Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Outrage Begets Outrageousness

There is a phenomenon referred to by the great cultural leaders of our time as the Outrage Bandwagon. Ok, mainly it's just me who says that. Anyway, the Outrage Bandwagon is what happens when some sort of event happens and people trip over each other to see who can be more outraged by it. This is especially true if you have access to a national audience, be it through print, television, or whatever. If, say, a pre-operative transsexual announces that "he" is pregnant, various thinkers, pundits and professional gasbags piss themselves in outrage and try not to slip on their own piss as they run to their columns, blogs or cable news talk shows so that they can tell the world how men don't get pregnant and list the various ways in which the very concept will destroy society as we know it and that we should all just hide in a cave because before the whole "pregnant man" situation somehow turns the human population into flesh eating zombies. After a week or so goes by and the zombies fail to emerge, we all calm down and come out of our caves only to be driven back into them a few days later when the next event happens and the Outrage Bandwagon starts up again on its perpetual tour. One of big problems with the Outrage Bandwagon is that it's almost always about something that, in the scheme of things, is fairly innocuous and forgettable. The other one is that it causes a lot of smart people to say some really stupid stuff. Today's best example of that is Bonnie Fuller at the Huffington Post opining over this week's occupant of the Outrage Bandwagon.

This week, the Bandwagon is beating its chest over Miley Cyrus and her "topless" photos. Note the quotation marks. When I first woke up Monday morning and the main headline in Yahoo entertainment news telling me about the controversy over the existence of topless pictures of the 15 year old Hannah Montana star, I assumed that these would be like the Vanessa Hudgens pics that came out last summer where she took nude photos of herself for the private viewing of her boyfriend and they wound up on the internet. But no, these were taken deliberately by a major photographer for a well known magazine, Vanity Fair. When I went to their web site and saw the "topless" picture, I assumed that everyone was talking about something other than this. Because, how do I put this, SHE'S NOT TOPLESS!!!! At best, she's backless. She's not showing anything you wouldn't see at the beach and was, from what they've said, she was wearing a top underneath that sheet that was covering the part of her body that would have to be showing in order for this picture to qualify as topless.

It is a little more alluring than it should be when you consider that she's only 15 and, if you're a columnist or blogger who has nothing else to write about that day, you could fill a few column inches calmly questioning how appropriate it is to portay such a young girl in even a mildly sexual way. But "calmly questioning" is pretty much the exact opposite of what's been happening the past few days. Instead, the Outrage Bandwagon has unleashed its usual stupidity best exemplified, as I said above, by Bonnie Fuller. The stupidity starts right with the first sentence and actually reaches a stupidity climax with the second paragraph:
Is it OK to sexualize a fifteen-year-old if it is in the pages of a high falutin' magazine and her parents seem OK with it? Or is this really not much different from parents in a cult acquiescing to having their teen daughters wedded and bedded?

Yes, Bonnie Fuller, there is a HUGE FUCKING DIFFERENCE between a professional singer and actress taking a publicity photo in which we can see her back and a polygamist cult forcing teenage girls to live as second class citizens in a compound where they are separated from society and be knocked up by men old enough to be their grandfathers.

Fuller then goes on to say that Miley's parent, Billy Ray and Tish Cyrus, should learn a lesson from the parents of Britney and Jamie Lynn Spears. It would have been awesome of Fuller to tell us what this lesson should be. Jamie Lynn, as most of you already know, is the pregnant star of another kids show. Unlike her more famous sister, Jamie Lynn never had any pictures taken of her that could be interpreted as provocative yet she is now a pregnant teen, unlike her sister or Miley Cyrus. I guess the lesson to learn here is that if teenage girls are busy showing off their bodies to cameras, they don't have time to become underage mothers so she should do one of those Maxim layouts where only her hands are covering her breasts as soon as possible.

She then goes on to dismiss the claims of regret and embarrassment made by both Miley and her parents and uses the time tested technique that hack columnists love to use. This is where you ask questions that also serve as accusations since there's no one there to answer them:
So what exactly were the Cyruses thinking? Is it part of the Miley career plan to sexualize her at 15 as a way to wooing an adult audience that will see her as more than Hannah Montana? Are her parents worried that she might never be able to make the crossover? Isn't a billion dollars of Hannah Montana revenue in 2008 alone enough to give the girl a break and just let her be a teen girl?

All that from one picture that showed the same amount of her back you would see if she wore an evening gown and that she and her parents say that they wish hadn't been taken.

So, what does this tell us about Bonnie Fuller? Is she a certifiably brain damaged idiot or merely misguided? Should she quit writing all together or just stop for a few years? Is she doing this because she hates all that is great and wonderful about our world or does she just hate the great stuff while sort of liking the wonderful? I don't know. all I know is that I'm outraged.


Monday, April 28, 2008

Mama Mia

The title may fool people because this is a review of the new Tina Fey/Amy Poehler comedy Baby Mama but later on this summer there will be a movie released called Mamma Mia with Meryl Streep. I don't know what the hell I'll call that review but that's a problem for the future. With a little luck, Meryl Streep has a previously unknown addiction to freebasing cocaine, will do so in the processing lab that makes the prints of her new movie and all copies of Mamma Mia will burn up and I won't have to deal with this situation at all. A man can hope.

Anyhoo, I didn't write a review of Forgetting Sarah Marshall but I'll say now that I thought it was very good which makes this an amazing situation where I see good comedies two weeks in a row. There is simply no movie genre harder to pull off than the comedy, a statement proven when so many of them end up sucking. I go into a comedy assuming it's going to be the cinematic version of feces coated slime monster that crawled out of the bowels of hell to wreak havoc on all that is good and holy. I'll usually give it points if it's coated with just a little bit of feces and only wreaks havoc on the good, skipping the holy.

Baby Mama is not as good as Sarah Marshall but it's way the hell better than my "feces covered monster" standard. Tina Fey and Amy Poehler make a great comedy team. I've seen some people compare them to Lucy and Ethel but in this case The Odd Couple is a better comparison. Tina Fey (in my opinion, one of the funniest people currently living) plays Kate, a woman in her late 30s who put off starting a family to advance her career as vice president of an organic foods company. At age 37, she realizes that she'd best have a baby before she gets too old to pick it up but discovers that, due to her narcissistic mother's use of dangerous liver spot medication while pregnant with Kate, her chances of conceiving a child are almost impossible. Thus, after discovering that it would take years before an adoption could be finalized, she decides to hire a surrogate mother. Enter Amy Poehler's character, Angie. Angie somehow managed to pass the background checks of the surrogacy agency that Kate hired despite the fact that she and her husband are uncouth, immature, dimwits who con and hustle their way through life and are just doing this for the massive amount of money that Kate is willing to pay to rent out her uterus. From there, hilarity ensues.

One thing that Baby Mama has in common with Sarah Marshall is that they both have great supporting characters so the movie isn't 100% dependent on Fey and Poehler for laughs. A good opposite example is Wedding Crashers. Except for a few lines from Isla Fisher's crazy girls character, almost all the laughs in that movie came from Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson and it suffered for that. I've seen plenty of movies starring folks like Jim Carrey and Adam Sandler where all the humor comes from the star and those are almost always bad movies. In Baby Mama, however, we get people like Steve Martin's Barry, the pretentious New Agey owner of Kate's company who, instead of explaining himself through a prospectus or Powerpoint presentation, talk about auras, energies and essences and, at one point, rewards Kate's especially good work with five minutes of uninterrupted eye contact. We also get Sigourney Weaver playing Chaffee Bicknell, the owner of the agency that handles surrogate pregnancies. Not only is she as pretentious as her name would suggest but she is also freakishly fertile, still having babies far past where most women would have gone through menopause, a fact that she often throws in Kate's face. There are also Angie's husband and Kate's doorman, played by Dax Shepard and Romany Malco, who both provide many laughs.

Baby Mama is not a great movie that I'll remember fondly as the years go by but it's a good one that gave me some good laughs and didn't once make me think of feces, slime, monsters or hell. I don't feel I can ask for much more than that.


Sunday, April 27, 2008

Things I've Learned From Watching Movies Part 16

If a masked vigilante is running around a major city using expensive, advanced technology, it won't occur to anyone that the guy under the mask might be a prominent billionaire who's around the same height and shape and owns a company that makes expensive, advanced technology.


Friday, April 25, 2008

Things I've Learned From Watching Movies Part 15

I never would have suspected this, but getting hammered and waking up next to Cameron Diaz is a bad thing. I'm so glad I found this out now as I've always thought there was an excellent chance of this happening.


Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Super Duper Ultra Mega Important Movie News You Must See Now!!!

An awesome trailer for a new movie just showed up on YouTube. This looks fascinating to me though I don't think it's for everyone. The link is here:


Go ahead and watch it, I'll give you my thoughts when you get back.

Back? Cool.


If you don't get why this is funny, tough.

Have a nice day.

The Monsters Take Manhattan -- Now With A New DVD Smell

Cloverfield actually manages the rare feat of being a better movie watching experience at home on your TV screen than on the big screen despite the fact that, at home, you don't have to take out a second mortgage to pay for popcorn and soda. You can't afford NOT to have a good time in a case like that. Viewing Cloverfield on the small screen also undercuts the now infamous "shakycam" effect, thus completely undoing the filmmakers' original intention to have as many vomit while watching the movie as possible that was easy to achieve on a theater screen. It was a bold artistic choice, I admit, but it was theirs to make.

There are two alternate endings on the disc that are about as "alternate" as telling the waitress at Denny's that you want crinkle cut fries instead of the regular straight cut fries with your burger.

I'm reposting my original review that I wrote back in February so as to give the illusion that there's lot sof original content in this post. Have a nice day and enjoy the DVD of Cloverfield.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008
Cloverfield -- The Monsters Take Manhattan
Posted by Michael Clear

Cloverfield is yet another one of those movies that gets a large segment of movie lovers interested and a small segment thinking, "OH MY FREAKIN GOD THIS WILL BE THE GREATEST MOVIE EVER," or at least the greatest one since the last time a Greatest Movie Ever hit the theaters.

Cloverfield has had the internet abuzz ever since they bundled their trailer in with Transformers last summer. The trailer was dark, difficult to understand and had a lot of people saying, "Wha...?" and, "HEY!" when they didn't even tell you what the title was. I'd like to think there was a time when this sort of marketing strategy would have been seen as the filmmakers extending a giant middle finger to their intended audience and caused such a backlash that not only would no one ever go see the movie but the people who thought to do this would be hunted down, have their homes burned and be buried up to their necks in anthills. However, as most of you already know, what happened instead was that many people, after watching the Transformers cross the galaxy to fulfill their sacred mission to help Shia LaBeouf nail the hottest girl in school, raced home to endlessly watch YouTube video of the trailer over and over trying to see where they missed the title. Since it is produced by Lost creator J.J. Abrams, the ensuing viral marketing campaign consisted of vague clues that really don't lead anywhere and numerous mysteries that are never fully solved. I'm not going to link to any of it since, in the end, it all really has very little to do with the movie.

Oh yeah, the movie. Here we are, three paragraphs in and I haven't yet mentioned how the movie is. Opinion of it mostly breaks down into two camps. The first camp consists of people who thought it was an entertaining movie about a giant monster attacking New York City. The second consists of people who got pissed off and became physically ill. They were easy to spot too as the sick people mostly sat in the front rows. See, the movie's greatest asset is also its greatest flaw. Movie aficionados got excited about this because, while it is yet another giant monster movie, it's told using the Blair Witch gimmick of having all the movie footage being shot by the characters themselves with a hand held digital video camera. This got people into the theaters and then drove them back out since, due to what I assume was an effort at "realism" in a movie about some crazed sea monster who rips New York apart, the camera often shakes so much that you literally get queasy watching it. I was ok but then again I sat in the back row. I heard at least two girls who sat closer to the screen complain about upset stomachs but, oh well, they knew the risks.

So, speaking as one of the people who did NOT immediately run to the restroom to throw up their popcorn after the credits rolled, I can say that it was an ok film with some really exciting stuff. A group of good looking young people get together to throw a going-away party for an equally good looking buddy of theirs who's going off to Japan to accept some sort of high level corporate job that someone his age would never get if he wasn't a character in a movie. It turns out that Rob recently convinced Beth, his hot female friend, to have sex with him after which he promptly cut off all communication with her even though he says he's always loved her. Rob does this because...well...I guess because he suffered some sort of brain damage off screen that the script never mentions.

The real reason he did it is because it provides a necessary plot twist when a giant monster powerful enough to rip off the head of the Statue of Liberty and throw into midtown Manhattan attacks the city shortly after Beth leaves the party and goes home. This gives Rob and his buddies a reason to go charging like idiots into the kill zone to try and save Beth so that Rob can have at least a chance of convincing Beth to take off her panties for him again.

This movie has a lot of very exciting stuff including an attack on the Brooklyn Bridge and a frightening extended sequence as they take a hike down a dark subway tunnel. Your experience with the film will be enhanced if you do the following things:

  1. And I cannot stress this heavily enough, SIT IN THE BACK ROWS!
  2. This is not the greatest movie ever no matter what sort of promises you think that J.J. Abrams may have made to you and
  3. Be prepared for a less-than-satisfying ending. I know what they were trying to do, I just think it was the wrong thing.


Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Open Thread

Open threads are stupid. Feel free to post any comment you want, although I have shut down comments for this thread. That is all.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Where In The World Is Ben Stein's Money?

I last wrote about Libertas long ago in an ancient, primitive time known as March 7, 2008. I envisioned that critiques of Libertas would be at least a semi-regular feature here. There turned out to be a couple of problems with that goal. Mainly, I could easily make this entire site anti-Libertas if I wanted to, which I don't. They provide so much material worthy of commentary and mockery that it's hard to know where to begin. One of their favorite tricks is not only to criticize and ridicule movies like Rendition or Stop-Loss with overt criticisms of American policy but also to whip out their National Review Magnifying Glasses and thoroughly pour over seemingly inoffensive movies for signs of anti-Americanism. For instance, did you know that last fall's The Mist and next week's Iron Man will most likely both be on the list of Osama bin Laden's Top Ten Movies of the Year? If you're were not invited to William Kristol's most recent Pancake Breakfast/Circle Jerk then no, it's not something that would ever have occurred to you.

All of that was to provide context for this: Libertas and especially their main blogger, Dirty Harry, have to be way out in Stupidland even by their standards and Harry has achieved that with his reaction to Ben Stein's Expelled. Here's a money quote from his review of the movie:
Darwin, atheists, and the scientific community are stumped on one fairly important question: How did life begin? No one can answer it. No one’s come close. In Expelled we hear supposedly intelligent scientists rabidly opposed to ID posit fantastically unscientific theories like the howler about crystals creating life. We hear a lot from atheist Richard Dawkins who suggests we sprang from an alien race who seeded the Earth. But best of all, we’re guided through this journey of anti-intellectualism by Ben Stein who dryly cuts through the nonsense with a Jack Benny stare or common sense questions, like this one in response to the Dawkins’ alien idea: “Well, isn’t that a form of intelligent design?”

I've seen the clip of Ben Stein's interview with Richard Dawkins and it's obvious from the way it's chopped up that Stein edited in such a way that it takes Dawkins' hypothetical construct and uses it to make him look like his favorite book is Chariots of the Gods. Dawkins doesn't need me to defend him as he does an excellent job of that here. The point of this is to show how Dirty Harry wholeheartedly endorses Stein's tactic of embracing the evidence that seems to prove his point while ignoring the evidence that proves that his point is wrong. In another post he dismisses critics who hated the film as immature and claims that they did not judge the film on its merits but rather on their personal opinions. This from the guy who thinks Iron Man lives to serve the jihad.

Harry's lofty opinions of the film are seemingly undone by the box office gross of its opening weekend. Despite opening on over 1000 screens, a large advertising budget and the boasts of its producers that the box office take would be in the tens of millions, it premiered at #9 for the week, pulling in a meager 3 million dollars, most of that probably from church groups renting out theaters. This would seem to effectively end Dirty Harry's argument that the film is TeH Awesum and that the public is secretly hungering for movies aimed at the conservative audience. You WOULD think that unless you were a rightwing extremist who writes for a movie blog and possesses an unending ability to take a huge pile of shit and turn it into shit-ade.

Instead of quietly accepting the blow dealt to his worldview of a conservative ascendancy, he attempts to portray the whole thing as a victory by creating* a conflict between Ben Stein and Morgan Spurlock whose documentary Where In The World Is Osama bin Laden? also premiered this weekend. If you judge the movie by that measure and that measure only then yes, Expelled is a huge success. Of course, if you consider other factors like Expelled's greater exposure, big advertising budget and the fact that Spurlock had no church groups willing to march Borg-like into theaters to go see his movie then it looks somewhat less like a reason to shout "VICTORY" from the rooftops.

But hey, I'm sure you're thinking that Dirty Harry is consistent in his thinking that a gross of 3 million from 1000 screens is awesome and a cause for celebration. Well, if that's what you thought, you were wrong again. Last year, Michael Moore's health care documentary Sicko earned 3.7 million dollars in its second week of release while being shown on 702 screens. In other words, it made MORE money on FEWER screens in its SECOND week of release than Expelled did in its first week. (This was down from its first week take of around 7.5 million from 400 screens in its first week.) And who was it that took this information and declared Sicko to be a box office failure? Do I really have to say?
That’s pretty sad if Sicko can’t manage to muster Bowling For Columbine numbers, especially after Fahrenheit 9/11 made Moore a phenomenon. Why is it faltering? Well, I think liberals are finding the film frustrating to watch.

And so, there you have it: a proud member of the 9% of film critics who liked Expelled. I'm looking forward to Harry's next review where he describes his love for a movie that claims to prove that 2+2=5 and attacks all those immature, closed-minded critics who had the gall to disagree with him and say that the very idea is stupid and obviously untrue. Either that or he'll do a post warning the world that Speed Racer secretly advocates the rule of a world wide caliphate. Either way, we can all get a good laugh.

*I was going to jokingly say, "by intelligently designing," but there's no evidence of intelligence involved here.


Saturday, April 19, 2008

Martial Arts And Monkey Kings, Who Could Ask For Anything More?

If you take the most mega-awesome thing you ever saw and up its mega-awesomeness by 10%, the result will be The Forbidden Kingdom. Mind you, it's not a particularly good movie. The opening scenes especially are filled with stupid dialogue and cardboard characters that felt less like they had been written by people and more like they had been written by Microsoft Screenplay Generator 2008. That involves the silly story of some nerdy slacker douchebag named Jason who's so obsessed with martial arts movies that his favorite thing to do is go to a small shop in Chinatown run by an old man named Hop (Jackie Chan, one of his two roles) who sells bootleg copies of such films. When Jason is confronted by a gang of tough guy stereotypes who demand that he help them to rob Hop's store, he does so because, as I've already said, he's a douchebag. However, as all movie fans know, small stores in Chinatown always contain some sort of powerful magic, be it a gremlin, a sword or, in this case, the Golden Staff of the Monkey King. When Jason suddenly seems to be mysteriously dragged off the top of a building by the staff, the movie really takes off.

Jason suddenly finds himself at some point in ancient China. The country is ruled by an immortal sorcerer called the Jade Warlord (Collin Chou) who long ago tricked his nemesis, a powerful warrior called the Monkey King (Jet Li in one of his two roles), into setting aside the staff that made him immune to the Warlord's magic, the same staff that Jason has just brought from the future. Strangely, Chinese history makes no mention of China ever having been ruled by some guy called the Jade Warlord, something about which I'm sure that Chinese historians are very embarrassed. Anyway, the Warlord was then able to turn the Monkey King into stone, a curse that cannot be lifted until the staff is returned to him.

And thus, we have the set up for the next 90 minutes. Jason is aided by Chan's other character Lu Yan, yet another immortal who gains unstoppable martial arts abilities when he guzzles wine. Seriously. He also encounters the prettiest girl in China, Golden Sparrow (Yifei Lu), who has a vendetta against the Jade Warlord as well as an unfortunate attraction to loser Caucasians which is good news for Jason. He also meets the Silent Monk* played by Jet Li. These four figure that they're more than a match for a sorcerer and his thousand man army and darn it all if they aren't right, especially after Li and Chan train Jason in the ways of kung fu. Apparently, it only take about 6-8 minutes to completely master that particular martial art which is fortunate when the Jade Warlord sends a sexy witch named Ni Chang played by actress Bingbing Li (who would have to be named Lik Mi Dong to have a name that sounds more humorous to Americans).

So, why do I call this movie mega-awesome? First, it has both Jackie Chan and Jet Li, either of whom automatically move even the crappiest movie into the awesome category. If you want me to go see a movie, just tell me that either Jackie Chan or Jet Li are in it. I'll even defend Chan's The Tuxedo or Li's The One. Hell, they could star in the remake of Yentl and I'd be the first one (and probably the only one) in line at the theater. Second, the scenery and sets are incredible, at least in the part of the movie set in China. I see a lot of flat, ugly movies with zero visual imagination so this is like a steak dinner for my eyes after months of my eyes eating at Burger King. Third, martial arts choreographed by the guys who did the Matrix which is always a good thing. All of these things gloss over the dumb spots in the plot and the occasionally stupid dialogue, like when narrating over Jason's training montage and and starts throwing out Yoda/Morpheus type lines like, "You must become nothing to gain everything."

I wish the whole world was like me because then this movie would make 8 trillion dollars and we'd have many more martial arts epics starring Jackie Chan and Jet Li. Until the human race turns into a Borg like race with me as its Overmind, I guess I'll just have to settle for The Forbidden Kingdom.

*I have no idea why he's called the Silent Monk as he talks non stop. I only knew that this was his name when the credits started to roll.


Friday, April 18, 2008

Congratulations, Ben Stein

As you might say, good work, doood. Your new movie, Expelled...no, let me take that back as I believe it's wrong to lump this in with superior films like Prom Night. So, Mr. Stein, the pile of crap you grabbed out of your ass, smeared onto celluloid and named Expelled achieved a startling 9% on the Tomatometer. Who could have imagined that a documentary accusing the scientific establishment of being closed-minded because they refuse to believe in an idea like Intelligent Design just because there is zero evidence to back it up would be anything less than one of the great enduring classics of cinema?. It's too bad it's not playing anywhere near me as I'm one of the few people outside of the Discovery Institute and Liberty University who would actually go see it because I know it would inspire me to heights of comedy I had only achieved in my dreams.* I can't wait for the sequel where you chastise the closed-minded group that controls Mathematics and refuses to consider the idea that 2+2=5.

*I have this dream where I say, "Takes one to know one," over and over again. In the dream, people think it's hilarious. In real life, not so much. Someday, I know, society will catch up with my sense of humor and I'll ride that phrase to glory.


Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Things I've Learned From Watching Movies Part 14


Sexy, successful women love joining clandestine groups where they love to have anonymous sex with clueless dopes and psychopaths. I mean the absolutely LOVE it!

By the way, could they have possibly found a more generic movie title? What, were Temptation, Lust and Hittin' That taken?

Monday, April 14, 2008



How exactly did we arrive at a point in society where what will possibly be the most wide spread, effective and damning cinematic social commentary about what's going on in America today comes not from numerous indie films like In The Valley Of Elah and Stop Loss but rather from this?

I take some comfort that, in the future, historians will study situations like this and laugh so hard that it will be a struggle to keep from pissing themselves. At that point, global warming will have moved the coastline to Denver so they'll have very little to laugh about so it's nice we're giving them this.

Sunday, April 13, 2008



Street Kings is yet another near miss movie that is defining the 2008 cinema so far. It could have and should have been good but just didn't quite reach the goals and standards it set for itself.

The tone is set for Street Kings in its opening scene when Keanu Reeves wakes up, looks at himself in the mirror and vomits. This is how we are introduced to LAPD Detective Tom Ludlow, who's been in an alcoholic tailspin since the death of his wife and who is also a Two Fisted Loner Who Sometimes Has To Go Outside The Law etc. Ludlow does his job in a throughly dickish way and manages to make it work due to the fact that his life in controlled by Hollywood screenwriters. The first time we get to see him at work, he tricks a couple of Korean gangsters into leading him back to their evil lair where they are keeping two kidnapped 14 year old girls as sex slaves. Despite the cleverness he showed in the way he found the girls, he then loses his entire IQ when he decides not to call in a SWAT team and instead storm the house alone. Again, he has the luck that only fictional characters can have when he not only single handedly takes out a half dozen gang members but also manages to make it look like he didn't violate several laws and police procedures in doing so.

He gets some help from the other member of his unit, a group somewhat less dickish than he is. His boss, Captain Jack Wander (Forest Whitaker), immediately figures out what happened but helps Ludlow cover it up because he admires Two Fisted Loners Who Sometimes etc. When Ludlow goes to the hospital to get his injuries looked at, we meet Biggs, an Internal Affairs Captain played by Hugh Laurie, whose name may as well be Captain Foreshadow since he tells Ludlow that all the corruption and improper behavior will catch up to him and that, "Someday, you're going to need me." We also meet his girlfriend Grace (what, was Angelica taken?) played by newcomer Martha Hidarega. I think she's a great actress since she manages to convince us that a super sexy Mexican nurse could be in love with a burned out, generally unpleasant alcoholic 20 years older than she is who has no money and lives in a shitty apartment.

The thrust of the story comes when Ludlow comes into conflict with his former partner. Washington, who has decided that he is no longer enamored with Two Fisted Loners Who etc. When Ludlow thinks that Washington is testifying against him about something or other, he follows him to a liquor store to confront him and they wind up having to work together when two gang bangers armed with automatic weapons come in to rob the place. Ludlow does things in his usual dickish way but now the godly screenwriters have decided that the time has come for his luck to run out and he ends up shooting Washington in the back in a friendly fire incident.

This leads us all into a series of circumstances involving unexpected revelations (including how Ludlow's wife died and why it drove him a little nuts), higher and higher levels of police corruption and lots of dead bodies and this all eventually leads to (surprise) Ludlow asking for the help of Captain Foreshadow.

As I said, this is a near miss. The actors, including Keanu Reeves, all manage to do a fairly decent job. I'm convinced that there is more than one Keanu Reeves. There's the good Keanu Reeves who stars in movies like My Own Private Idaho and then there's the bad Keanu Reeves who may not be human at all but instead is a wax statue of Keanu Reeves come to life who makes movies like Constantine. There's also some decent dialogue and interesting plot twists but, in the end, Street Kings just can't overcome the weaknesses of its increasingly improbable story. It might be worth the price of a DVD rental assuming that this is the only movie in the store or on Netflix that you haven't seen.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Things I've Learned From Watching Movies Part 12

I've always been taught that exposure to large amounts of radiation causes various unpleasant diseases that often result in painful death but, actually, the results can be super cool.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Right Wing Movie Reviews -- Leatherheads

Once again, I have been criticized by right wing blogger Götterdamerung whose column "Twilight Of The Dems" appears regularly at Bushpocalypse.org. This time he claimed that my review of "Leatherheads" was laced with liberal bias and could very well lead to the destruction of the United States unless I allowed him to post his own review for the sake of balance. As was the case the last time he did this, I have no idea what he's talking about but, since this site has low traffic and I can't afford to lose a reader, he can take all the space he wants. --MC

Hey all, Götterdamerung here. I once again had to try to slog through one of Michael Clear's jihadist screeds and could not keep silent. This time, he tries to pass off his liberal garbage as a completely apolitical review of the new movie Leatherheads starring Osama bin Laden's favorite actor, George Clooney. At first glance, both the movie and the review seem to take no political stand but taking no political stand is the oldest trick in the liberal playbook. Your typical lefty used to pretend to be neutral on things like coffee flavors and, before we knew it, we were all sipping espresso. I drink 3 espressos a day now and I'm still not entirely sure what the hell espresso is. That's how crafty the liberals are.

Leatherheads is about the great American game of football and when I say football I mean REAL football, not that crap they play in France where adorable little fancy boys run around in their shorts and score 3 points per game. No, this isn't that gay version, this is the real game where manly men put on the pads and rub up against each other, grab their crotches, smack each others asses and show us all their gloriously muscled bodies. The fact that I so admire the masculinity of the game proves that I'm not a homosexual and that's one of the reasons why I hate this movie so much. This is a tool for homosexual recrutiment. in order to advance the radical homosexual agenda, Leatherheads is trying to turn us all gay.

Again, this isn't obvious to everyone but it's so obvious to me that I'm surprised there wasn't a scene where all its characters get up on a stage and start dancing the Vogue. I won't blame you if you didn't see it. You're not like me. I see these things because, long ago, I managed to crack Hollywood's Liberal Code. Once you've seen this you can't ignore it and you realize that almost every movie made is like someone tying you down and forcing you to read that day's New York Times. For instance, 21 appeared to be a movie about card counters but, when more closely examined, is actually a lecture about how we should elect Democrats so they can gamble with our economy. Such is the case with Leatherheads.

As I already said, the movie stars George Clooney, a man devoted to turning the USA into a Muslim caliphate and I guess he figures a good way to do it is to create a country where all the men are gay. Clooney's character, football player Dodge Connelly, befriends a good looking male college student played by John Krasinski. It's hard for the average heterosexual man to look at these two and not have erotic thoughts and I reach this conclusion by the fact that, as heterosexuals go, I'm way the hell above average and I couldn't stop imagining them in togas wrestling so I can only imagine what it was like for the poor guys out there who are merely average. The true deviousness of the movie, though is revealed when the two begin a romantic rivalry over female reporter Lexie Littleton, played by Renee Zellweger. This is where Leatherheads enacts it's America-hating agenda.

Lexie Littleton is a very strong willed woman who, in the 1920s, manages to become successful in a profession dominated by men. In other words, she's a beautiful woman who acts just like a man. Are you making the connection? The movie is saying that Clooney and Krasinski are symbolically attracted to a man and that we all should be too and, damn it, it worked. I kept imagining Renee Zellweger as a man and having a gay threesome with the other two and oh lord, you wouldn't believe the disgusting things that my imagination had them doing. It reminded me of the time when my parents caught me skinny dipping with my buddy Chuck and sent me to Christ Camp to have all the gayness prayed out of me. That worked, of course, and I became 100% straight but Leatherheads managed to knock me down to about 75%. If the same thing happens to you, do what I did and rent 300. Watching the truly masculine Spartans in their red capes and loincloths sweating and grunting on the battlefield worked and I was once again able to have sex with the Hot Little Number I Call Mrs. Götterdamerung without gagging.

Things I've Learned From Watching Movies Part 11

People are idiots who make idiotic deals with other idiots to perform the most important of tasks in the most idiotic way possible.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Are You Ready For Some Football?

Leatherheads is the second movie I've seen in a row that I would describe as a near miss. There's a lot to like about Leatherheads. The creators, including director and star George Clooney, clearly have an affection for old time comedies like His Girl Friday where a guy who spends his entire life engaged in various degrees of hustling and con artistry meets a strong willed, independent woman who prospers because she's smarter than any of the male characters yet also suffers because won't pretend that she isn't smarter than any of the male characters. Fortunately, the hustler is played by George Clooney. Unfortunately, the woman is played by Renee Zellweger.

I am not a neutral party when it comes to Renee Zellweger. What other perceive as her personal charms and skills as an actress have always been lost on me. I've always assumed that the Oscar she received for her role in Cold Mountain was awarded because she slept with the thousands of people who voted for her as it certainly wasn't because of the annoying fake Southern accent she used. For me, she ranges from, "Didn't suck," like in Jerry Maguire or the Bridget Jones movies to, "So bad that the theater it's showing in should be burned down and the ground salted so that nothing shall ever grow there again," which is what happened after I saw her in Chicago, a musical where even Richard Gere outsang her.

Which brings us back to her role in Leatherheads, a movie set in the world of 1920's football. She plays Lexie Littleton, a Chicago reporter trying to expose a college football player's claim of being a war hero as a lie. The player's name is Carter Rutherford, played by The Office's John Krasinski and typing that makes me think how much better his Office co-star Jenna Fisher would have been as Lexie but, oh well, it's dangerous to obsess. Anyway, Carter tries to...you know who else would have been better as Lexie? Nicole Kidman, Naomi Watts, Julia Roberts or any of the dozen other names that have popped in to my head just now. What the hell, Clooney? Were all those other women trapped in a cave or something? Did Renee Zellweger have pictures of you with a goat? GRRRR!

What was I talking about? Oh yeah, the plot. George Clooney's aptly named character Dodge Connelly manipulates Carter, a college football star, to join his professional team that is about to go under due to ever falling attendance. In the process, they both fall for Lexie and end up in a series of events that can only be described as a collision course with wackiness as the consequences of Dodge's half assed plan to make money for his team ends up changing the freewheeling, nearly lawless game of professional football into the strictly regulated sport that it is today. There's a funny scene where referees unfamiliar with the new rules have to constantly check their rule books and end up coming up with new ones on the fly and writing them into the book.

That and other good scenes are what drag me forcefully into giving this movie a very weak recommendation. The good stuff outweighs the dumb and boring parts and I'm going to assume that most of you don't feel as strongly about Renee Zellweger as I do so maybe you'll like it even more than I did.

Friday, April 4, 2008

All Out

My theory as to why I found the movie 21 to be less than satisfying is that, unlike the characters in the movie, I don't have a genius level IQ. If I did, maybe some of the actions that I found to be incredibly stupid would have made sense to me. The movie is about a math whiz that joins a group of organized card counters who rip off Vegas casinos. The math whiz, Ben, says he's only doing this to raise the $300,000 it will take to go to Harvard Medical School. A fine example of what seem to me to be the actions of brain damage cases is that, when Ben starts raking in the cash, he decides to hide it above the ceiling tiles in his MIT dorm room. Me, I'd have put it into a safe deposit box so that anyone who got mad at me and decided to ransack my room wouldn't find $300,000 in cash and walk off with it but hey, what do I know?

Ben is played by Jim Sturgess whom we last saw in Across The Universe where he played a jerk who nailed a hot blond while traveling across the country, lost her because he was a jerk but managed to get her back through a serious of unlikely events. In this movie he stretches as an actor by playing a jerk who nails a hot blond while traveling across the country and loses her because he's a jerk. Does he get her back through a series of unlikely events? That would be telling. The hot blond is Jill, played by Kate Bosworth, best known as the girl who was so wildly miscast as Lois Lane in Superman Returns that the casting director of that movie was covered in honey and cast into a pit of hungry army ants. At least I assume he was. She's better here because she's a decent actress when she's not playing women who don't recognize their boyfriends just because they put on a pair of glasses. Kate's Superman co-star Kevin Spacey plays Mickey Rosa, the MIT math professor who recruits Ben to join his group of card counters.

For a while, all is well. Ben has an absolutely swell time ripping off casinos and having sex with Jill until the thing that everyone in the audience knew would happen happens.

Mickey warns Ben to be cool at all times, to only bet big when the odds favor it and to follow instructions when told to stop playing and leave the table. This all seems fairly straightforward to me but, again, I'm not a genius so I'm sure Ben has very good reasons when he eventually decides to ignore all that good advice and gamble away a shitload of money. This causes Mickey to get very angry and vow revenge and also causes us to see the dark and diabolical side of Mickey that had been foreshadowed all through the movie. It also puts Ben into the path of a thuggish casino security official played by Laurence Fishburne. Fishburne seems to believe that Ben is The One who was destined to come and completely clean out his casino. Unfortunately for Ben, instead of elevating The One to an exalted position of respect and leadership, he deals with him like he does with all casino cheats, namely with severe beatings.

So, there's poor Ben, over his head, friendless and broke. Luckily, he's in a movie which means he can come up with a crazy scheme that depends on flawless precision coupled with a great deal of luck and it'll actually have an excellent chance of fixing his jam, getting back his girl and retrieving his money. I'm not saying that this is what will happen, but, again, this is a movie so you know the odds that this will be the case are pretty good. It's not horrible and sometimes approaches being a decent movie but always gets pulled back from that by the predictability of its plot and the stupidity of its genius characters. So, when wondering if you should bet the price of a ticket on 21, you should just say, "Check."

Yeah, I know, the last joke sucked. Sue me.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Things I've Learned From Watching Movies Part 10

For some reason, when the combined power of two of the greatest martial artists on the planet is insufficient to stop some sort of evil power, the only thing that can save the day is some teenage douchebag who knows no martial arts whatsoever.