 16, usually look like they clock in right around age 25. The main characters in Skins are all middle class (there are some well-off secondary characters) and the oldest actor was 20 when the show started. Thus we actually get teenagers on television who don't have the beginnings of crow's feet or receding hairlines.

The characters in Skins also regularly have sex. In America, if a kid takes drugs or has sex, they are almost always horribly punished by fate. When teenage characters in America have sex, they don't enjoy it at all and immediately regret doing it. Also, because these same characters are apparently the most fertile humans on the planet while having no immune system to speak of so they always get pregnant and contract STDs. On gruesome example of this happened on a recent episode of House. A girl on that show had sex, got pregnant and kept her pregnancy hidden from her friends and family. She had the baby in some abandoned home and developed a medical condition that, by the time it was diagnosed, had irreparably damaged her heart and liver so much that even House and his team couldn't save her so she died. Because, you know, SEX KILLS! It does in America, anyway. Skins, on the other hand, allows its characters to have what is often quite pleasurable sex without having their lives ruined because, most of the time, that's what actually freaking happens. Even when one of the girls does end up pregnant in the second season, while it is a dramatic situation, it's not treated as if God is punishing her.

The most interesting character is Cassie. Cassie is probably the best example of a realistic character being presented in a dramatic and interesting way. Cassie has been driven to emotional instability and anorexia by self-absorbed parents who don't really care about her. In the second episode, we're treated to a fascinating demonstration of all the tricks that anorexics use to make people think they are eating like the way she skillfully keeps talking during meals to distract you from the fact that she hasn't taken a bite of food. Like all the characters, there's much more to Cassie than that. She's probably the smartest of all the kids but her intellect is held back by what eventually evolves into clinical depression. You root for Cassie and hope that she can solve her problems and find the love and happiness she deserves.

One thing I haven't mentioned is that Skins is one of the funniest shows you will ever see. You laugh even when a character everyone likes dies or when another gets a brain injury or when a third goes into a self-destructive spiral. For instance, here's one of the best scenes in the whole series when the kids are rehearsing a play about 9/11 written by their pretentious theater teacher.

One of the best moves you'll ever make entertainment-wise will be to watch Skins so walk, don't run, to your nearest DVD store and get it. No, seriously, don't run. It's icy out this time of year and I'm sure they have plenty of copies. Oh, and get BBC America.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Insert Clever Title For Yes Man Review Here

I was going to call this "No No No To Yes Man" but USA Today beat me to it then I came up with "Nowhere Man" which I thought was even better but, sure enough, that was taken by the New York Times. Finally, I thought of "Negatory" but that hoagie-eating bastard Roger Ebert scooped that up already. Therefore, I have decided to unleash the power of imagination and let you, the reader, come up with a super cool name for this review. This counts as your Christmas present.

As for the movie itself, I pretty much called it on Thursday when I gave it a 50-50 chance of being good since 50% of the jokes are funny and 50% should be wished into the cornfield.

In one respect, this is the most startlingly realistic movie Jim Carrey has ever done. Carrey plays Carl Allen, a guy who, after his divorce from his wife (Molly Sims), basically gave up on life and allows every opportunity to pass him by while he simply sits alone in his apartment watching DVDs and screening his phone calls. I might do the same thing if Molly Sims divorced me. I can see myself sitting alone, night after night, mumbling how I would never again get to touch that perfectly toned Sports Illustrated swimsuit model body, so he's actually a believable character in that regard.

Another believable thing about him is how he gets sucked into some bullshit self-help movement in which he has to say yes to everything. A friend drags him to see motivational speaker Terrence Bundley played by Terence Stamp. If there's a guy who has the presence and gravitas to convince you that he can sway people to change their behavior while making millions of dollars doing it, it's the guy who, over a quarter century ago, was able to yell at the top of his lungs, "BOW DOWN BEFORE ME, SON OF JOR-EL! KNEEL BEFORE ZOD!" without people laughing their asses off at the sheer corniness of it. Still, no matter who's saying it, if you've ever been to some convention center or hotel conference room where guys like this speak, you'll recognize it as the same meaningless, though artfully constructed, gibberish you've heard before. As I said, though, it's artfully constructed and backed up by a room full of Terence Bundley fans who all know when to reinforce their guru's patter about saying "Yes" to everything and it becomes perfectly plausible to Carrey's Carl Allen would suddenly become one of Bundley's Yes Men.

The realism does a slow leak out of the movie after that but that's not the problem. One doesn't look for realism in a big budget comedy. If we did, we'd have rejected the movie where Bill Murray and Dan Aykroyd had to fight a giant marshmallow man. No, the problem with Yes Man is that too many of the jokes aren't funny and most of those are Carrey's fault. Carrey, like Robin Williams before him, is the kind of comic actor who is so successful that he's allowed to do pretty much whatever he wants to onscreen. Also, like Robin Williams before him, he's the kind of comic actor who should not be allowed to do whatever he wants to do onscreen. Hell, no one should be allowed to do that because it never works. It's not at all uncommon for actors to say to the director, "Hey, look at this," and demonstrate some sort of improvisation that they think would be good in the movie. What's uncommon is seeing that improv anywhere outside of DVD extras. One good example of this is Seth Rogen and Bill Hader having an extended conversation about semen being used to solve crimes in Superbad. What's that? You saw Superbad and don't remember a five minute bit about semen? That's because it was in the Deleted Scenes menu and not in the feature itself. Stuff like that may be very entertaining but it can pull you out of a tightly written script and make the movie itself too long. Every filmmaker on the planet probably has a story about a scene in a movie that was probably his or her favorite scene but had to be cut due to length or because it just wasn't a good fit with the rest of the story. But try telling that to Jim Carrey.

All through what could have been a pleasant little Christmas season comedy I have to hear Jim Carrey suddenly step out of character to deliver one-liners about purposefully misunderstanding a man who's speaking Korean and how repulsive it'd be to have sex with an old woman (a scene that turns funny when he ends up saying yes to that). Sometimes the supporting characters actually manage to build up some comic momentum on their own, especially Flight Of The Conchords actor Rhys Darby playing Carl's socially awkward boss, but that momentum gets derailed by Carrey's antics. The movie is at its funniest when the jokes flow with the story and it's at its unfunniest when the jokes unflow with the unstory of Jim Carrey's ad libs. It's not that Carrey wasn't often quite funny, it's that Carrey was also quite often not funny.

So, to sum up, Yes Man fails as a chock-full-of-laughs comedy but epically succeeds as a brutally realistic expose about self-help movements. If the self-help stuff sounds like your cup of tea, you'll count Yes Man as among the finest movies ever written. Like I said earlier, though, it's pleasant enough and you may have a decent time watching it even though, when you try to tell people how the movie was, you'll probably have a hard time describing what you liked about it. Still, when someone asks you if you want to go see it, you may as well say, "Yes."

Get it? Say yes? Cause it's Yes Man? Oh, never mind.

Friday, December 19, 2008

If He Only Had A Brain

Director Baz Luhrmann is wondering openly why vampires, cartoon dogs, science fiction remakes and Vince Vaughn are all kicking the bum of his new movie Australia. You might think it's because Australia is perceived by moviegoers as a long, dull predictable film but if that was true, a great deal of the blame would be laid at the feet of Baz Luhrmann. Therefore, it couldn't possibly be true.
"A lot of reviewers like 'Australia.' And we're making people cry; I know because they write to us," he told the Hollywood Reporter during an interview at the Four Seasons Hotel. "But there are those that don't get it. A lot of the film scientists don't get it. And it's not just that that they don't get it, but they hate it and they hate me, and they think I'm the black hole of cinema. They say, 'He shouldn't have made it, and he should die.'"

Luhrmann doesn't tell us the names of the critics who are saying all of these horrible things but most knowledgeable movie fans have probably figured out that he's talking about world renowned film critic John Smith Strawman who reviews movies for Strawman is a very controversial figure in the world of film criticism who inspires such fear that he is rarely quoted by name though he is quoted often. If you ever hear anyone in the movie business say something along the lines of, "Some say that I shouldn't have taken a creative chance but I say those people are wrong" odds are they are quoting Strawman.

As you can see from Luhrmann's comment, Strawman is a real bastard. Luhrmann should DIE? What kind of jerk would say something like that? Baz Luhrmann goes on to explain what exactly drove Strawman into such an irrational, homicidal rage:
"This is not (simply) a romantic comedy for 40-year-old women or action movies for 17-year-old boys, and that's not OK with some people. It's not OK for people to come eat at the same table of cinema. But you look at movies like 'Gone With the Wind' and Old Hollywood classics, and they don't fit in any box.

"Corny Hollywood movies from the '40s freak out (the film scientists)," he added.

Well, after reading that, I'm not sure if John Smith Strawman is thoroughly evil or just incompetent at his job. I just reread Strawman's review of the film and, sure enough, he wrote, "What I really wanted to see was something that fit into a neatly defined category, a romantic comedy for 40-year-old women or action movie for 17-year-old boys. Australia reminds me too much of Gone With The Wind and, as a film scientist, that totally freaks me out." Baz Luhrmann is right. Strawman didn't reject the movie because it was bad. He just didn't understand it because he's a stuck up, tightassed Film Scientist, a term I believe was created to describe movie fans who have insight and worldview similar to that of Nazi war criminals.

None of this is whining on Baz Luhrmann's part, mind you. We know this because he says so.
"I'm not whining, because when you do what I do, you expect to be covered in mud. But there seems to be a lot of misinformation."

Misinformation? Oh no, what could it be? Did that asshole Strawman say that watching Australia would make a man's urine turn blue and cause women to grow facial hair?
Among those pieces of misinformation is box office, he said; Luhrmann noted that "Moulin Rouge" has been on a similar pace as his latest epic, and that sticking it out for the long haul was not an uncommon experience for him.

Well, duh! Who the hell would think it was a good idea to use the number of people who've actually put down money to see the movie as a way to judge whether or not this is a movie that people want to see? A certain Mr. J.S. Strawman thinks that, that's who. In a final comment, Luhrmann really lets Strawman have it.
"I'm used to the waves crashing around me. And what I do is stick to a craggy rock as they keep coming. And if you stick to it long enough someone else will stick to it, too, and then someone else and then someone else."

Yeah, Baz! That's how you do it. Not even Strawman could argue with what, to those incapable of deep thought, looks like pretentious gibberish. You just keep crashing with those waves against the rocks in the places where those rocks are and, eventually, we will all be waves crashing against rocks, or rocks being crashed on by waves, or...sorry, I'm not as deep a thinker as Baz Luhrmann is.

You have a choice, world. You can believe Baz Luhrmann when he tells you, against the opinions of John Smith Strawman as well as all other evidence, that Australia is actually awesome or you can keep believing your lying eyes. Some would say that we should simply surrender to the Strawmans of the world and allow them to shove red hot pokers so far up our asses that our eyes get hot. I'm guessing I know what Baz Luhrmann would say to that (probably something about waves and rocks). The choice is yours. We shall await your reply.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

A Mouse, A Louse and A Will Smith-ouse*

Tomorrow is the weeks movie premiere day and boy oh boy, does it look like an all around suck fest. Just in time for the holidays too. As always, I consult the Tomatometer.

I had never heard of The Tale of Despereaux before I saw the first trailer for the movie. Apparently, it's a popular children's book about a mouse that does some stuff. I may be wrong about that. Anyway, it's currently clocking in at 42% on the TM and, frankly, that estimate seems too high. Ebert seems to like the animation though he gives low marks to the story but I must do something I rarely do, that being disagree with Roger Ebert. I haven't cared too much for the animation I've seen in trailers, stills and TV commercials.

Jim Carrey's new comedy, Yes Man, has a 40% rating so far. I'm willing to cut Carrey some slack here and give his movie about a doofus who decides to say YES to stupid stuff a 50% chance as to whether he will make me laugh or retch. History tells us that Yes Man will probably be the week's biggest hit. As you may recall, as we reach into history-back in the Long, Long Ago, there was a lame, predictable comedy called Four Christmases that everyone hated yet managed to knock Twilight out of its #1 spot. Tough economic times always fill the seats of light comedies no matter how stupid. Does Yes Man qualify? Dustin Putman at said:
A high-concept comedy that you can practically set your watch to. It's pleasant enough, yes, but it's also exceedingly predictable and the screenplay forces conflict upon the plot at the sacrifice of the characters' IQs.

PERFECT! Expect a hundred bazillion dollar opening.

Those same tough economic times may work against Seven Pounds, a movie that looks depressing even though no one knows what it's about. I think I've figured out the plot but will keep my predictions to myself so that, after I see it, I can lie and say, "Yep, that was my prediction." It's against the laws of nature for a Will Smith movie to bomb but, if I were the studio, I wouldn't go borrowing against the huge profits I was expecting to make off of Seven Pounds to throw my annual "Snort Blow Off A Hooker's Ass" Christmas party that I throw every year. I'm not sure even Will Smith can beat both depressing subject matter and a 35% TM rating.

So, there you have it. This week's major releases. There are some minor releases like Mickey Rourke's The Wrestler and a French film called The Class that I didn't touch on, mainly because I won't be able to see them and I assume that, if I don't see a movie, no one else will either. That's how in tune I am with the nation.

*Sorry, needed something that rhymed.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Things I've Learned From Watching Movies Part 52

Dying is awesome! If you die, not only do you come back with superpowers but the hottest chicks on the planet all compete over who gets to screw you first. If I don't die soon, I'm gonna be pissed.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Why I'm Looking Forward To Bedtime Stories

It's a Disney movie. Yep, Adam Sandler's new Christmas movie, Bedtime Stories, is a Disney movie. This does not guarantee quality by any means, but it does mean that Sandler won't be able to lapse into the gross, lazy tricks he loves to use in every movie. Just off the top of my head, some examples of this include a she/male getting vomited on by a walrus, a deer smiling and showing the shit it just ate smeared on its teeth and Sandler himself shoving a fish up his asscrack and shooting it into the air only to see it visibly stained when it lands. These things happen in every Sandler film and pretty much suck the wind out of any sort of humorous momentum that his movies build up.

Well, guess what? He can't do that this time around. Disney hates anything that even looks like controversy, the exception being having risque or flat out naked pictures of its young, female stars winding up on the internet (yeah, they say they hate that but they don't give back the money they start getting from the 40 year old pervs who suddenly start buying Hannah Montana or High School Musical merchandise) and Sandler can't even do that as he does not meet the "young and female" requirement. This means that Sandler will actually have to try to be funny without the usual tricks he uses in lieu of comedy. Sandler's diehard fans will probably be shouting, "This sucks! I'd damn well better see someone fall face down in cow flop in the next five minutes or I want my money back," when they go to see it and they'll flood forums and comments sections with cries that Sandler has sold out which is good. The pain of douchebags who love gross, juvenile humor is like crack to me.

I have no idea if Bedtime Stories will be any good but at least it has a shot and that's all any movie fan can ask for while waiting in line for their tickets.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Michael Rennie Was Ill

Like everyone else, I develop prejudices and preconceived notions about pretty much everything. I like to think that I am able to rise above those and apply impassioned reason and scientific principles when actually encountering the subject of said prejudices and notions and make final judgments based on data I receive from those encounters. However, there are times when I'm not sure of the extent to which preconceived notions influenced my conclusions and this is the problem I'm having with The Day The Earth Stood Still. I've been dead set against this remake of one of my all time favorite movies ever since I heard about it months ago. I could not accept the idea that maybe, just maybe, it may turn out to be a decent movie what with Keanu Reeves taking over for Michael Rennie and special effects taking over for intelligent film making. I pretty much had the review written before I bought the ticket and it would have gone something like this:
To call the remake of Day The Earth Stood Still a piece of crap is an insult to crap. Everyone and anyone even remotely involved with its production should be chained to a rock and have some sort of chemical applied to their skin that makes dogs want to piss on them.

And that would have been it. No other words would have been required. However, I find that I can't write that. It's not that I think The Day The Earth Stood Still is good, mind you. I just don't think it's as bad as I thought it was going to be. This brings me back to paragraph one. Could any movie have been as bad as I thought DTESS would be? The answer to that is a resounding HELLS YEAH! Watch Bloodrayne or Troll 2 sometime if you don't believe me. I'm wondering if my expectations were lowered so much by the idea that it would be the worst movie ever that I ended up thinking it was better than it was since I found it to be, well, not good, but a mixture of sometimes mildly entertaining/sometimes rock stupid but nowhere near the abomination I was expecting.

Once again, the Earth is visited by the alien Klaatu. You know this is fiction because he just plops his ship down in a public spot and reveals himself to the world the second he lands whereas real aliens only land in swamps and remote mountain locations to kidnap people, probe their anuses and wipe their memories.* This time around, instead of saying, "You all should be nicer to each other," Klaatu's message to the Earth is, "Stop destroying the environment in which the furry, woodland creatures live." The philosophy of his race is that, since there are so few planets capable of supporting life, humanity has no right to pollute the planet to the extent that all life is threatened. Well, yeah, I agree with that. We shouldn't take the Earth and turn it into a toxic hellhole where even a microbe would be unable to exist and I think it's brave of me to say that considering the power of the Pro-Obliterate-All-Life-On-Earth lobby. What the makers of this movie don't seem to understand is that, unless we replace our current pollutants with some sort of super toxic Death-gel, life will go on. Oh, yes, many species would die if the worst of our environmental fears came true including, most likely, humans, but life would go on. Some species would be naturally selected to survive, evolve and adapt to the new environment. Such concepts, of course, are a little too much for a big Hollywood event film to comprehend whish is why they haven't occured to Klaatu's race so, in the same way that Michael Rennie came to us in the 50s to say, "Be peaceful or we'll kill you," Keanu Reeves has arrived to say, "Live in harmony with the Earth or we'll turn you into mulch."

At least, that's the message he tries to deliver when he lands his big, gooey looking sphere in New York's Central Park. His intention was to meet with the members of the United Nations to deliver his "Change Or Die" message. This plan hits a snag when a trigger happy soldier shoots him the moment he exits his ship. To make up for nearly killing him, the U.S. government detains him and tries to interrogate him with truth drugs. All this pretty much sets Klaatu's mind on the "Die" option and he prepares to have the robot Gort (who has grown from seven feet in 1951 to about three stories tall today) unleash a big black cloud of death on the world.

The one chance humanity has is Dr. Helen Benson (Jennifer Connelly) an astro-biologist, whatever the hell that is, who is assigned to the scientific team that examines Klaatu. She gains his trust when she helps him escape from federal custody and they go on a road trip so Klaatu can get all of his pre-Destroy The Planet chores done along with Helen's step son, Jacob (Jaden Smith, son of Will Smith). Helen figures that Klaatu will change his mind if he meets with her old colleague Professor Barnhardt, played by John Cleese. I don't know what sort of magical persuasion powers Barnhardt is supposed to have but, frankly, I could have come up with the arguments that he did though I couldn't have said with the same gravitas as the man who once screamed, "THIS IS AN EX-PARROT!" did.

What I liked about DTESS: Keanu Reeves was better than I expected him to be; Jennifer Connelly's always good; some of the special effects were neat. What I didn't like about DTESS: everything else. One big thing was that they should have done more with the robot than they did. Gort is usually the first thing people remember when you mention the 1951 original but, in this one, you could have written him out of the whole story and not affected the movie all that much.

Still, it was better than I thought it would be so I'll give DTESS a few points for that in this great game we call Life. Anyway, this Friday, Jim Carrey's new comedy Yes Man is coming out. Aw man, is that ever gonna suck...damn, did it again.

*Take a screenshot of that paragraph since the guys at Area 51 will probably make me delete it.

Friday, December 12, 2008

I've Been Cheated By You Since I Don't Know When

So you're thinking to yourself that you want the entire planet to think you're a total goob who wouldn't know quality if it gave you a handjob. You also want to accomplish this in the easiest way possible. I know if I wanted to people to think I was a complete goob, a total douche and congenitally brain damaged idiot, it would be nice if I didn't have to expend a great deal of effort in doing so. The question is: how would I do this?

Well, if you were a member of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, you would give a Golden Globe Best Picture nomination to Mamma Mia (reviewed here back in July). Yes, that wonderful story about a stupid girl who stupidly comes up with the stupid idea to invite the three men who may be her father to her wedding without telling any of them why they were invited or bothering to inform her mother that they were coming. The movie's characters reacted to the insanity of this idea by going insane themselves and singing ABBA songs at the drop of a hat. The Foreign Press decided that this tribute to stupidity, madness and sheer boredom deserved to be nominated for Best Feature-Comedy or Musical category, one of approximately 47,000 Golden Globe categories* alongside actual, decent movies like In Bruges, the one that should win in that category but probably won't due to a noticeable lack of tone deaf actors** singing 30 year old songs. I see I never reviewed In Bruges but it's excellent and well worth a DVD rental. I must give props to the Foreign Press for recognizing it as a comedy despite its high level of criminal violence. Yes, I salute them but do not forgive them for nominating a movie about people who hop around singing ABBA songs while trying to figure out which guy's sperm won the Inseminate The Egg Lotto 20 years earlier.

An even greater insult to movie fans in particular and all that is good and holy in general is a movie that does not appear anywhere on the Golden Globes nomination list. This movie premiered the same week as Mamma Mia and contained a performance so good that people actually took the idea of a psychotic clown seriously. I would like to officially piss on all the respect I gave to the Foreign Press Association for recognizing that In Bruges was a comedy because they failed to recognize that The Dark Knight was more than a summer action flick. Even worse was the fact that they failed to recognize Heath Ledger's flawless and unforgettable work as The Joker.

So, there you have it, the best, fastest and easiest way to make sure that the world considers you to be a moron. To top this, next year they'll have to give a Lifetime Achievement award to Larry the Cable Guy. I wouldn't put it past them either.

*Even they don't know for sure anymore how many awards they give out. The Foreign Press Association's main reason for doing the Golden Globes is to get the American Press to stop calling them "Euro-weenies" for one day out of the year. The other reason is to get some of the hotter nominees to have sex with them, thus they give out as many awards as possible to the prettiest people on the planet.

**Okay, most of them were good singers. When I say "tone deaf actors" I'm specifically talking about a guy whose last name rhymes with Brosnan.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Movie Executives Love Beaver

Yep, they absolutely love "Beaver". "Beaver" is something they just can't get enough of and their one, true regret is that they can't get more "Beaver" than they already have. In fact, they're giving "Beaver" an award and are fighting to see who gets the right to put a huge "Beaver" shot on the big screen.

Want to know what I'm talking about or would you rather let your imagination run wild? If it were me, I might choose the imagination. Those of you who clicked the link know two things. One, that this has nothing to do with Jerry Mathers. Two, you also know that they also love "Big Hole" and "Butter". I hear that the most popular phrase currently being said in Hollywood is, "Give me Beaver, Butter and a Big Hole and there's nothing I cannot do."

Okay, I'll stop now.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

You Don't Know Jack

When I first heard of The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button, I couldn't greet the idea that it would be good with anything but skepticism. In fact, the word "skepticism" was insufficient to describe how I felt so I had to create an entirely new word, "Buttoncism," to properly convey how I felt. Buttoncism's proper Webster's definition is, "So totally super honkin' skeptical about something being presented to you that it creates in you a certainty that the exact opposite is true. You would doubt the love you feel for your own mother before you would doubt the certainty created by a feeling of Buttonscism."

First off, Button is a light hearted holiday film about a man who is born old and ages backwards directed by David Fincher. Fincher, of course, is the guy who's best known for directing movies like Seven and Zodiac. Ok, I can see my way past Fincher's previous work and think maybe he's capable of creating entertaining fiction that doesn't involve sociopaths committing strings of murders that are as brutal as they are creative. Fincher is a master at creating mood and atmosphere and he has a screenplay written by Forrest Gump author Eric Roth to work with so this is not what caused the fit of Buttoncism in me.

No, what ratcheted the Buttoncism up to 11 was a horrific event in the world of cinema that occurred almost 12 years ago. I hesitate to bring this up since most of society has pretty much blocked this from their memories and that is how it should be. So it is with a heavy hear that I must remind the world of Jack. Jack was a movie in which Robin Williams played a boy whose body aged four times faster than normal people so he looked like a 40 year old man at the age of 10. Jack was equal parts dumb, trite, boring and insulting to the collective intelligence of society and was the first thing I thought of when I saw the trailer for Benjamin Button. They both try to make a feel-good classic with characters who are outcasts in society due to the fact that they age in a freakish way and, by showing us the troubled lives of these men, attempt to make a statement about human nature in general. I'm not sure what Button's statement will be but Jack's was, "Guys who age in a freakish way are total goobs who do stupid, boring and unfunny things." But hey, Button has one of our best directors at the helm. Jack didn't have that advantage, right?

Jack was directed by Francis Ford Coppola. Yes, Francis Ford Fucking Coppola figured that the cherry on the sundae of his career in which The Godfather was the ice cream would be to make a movie that had Robin Williams playing a man-child who said dialogue like, "I'm like a shooting star, burning brightly.*"

The good news is that Button is getting something that Jack never got: good reviews. The producers felt so confident about their movie that we're seeing reviews two weeks before its premiere and the Tomatometer currently has those reviews as 90% favorable. So now I'll go see Benjamin Button with a bit of optimism that I'll be drawn into a strange and wonderful world about a magical man and his struggle against the world that doesn't understand him instead of entering the theater thinking, "I'd better make sure I'm not near sharp objects or a loaded gun when this thing starts getting stupid."

To quote another, simpler Jack: I hope this movie m-m-makes me happy.

*I'm not 100% if that's exactly what he said but I know it's similar to a speech he gave when the character Jack graduated from high school knowing he'd only have a few more years to live before he died of old age. Gosh, I wonder why more people didn't find that entertaining.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

The Naughty Bits

As an independent film with artistic ambitions, the upcoming movie Powder Blue won't be seen by most people. Parts of it, however, will be clipped and receive 8 bazillion hits on YouTube. See if you can guess which parts I'm talking about.

I think we're on the same page here unless you don't find Jessica Biel sexy or are some super freakish Forrest Whittaker fan. Strangely, this looks like it may actually be a decent movie and no, I'm not saying that just because one of the world's most downloaded women shoves her good stuff in out faces.

How To Tell When You've Officially Run Out Of Ideas

If you are a movie studio, a good way to tell that you've run out of ideas is if a headline in Hollywood Reporter looks in any way similar to this headline:

I was skeptical that a nine year old kid actually wrote what, from what I've seen, looks like a tongue-in-cheek parody of pickup books that at least had some assistance from an adult but, even if it's true, this is a self-help book and not a novel so what exactly will the movie plot be and GODDAMN, IT WAS WRITTEN BY A NINE YEAR OLD! They still haven't made Alfred Bester's The Demolished Man into a movie* and yet Fox is optioning dumb little books written by nine year olds? What, did he threaten to hold his breath till he turned blue unless you gave him a six figure deal and a share of the gross? You could have gotten a better deal if you told him that you'd release the monster you're keeping in the closet if he didn't sign away all rights to the book at that moment.

On the other hand, maybe I could cash in by writing a ripoff. Yeah, I could write my own book about how to pick up nine year olds...or maybe not.

*That's an awesome example of classic science fiction and it'd be well worth your time reading it.

Monday, December 8, 2008

The Experiment Is Alive

I've been kicking around this idea to take movie trailers, edit in audio comments by me and call it Trailer Trash. So, over the weekend, I gave it a shot and the result is below. The idea was to have commentary on the trailer and how I thought the movie itself would be but, mostly, I just did riffs. I don't really know why. The creative process is weird. How weird? This weird:

So far, it has a one star rating on YouTube and a comment from someone who said it was awful. I almost pulled it off until I saw clicked the guy's profile and saw he was some freakishly huge Keanu Reeves fan so he wasn't the best judge for this. Oh well, be back tomorrow with a real post.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Dogs And Cats Living Together! Mass Hysteria!

Josh Horowitz at MTV Moviesblog asked this question:
Should we not want another “Ghostbusters” film?

No, we should not. Well, glad I could be of help, Josh. If you need anything else...oh, sorry, you have another question?
I’m conflicted, are you?

Oh Lordy Lord No! Hell No! Jesus H. Christ On A Pogo Stick No! There is not a hint of conflict nor a glimmer of doubt in my firm stand against a new Ghostbusters movie. The last Ghostbusters movie was made almost 20 years ago and it wasn't even all that good. This means that, for two decades, some really sucky ideas have had time to be created, gestate, grow and mature into the basis for movies like, well, Ghostbusters 2 for example. I don't care if you have writers from The Office working on the script. You could dig up Billy Wilder and have him write and direct and there would still be nothing but a slim chance that this would beat the odds and not be on a level of quality equal to a Bill Engvall straight-to-DVD release.

We almost had a Ghostbusters 3 several years back in which Chris Farley would have taken over the lead character slot from Bill Murray. It's been several minutes since I typed that last sentence. In that time, I've been trying to think of a way to say that I'm happy that Farley apparently took the project with him into his grave without sounding like an insensitive and obnoxious jerk who would make light of Farley's death. Oh well, screw sensitivity. Farley helped America dodge a bullet when he bravely sacrificed himself to save us all from Ghostbusters 3 and now these heartless filmmakers want to take that heroic act and piss all over it.

This is pretty much what the plot will be: Oscar, the baby from Ghostbusters 2, has grown up to be a complete douche who can't get laid. Through a series of improbable circumstances, he hooks up with two other people (one who's even more of a spazz than he is, the other a girl who's both super smart and super hot) to reform the Ghostbusters just in time to face down some Lovecraftian super horror. They get into all kinds of hijinks like Oscar accidentally exposing himself to Smart/Hot Girl and Spazz accidentally getting his head stuck up a cow's ass as they work to defeat the big ball of evil that is forming over New York or whatever city they are in (this will cause right wing bloggers to complain that the movie is PC because the evil force trying to destroy New York isn't Muslim). Eventually, they all defeat the hell beast and Oscar and Smart/Hot Girl, despite the fact that they initially disliked each other, end up in bed "crossing their streams" while Spazz ends up with a couple of Playboy models who rejected him earlier but now figure they owe him a pity-screw since he saved their lives.

There, now that we all know what will happen, there's no reason to make the movie. Glad I could help.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

No One Could Have Predicted...

Wow, NBC is canceling Knight Rider, news that probably caused most people to say, "Knight Rider was still on?" I watched the first half hour of the premiere episode back in May and that was enough for me. From the commercials I see they turned KITT into a Transformer too. I wonder if the producers are right now trying to convince NBC to change their minds by saying, "We made him a Transformer but that was only the beginning. We have a plan to make that damn car into a vampire who romances a teenage girl. You can't ask for more than that."

And you know what? As bad as Knight Rider was, it could have been worse. That's true for television, movies and life in general. It can always be worse. Don't believe me?

Sorry to have taken from you one minute of your life that you can never get back, but I felt this point needed to be made: IT CAN ALWAYS BE WORSE! Never forget that.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

You Did It! You Finally Did It!

So there I am, looking through the various movie news sites when I pretty much trip over this little gem. It turns out that Fox is planning to do a remake of Conquest of the Planet of the Apes. This caused me to scratch my head and stroke my chin for a minute or two as I thought, "There was a movie called Conquest of the Planet of the Apes?" A quick IMDB search jogged my memory and reminded me that this was the movie where Caesar, the son of Cornelius and Zira, who had come back in time to the 1970s, resurfaced in the year 1999 when apes are used as slave labor and leads them in a revolt against their human oppressors. You all remember when that happened back in 1999, right? What? You don't? Bah! I bet you don't remember when the aliens landed on the last day of that year bringing Jesus back with them too. This probably has something to do with Y2K, another thing people barely remember.

Anyway, when I read the plot synopsis, I said, "Oh yeah, that one," which, after the second movie in the Planet of the Apes series, is how I describe all the sequels. The second one is memorable only because of the mutants living in their underground city where they worship, "The holy and everlasting bomb," which means their god is either a nuclear weapon or a DVD of Australia. A remake of Conquest couldn't possibly be any worse than Tim Burton's stupid little Planet of the Apes remake back in 2001 so they may as well go for it.

What struck me as funny, though, is how director Scott Frank is trying to deny that Caesar is a remake of Conquest. Use the word "remake" around Scott Frank and he'll get the same look on his face as I do when you say "pineapple pizza" around me.*

No no no, Caesar will be a complete re-imagining. A re-invention. A complete re-new-movie-with-all-different-plot-thingies, if you will. He says the apes won't talk or run wild in the street as they take over the world. I'll admit that some of his ideas are intriguing and the idea that this could actually be a serious attempt at science fiction instead of Hollywood's idea of science fiction** does cause my belly button to pucker and unpucker in excitement. However, Mr. Frank, sir, dude, it's a remake. I hate to be the one to break it to you, but it's definitely a remake. Does it have a chimp named Caesar and super intelligent apes bred for slave labor?*** Then change whatever you want but you ain't getting away from the dreaded "R" word. Make it about intelligent ocelots trying to put on a revival of South Pacific and it'll still be a remake. The only other thing it could be is a ripoff, which is an even worse "R" word.

I wonder if this means I can get my own movie project made. It's called Luke and it's about a young man who must master an ancient Force in order to defeat a Galactic Empire. Trust me, you've never seen anything quite like it.

*I hate pineapple pizza. I should probably have mentioned that.

**That being "Let's take the explosions and chase scenes we have in every other movie and set them in space."

***Who the hell came up with that stupid idea anyway? I wonder how lazy do you have to be before you say "I'm tired of having to scramble my own eggs. Let's make monkeys smart enough to do that for me."

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Who Was It That Said...

"Yeah, sure, it's a beloved science fiction classic that is still watched and enjoyed over 50 years later, but you know the one thing it's missing? Keanu Reeves."

I was going to say, "I really hope this isn't a hit because then they'll want to remake Forbidden Planet." However, after a quick Google search, I must now change that too, "At least J. Michael Straczynski's involved."

I wonder how long it'll be before Timecop gets remade. That's a movie that could actually be helped by the presence of Keanu Reeves.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Let The Dingo Eat This Baby

Did you ever order a steak dinner and get a tough steak, bland potatoes, and a wilted salad. Oh, it may taste ok once you add A-1 on the steak, salt and butter on the potatoes and dressing on the salad but you're still disappointed. Australia is kind of like that, only for it to truly be like that particular steak dinner, the steak would have to come to life, kick you on the crotch, expose itself to your date then run out and take a leak on your car.

Somehow or other, director Bax Luhrmann managed to convince studio executives to let him make a long and ridiculously expensive three hour film "epic" even though the only truly epic aspect is it's three hour length. I've heard stories that 20th Century Fox's owner, native born Aussie and Sith Lord Rupert Murdoch, fell in love with fellow Aussie Luhrmann's vision of the film and started handing out checks to him in the same way that a crack dealer would hand out crack to crack addicts if they gave away crack instead of charging for it. Which they don't. This resulted in total creative freedom for a director whose two biggest directorial achievements were remaking Romeo and Juliet in the style of a campy drag show and Moulin Rouge, a movie that looks like it was made by having Luhrmann wire a camera directly into his brain so that he could actually film an acid trip he was having.

The movie opens in England in 1939 where Lady Sarah Ashley (Nicole Kidman) is actually considering leaving her perfectly decent country to see what her husband has been up to while on a trip to Faraway Downs, the vast Australian cattle ranch they own. It's odd to me that a movie whose creators were trying to glorify their home country ended up portraying said country as the planet's armpit but that's pretty much how Australia makes the real Australia look. After ignoring all the people who said, "Uh, you know, we're about to go to war with Germany, don't you think it'd be a bad time to travel halfway around the world?" she sets sail and ends up in the city of Darwin, the capital of Australia's Northern Territory. I know it was 1939 but I'd like that one of Australia's most prominent cities had more going for it than the broken down buildings, manure filled streets and endless array of backwoods drongos that fill this movie. The Japanese bombed this place in 1942 because they thought it was an essential and important target and, if this movie was all I had to go on, I have to ask why they bothered. A pig farm in Alabama would have been a better target than the Darwin of this movie's world.

We also meet The Drover (Hugh Jackman). Drover is the only name we're ever told he has which really limited his career options. It would be tough to enter the world of physics research or high finance with a name like The Drover. Drover was sent by Sarah's husband to escort her over the long journey to Faraway Downs. Drover shows how seriously he takes that responsibility by getting into a bar fight just as her ship pulls into the harbor. As they travel over the godforsaken spot of the Earth that is the Northern Territories during the dry season, Sarah and Drover develop the kind of childish contempt for one another that good looking people in movies always develop when, in fact, they are destined to sleep together.

When they arrive at Faraway Downs, they discover that Sarah's husband has been killed, possibly by an Aboriginal shaman named King George. We also meet Nullah, a character who is another example of what not to do when you're trying to make a movie showing the rest of the world how awesome your country is. Nullah is the son of an Aborigine mother and a white father. This makes him the target of one of Australia's most shameful historical practices, that being a century-long assimilation program in which children of mixed race were taken from their families and placed into institutions where, as one particularly racist character puts it, they can "breed the black out of them." Nullah lives with his mother on the ranch but always has to hide when the authorities show up so he doesn't get taken. Sarah, a woman who can't have children, bonds with Nullah after his mother dies and even talks of adopting him since his father, Neil Fletcher (David Wenham), is a huge dick who couldn't care less about Nullah. Fletcher is also the movie's main villain who, while working as a ranch hand at Faraway Downs, is also secretly working for rival cattle baron King Carney (Bryan Brown). Carney's goal is to dominate the beef industry in the Northern Territory so that he can fulfill his dream of becoming a sleazy war profiteer by charging the British military a ridiculous price for the beef it needs to feed the troops who are about to fight Germany.

After Sarah gets Drover to help her organize the cattle drive from Faraway Downs to Darwin, they discover that it was actually Fletcher who killed her husband and is now doing things like having her cattle stampede and poison all the water holes in the desert. It should come as no surprise that they manage to overcome all that, get the cows to market on time and foil Carney and Fletcher's plan to screw over the military during wartime. It should also come as no surprise that Sarah and Drover suddenly notice that they are the two hottest people in Australia and jump into bed together. Sarah, at least, did show her late husband the respect of waiting a good two weeks or so before letting another man penetrate her but, in her defense, sex, up to this point in her life, was only something she did when she wanted her wealthy husband to buy her a new necklace and not the delightfully filthy stuff she does with The Drover.

So, there you have it, the whole predictable plot of this dreadfully average movie and OH MY FREAKIN GOD THE MOVIE'S NOT EVEN HALF OVER YET. Yes, we have to see these boring, two dimensional characters (especially Fletcher, one of the least interesting movie villains I've seen in a while) stretch this snooze fest out for another 90 minutes. Over the next couple of years, we see how smart Drover is by choosing to drove cattle for six months at a time instead of living as a ranch manager at Faraway Downs with the most beautiful woman he's ever known and we see how smart Sarah is by tolerating this. We also see that 11 year old Nullah possesses what must be some sort of ancient Aboriginal power to not grown an inch even though the story stretches from 1939 to 1942.

So, if your idea of a good time at the movies is watching pretty people doing boring things with spectacular shots of the Australian wild in the background, then Australia is definitely for you. At least there weren't any biker gangs looking for gasoline. Sorry, couldn't resist that.