Tuesday, June 30, 2009

My Least Favorite Year

Year One joins Land of the Lost in the category of "Movies I thought would suck way worse than they did but ended up not being quite so mega sucky as they should have been." Huh, I really should get a shorter name for that category. Non-Sucks Not-Quites, something like that, especially if The Awful Truth ends up not being bottom-of-the-barrel quality.

Anyway, Year One and Land of the Lost were both so thoroughly, utterly trashed by critics that, for me, the bar was set so low for both that I wasn't expecting to enjoy a single minute of either film. When I did end up laughing a few times or liking certain elements, it was slay the fatted calf/break out the champagne and party hats time when compared to what I was expecting to happen.

Year One is a Judd Apatow produced-Harold Ramis directed extremely low brow comedy. Really, the brow is somewhere below the chin as far as Year One is concerned. Technically it shouldn't even be called Year One since it takes place in pre-Christian times. In fact, the time period can't really be determined since it shows two guys named Zed and Oh (Jack Black and Michael Cera) who leave their hunter-gatherer tribe and meet Cain and Abel and Abraham before finally finishing the movie up in the city of Sodom.

One of the problems with the movie is that it suffers from what I like to call Vince Vaughn Disease. This happens when the dialogue of the lead characters sounds like it was mostly improvised by the actors. This isn't necessarily a bad thing since most of this movie's laughs (as well as the laughs in Vince Vaughn's most recent attempts at comedy) come from these improvisations.

The movie opens with Zed, an incompetent hunter, ends up stabbing one of his fellow tribesmen with his spear after he throws it at a boar. Oh, a gatherer, is much better at gathering than Zed is at hunting but he gets no respect for that in a village that reveres hunters, especially the very tough and strong Marlak (former NFL player Matthew Willig). Marlak is Zed's chief rival for the affections of Maya (June Raphael). Poor Zed can't compete with Marlak who frequently presents Maya with the heads of the boars he kills as gifts (he even leaves the tongue in). Oh is in love with Eema (Juno Temple), a cute blond who only has eyes for the burly hunters in the village. Zed advises Oh to simply apply the standard caveman stereotype of knocking Eema over the head and dragging her back to his hut, a plan that fails when she hits him back. While not all the humorous, I think it still qualifies as the funniest attempted rape in the history of cinema.

Zed decides to change their fortunes by eating the forbidden fruit from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Their fortunes do change when Zed is banished from the village for that and Oh has to go too when he stops Marlak from killing Zed.

Then the fun, or lack of it, really begins. The movie is a case study of how not to make a vulgar, low brow comedy. There's a scene where Jack Black literally eats shit. I'm trying to think of a movie that had a funny shit eating scene in it and none are coming to mind. Why? Because it's so completely disgusting that it would take a great deal of artful movie making to infuse it with enough comic value to make something like that funny. Maybe Martin Scorcese or Quentin Tarantino could pull it off but, for reasons only they could explain, they have so far not attempted a humorous scene in which one of their characters eats shit. There's also a scene that goes on forever in which Michael Cera, hanging by his feet while imprisoned, ends up pissing on his own face. Again, truly great directors like Steven Spielberg and Francis Ford Coppola have always passed on face-pissing scenes but Harold Ramis thought he'd give it a go. I haven't even mentioned all the gay jokes or the endless allusions to animal rape. Oh, not all of the low brow stuff fails. When Zed and Oh meet Abraham, they run when Abraham claims God has revealed to him that all men must cut their foreskins off.

My verdict on this is that the funny stuff is not only beaten out by the unfunny stuff but that the funny stuff is kicked in the teeth by the unfunny stuff so much that the funny stuff will never be able to eat corn again.

Still, it was better than Transformers. Yes Michael Bay, a movie where a guy eats shit is better than the shit you made us eat. Deal with it.

Monday, June 29, 2009

A "Fun" Movie

I try to keep cursing to a minimum. I do that as a gesture to my readers who may be sensitive to that sort of language and so those words will retain some of their power. It's not something I like to do casually even in real life and reserve it for times of strong emotion or for comic effect. Now that you know all that, you should be able to appreciate the full magnitude of this.

Transfomers: Revenge of the Fallen is the one of the worst, biggest fucking pieces of worthless shit in the history of bad, huge fucking pieces of worthless shit. Had Michael Bay filmed himself taking a diarrhea crap or popping a pus blister on his cock, it would have been more interesting and entertaining than Transformers. I'd also like to send a special "Go fuck yourself you squealing little douchebag" to Shia LeBeouf for trying to provide himself and this movie some cover by describing it as a Fun Movie that only haters of Fun could possibly find intolerable, a move I suspect he made to explain the moment in the movie when he realizes the sexy girl with whom he's making out is actually a Decepticon and he literally screams like a girl. The audience laughed out loud when he did that.

Turns out my fake Tranformers Liveblog was wrong. Here's how the first part of the movie actually went.

After a brief, pointless recap of a Decepticon visit to Earth 17,000 years ago, we jump to modern times in the Chinese city of Shanghai. It turns out that the Decepticons who had been destroyed in the first movie weren't really destroyed and they're actually running around all over the world causing random bits of havoc. They're always met by an elite fighting unit made up of the American soldiers played by Josh Duhamel and Tyrese Gibson from the first movie and the Autobots led by Optimus Prime. Thanks to Michael Bay's trademark A.D.D. inducing quick cuts, it's difficult to tell who is actually winning the extended battle sequence until you see that Optimus is still standing. We then get to hear the majestic, noble Optimus Prime, a character known for his flowery speeches about the importance of freedom, refer to his defeated enemy as a, "punkass Decepticon," a line that really sounds more like it written by a 14 year old boy in his first attempt at Transformers fan fiction.

I suppose I could also bring up the fact that a series of circumstances doesn't exist in which the Chinese government would allow U.S. soldiers and their powerful alien allies free reign through one of their cities but what the hell. This is a Fun Movie, after all.

Oh yeah, one of the Decepticons muttered something about the Fallen before it was destroyed and how the Fallen will rise and I think something about how much he loved grilled cheese. I was too busy twittering on my phone to pay attention.

Then we see Shia LeBeouf playing good old Sam Witwicky. You may remember him from the first movie. That was when giant shapeshifting robots crossed the galaxy on a sacred mission to help Sam in his epic battle against his parents and his noble quest to nail the hottest girl in school. Remember that stupid All-Spark thing that Megatron and his Decepticons wanted to make machines come to life before Sam used it to destroy Megatron? Yeah, I didn't commit it to memory either but the new movie reminds us. Turns out there was a small shard of the All-Spark stuck to the clothes he wore when all that happened and the shard transferred some information to his brain when he touched it. Why such a thing didn't happen when he touched the whole damn All-Spark with his bare hands is never explained, probably because such an explanation would have made the movie less Fun.

After Sam touches it, the shard starts bringing his household appliances to life but he's saved by his Autobot guardian Bumblebee. Since Sam apparently has the attention span of an artichoke, Sam informs the Autobot that he's can't accompany Sam to MIT because he wants a normal life minutes after Bumblebee saves his life from the distinctly non-normal army of living blenders and toasters. It makes as much sense as what Sam decided to do with the shard. Does he call the government or contact Optimus Prime and say, "Hey, you know that All-Spark thingie that almost destroyed us all? Turns out I have a piece of it and it's still active. Could you come and dispose of it please?" That's what an Intelligent Movie would have done, but this is a Fun Movie so instead he has his girlfriend, Mikaela, take it home with her.

Speaking of the girl played by Megan Fox, Sam has actually decided to move away from his insanely hot girlfriend figuring that she'll stay faithful because his weak, character-free chin has ruined her for all other men. The problem with having someone like Mikaela as his girlfriend is that it doesn't make him the least bit suspicious when a super sexy coed decides on their first meeting that she must have his twig shaped body. He just assumes this to be the natural order of things and doesn't realize that she's really a Decepticon trying to get the information in his brain.

All of this happens IN THE FIRST 30 FUCKING MINUTES of a 150 minute movie. Here's some other stuff you get to see:
  • The government's dumb idea to dump Megatron in the ocean, secure in the knowledge that the fast, resourceful and highly advanced Decepticons will never get past a couple of submarines and revive him.
  • Shia LeBeouf shaking like he has fleas during an All-Spark induced episode.
  • A miniature Transformer dry humping Megan Fox's leg.
  • Rainn Wilson as a professor who creepily flirts with his female students.
  • Those female students actually responding to said creepy flirtations.
  • John Turturro's naked ass.
  • A climactic battle sequence in which you're supposed to keep track of around 8 different plot threads through endless explosions and Michael Bay's patented incoherent editing style.
  • A Deus Ex Machina ending.
Oh, almost forgot about two new Autobots named Mudflap and Skids. A lot of people have complained about them as being offensive racial stereotypes since they talk like caricatures of black gang members. Honestly, I didn't even notice that. Mudflap and Skids were far too busy annoying the everloving shit out of me with their endless stupid unfunny jokes to offend me with any sort of racial stereotypes they may have represented.

Something I said above really sums up this whole review. The movie is written in the style of and with a level of quality similar to fan fiction. I'm surprised there wasn't someone in the writing credits with the name OptimusLover69 from TransFanFic.net. Sadly, it broke box office records which means we're going to see all these assholes again in a couple of years. Until then, we can try to suppress the memories of endless explosions and Shia Lebeuof's womanly shrieks. Some of us may even succeed. At least it'll be Fun to try.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Dear Michael Bay, You Suck

I take back my apology. The only conclusion I can draw is that you were trying to get people to stop saying that there isn't a worse movie than Armageddon.

More on Monday.

Did I remember to tell Bay to go fuck himself? I'm sure I'll get to it on Monday.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Things I've Learned From Watching Movies Part 72

It's okay to rob banks and kill people if you're charismatic and good looking.

The biggest spazz in school should definitely go after the hottest girl, especially if he can find the most inappropriate moment to do so. Seriously, she'll show you her breasts and everything.

The breeding of super intelligent gerbils capable of executing difficult covert missions would be one of the most significant scientific accomplishments in human history. Therefore, the logical thing for the government to do would be to terminate the program that created them and dump said gerbils into a pet shop.

Women are utterly stupid creatures and need the guidance of a misogynist to help them become slutty enough to catch a man. (I commented on this movie back in April.)

Just can't have too many ripoffs of Saw.

Hell, I could be a super soldier if you gave me a frigging battle suit.

Success in music can be achieved if everyone involved acts like a huge idiot.

Horror movies don't ever really need to end.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Look At My Briefs -- 6/25/09

What a lovely day it is here in northern New York. The clear skies and refreshing breeze make me think that today is the perfect day to sit in a dark room and write another edition of Look At My Briefs.


By Johnny Depp/Tim Burton standards, this is surprisingly restrained.


It was an interesting experience last weekend to be in a theater when the trailer for New Moon came on. Not being a fan of the first film, I very quietly groaned at the thought of this one. However, I could hear teenage girls literally squealing with delight when Robert Pattinson came onscreen*. It got even worse during Taylor Lautner's shirtless scene. I then had to accept that this whole Twilight thing isn't going to end anytime soon. I could drop out of society and live in the woods were it not for the fear I would meet some pretty boy emo vampire with glistening skin.


Speaking as the only guy on the planet who liked The Happening, is M. Night Shyamalan going to make a movie that doesn't cause the planet to unite with one voice and yell, "YOU SUCK!" at the screen? Maybe. I wonder if it was the marketing department's idea to slap Shyamalan's name all over the title or if the director himself insisted on getting all the credit for what is a cinematic adaptation of someone else's idea.


Man oh man, Transformers is getting some brutal reviews. Ebert slapped it with one star and even that seemed to be generous on his part. Don't these people know that this is a fun movie? This makes me feel sorry for all the people who stayed up late to see the midnight premiere. It also makes me revel in my superior judgment since I was going to do that then changed my mind.


On the bright side, Cameron Diaz can now brag that she has the best reviewed major release of the week. Not much to brag about really since her rating could have been in the low 20s and she still could have said she was in the best reviewed major release of the week. Still, you take what you can get especially when you know that your well reviewed drama is going to be crushed by some moronic movie about giant super robots who need some dweeb with a funny name and his hot girlfriend to save them.

* I should say "appeared onscreen" instead. The word "came" is more akin to what the girls were doing.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Transformers Liveblog

Here we are, June 24, the premiere day of Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen. I saw an advance screening a couple days ago but, instead of reviewing it, I've decided to do this in the form of a liveblog. One stipulation of the advance screening was that you could not bring in electronic devices. HA! Like I wasn't going to do that. Now I'm going to liveblog the crap out of this movie. I'm really nervous though. Some dude with a flashlight keeps walking by and I have to hide this iPhone when he does. I think this makes me the same as those people sending messages out of Iran. Anyway, here's my very first liveblog.

00:45 -- I know I'm less than a minute in but, so far, this movie is a huge disappointment. I expect more than this from Michael Bay. Right now the word "Transformers" is just hovering on the screen and WOAH! OH MY GOD I take it back. The screen exploded and the words "Revenge of the Fallen" are up there now.

02:15 -- We're on an aircraft carrier. Some seaman is getting dressed down by his CPO for parking a forktruck in front of a door. Seaman insists he didn't do it. Why does this idiot think his CPO will believe such an obvious lie?

03:30 -- Man, they keep focusing on that stupid forktruck. What the hell is Bay thinking? "Ooh, I bet there are loads of forktruck enthusiasts out there. I'll make this story all about forktrucks."

04:20 -- Finally, the seaman is going to move the damn truck. Maybe now this stupid story can start moving when the truck does.

05:00 -- OH MY GOD OH MY GOD!!!! You will never believe this. I mean you will never EVER believe this. You know that forktruck I've been talking about? IT WAS A TRANSFORMER THE WHOLE TIME! I never saw that coming. Who the hell could have predicted it? Michael Bay's a genius!

06:00 -- That Transformer is moving through the aircraft carrier now. He must be one of the bad Transformers, the Evilobots or whatever they're called. It's destroying everything. I have no idea what's going on but his arms turned into guns and lots of stuff is blowing up.

07:30 -- Still don't know why the hell that happened. The editing was so choppy that it was hard to focus on anything but so much cool stuff happened that I really don't care. The movie has cut to Shia LeBeouf's Sam character and his parents.

08:00 -- Sam's endless arguments with his parents are just as exciting now as they were in the first movie. I hope at least half this movie is about Sam's conflicts with his parents.

09:45 -- Megan Fox is on now half dressed and provocatively bending over stuff. In a dramatic break from the first film, however, this time we're seeing her bend over from the back instead of the front. Not many actresses are versatile enough to pull this off. I wonder if she even knew Michael Bay was shooting her from that angle. I bet she didn't. If she had, she certainly would've tried to be a bit more modest instead of arching her back and sticking her ass up the way she is. Poor Megan Fox!

11:00 -- I must not be paying attention cause I don't know what the hell is going on. This is clearly my fault and not Michael Bay's.

12:00 -- Oh no, the usher saw my phone. I told him my mom was on life support and wanted me to send her messages about the movie. He either bought it or went to get the manager.

13:30 -- Shia LeBeouf is mumbling a bunch of nonsense now about alien equations in his head. I don't get it. This writing must be so deep that it's going right over my head. Why do you even care about this stuff when giant robots are your buddies and Megan Fox is your girlfriend?

15:00 -- Damn, they're throwing me out. Stuff just started blowing up again too. I don't know why but does it matter?

Well, there you have it. Sorry I couldn't be more complete but you wouldn't have wanted me to spoil the whole movie anyway. I think you'll agree with me that all those one star reviews are wrong and that Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen will be the coolest movie ever. Hope to see you there.

(It's too bad I can't actually see this until Friday. I can't wait to see how much of the stuff I made up is actually in the movie.)

Monday, June 22, 2009

Bizarro Movie

The Proposal had all the elements required by a horrible movie. First, it's a comedy made by a major studio and most of those end up being written by a vast committee of mostly unfunny people. Second, the plot involves Sandra Bullock playing a sophisticated, successful intelligent woman who somehow got to her early 40s knowing nothing about men or romance. Third, it has Ryan Reynolds, a talented, likable actor who for the most part makes crappy, unlikable movies. So, how did The Proposal end up being fairly decent? Mainly, it's actually funny. Oh, it's not a great movie. The best word to describe it is pleasant. The plot is beyond predictable. I had the whole thing mapped out just from the advertising. However, the script was filled with funny lines and the actors delivered them in just the right way. There are even memorable scenes like when Sandra Bullock is trapped naked in a bathroom by a small white puppy (yes, you read that right).

The movie opens in a New York publishing firm in which Bullock's Margaret Tate character works as Executive Editor. Reynolds plays Andrew Paxton, Margaret's assistant. Margaret is feared by an office staff that always collectively put their heads down and at least pretend to work when she arrives, hoping not to draw her ire. Andrew basically lives as Margaret's slave in hopes that she will someday promote him to Editor. One day, Margaret's bosses call her up to their office and that's where we discover that Margaret the intelligent and competent editor and manager, is also Margaret the blithering idiot. It turns out that she's a Canadian citizen here on a work visa and she's about to be deported due to the fact that she thoroughly neglected various immigration processes. It's important to point out that, had she treated this aspect of her life with the ruthless focus and competence that she applies to every other aspect of her life, she wouldn't have had a problem but there also wouldn't have been a movie.

Margaret's life turns into a cliched sitcom plot when she gets the idea to marry Andrew so she can stay in the country. Andrew agrees when she promises to give him his long wanted promotion to editor and publish a book he wrote. This perfect plan quickly starts to fall apart when they encounter a zealous immigration official played by Denis O'Hare. Margaret and Andrew are hampered by the fact that this guy isn't radically stupid and is skeptical that a Margaret suddenly announces an engagement to an American citizen days before she's due to be deported. To pull off the charade, Margaret must now accompany Andrew on a planned visit to his family in Alaska to celebrate his grandmother's 90th birthday.

One of the other reasons this movie works as well as it does is that they hired veteran comic actors to play the supporting roles. Craig T. Nelson and Mary Steenburgen play Andrew's parents and Betty White plays his Grammy Ann. The Office cast member Oscar Nuñez also shows up as Ramone, a very funny jack of all trades (he works as a waiter, shop keep, exotic dancer and even officiates weddings). The movie from here on is basically a series of episodes, some of them quite amusing like when Margaret doesn't take seriously a warning to keep the family dog inside so it doesn't get snatched up by eagles or when Grammy Ann invite Margaret to chant with her in a Native American nature ritual and Margaret ends up doing gangsta rap.

I often worry about spoiling too much of a plot but that worry doesn't exist here. I can't imagine anyone even vaguely familiar with romantic comedies to be surprised by any element of the plot. The movie works because it has a few big laughs and several smaller chuckles. It didn't really need anything else. I doubt I'll remember it though I might a year from now when I'm watching its inferior ripoffs and quietly longing for The Proposal.

Friday, June 19, 2009


The Proposal is getting good reviews. I'm going to be really really really annoyed if it ends up being a hit because that means there will be way more movies just like The Proposal and there's no way in hell those movies will be good. I consider this to be proof of...well, I'm sure it's proof of something.

Have a nice weekend.

Stupid Human Tricks

Today's post exists because I want to say just one thing. Before I can say that, I must say all of this:

Our story so far: talk show host David Letterman told a joke about Alaska Governor Sarah Palin's attendance of a Yankee game, specifically saying that, during the seventh inning, "...her daughter was knocked up by Alex Rodriguez." Unbeknownst to Letterman, the daughter was not her daughter Bristol, the 18 year old unwed mother. It her other other daughter Willow, the 14 year who will certainly never be an unwed mother since she's being taught the same abstinence only/no birth control policies as her older sister was. This caused Palin and her political allies to accuse David Letterman of making a joke about the statutory rape of 14 year old Willow Palin.

It was obvious to anyone who's not a complete doofus that Letterman was referring to the 18 year old who's already squeezed out one kid and not the 14 year old Willow. The fact that you have to NOT be a complete doofus explains why Sarah Palin and her allies accused Letterman of making a child molestation joke.

Speaking of complete doofuses, the best example of this attitude comes, of course, from Big Hollywood's conservative film critic and amateur Palin humper John Nolte. He actually declared victory on Palin's behalf based on an interview she did with Today Show's Matt Lauer.
From the looks of this interview, She Who Strikes Terror In Leftist Hearts wants to turn the unsavory affair around into a push back against all of pop culture, which is certain to resonate, especially if we keep pushing back. Just compare the bitter, sour, twilight-of-his-increasingly-pathetic-career Letterman to this intelligent, poised, cheerful, vibrant woman with her horizons still open to everything. It’s kind of a no contest.
He said this despite Palin's absurd allegations during the interview that she would have to make sure not to leave Letterman alone with her daughter. When Lauer directly asked if she was accusing David Letterman of being a child molester, she weaseled out (I assume because she's a weasel) by saying more than once, "You can take that any way you want."

The whole issue culminated this week with a protest outside of Letterman's studio organized by professional Palin humper John Ziegler's newly formed website Firedavidletterman.com.

This whole incident shows us why Sarah Palin will never be President. It was liberal blogger Kevin Drum who congratulated Palin on her political instincts because she had manipulated and excited her base. Drum has it backwards though. Palin did the exact opposite of what she should have done. Sure, she excited her base. That's easy. Sarah Palin is loved by the segment of the population that think we should have a nuclear war because that will make Jesus come back but her problem is that she is loathed by pretty much everyone else. A good first step toward rectifying this problem would have been to go on Letterman's show, congenially scold him for his poor taste and do a couple of funny bits with him to endear herself to Letterman's audience. Instead, she and her fellow goobers adopted a scorched-earth policy.

So, how'd all this work out?

Remember that "huge" protest that Firedavidletterman.com threw? It was attended by 15 people. There were literally twice as many journalists covering the event as there were protesters. Unforunately for this small number of protesters, they didn't realize they were idiots and allowed themselves to be videotaped.

One woman asked how Letterman could make a joke like that when he has a daughter out of wedlock which should come as interesting news to Letterman's only child, his son, Harry. We also got to hear this woman showing us all how she is so much classier than David Letterman.
"How dare he?" asked yet a third, the most offensive of all. "When he has a bastard son, and a slut for a wife" (Letterman's wife Lasko has kept a notoriously low profile).
Offensive comments aside, this stupid, stupid woman actually compared two financially secure mature adults in a long term committed relationship (they've since gotten married) choosing to have a baby to a teenage girl who believed her boyfriend when he said she wouldn't get pregnant if they did it standing up. It also seems to have slipped her mind that Bristol Palin would easily qualify for "slut" status under her loose definition of the word. My personal favorite quote is the woman who shrieked at the top of her lungs, "HE'LL RAPE YOU WITH HIS MOUTH!" That really does project Take Me Seriously to the whole world.

Also, most importantly, since this all started Letterman's ratings actually went up by 700,000 people. So, with all that in mind, here is what I wanted to say. To Sarah Palin, John Nolte, Firedavidletterman.com, the right wing blogosphere and all the mini-brained douchebags who decided to embarrass themselves by showing up outside of Letterman's studio:


Thursday, June 18, 2009

Look At My Briefs -- 6/18/09

And now, I present another edition of short subjects I like to call Look At My Briefs.

I've been saying for years (mainly to the squirrels outside my window) that I'd like to see the makers of James Bond films bring back Bond's arch enemy Ernst Stavro Blofeld. Blofeld was the head of SPECTRE, one of those mega hugely powerful evil guy organizations that were always trying to conquer the world. Exactly how groups like this take over usually isn't dealt with. Blofeld's basic plan, as I recall, was to sit around and see who won the Cold War and then do battle with whoever was left. I wonder if this means Blofeld took over in the mid 90s. That would explain a lot.

Anyway, it looks like my wish is coming true and that Michael Sheen may be playing the colorful villain with a white cat who lives in a hollowed out volcano. Please note that I restrained myself from saying, "...colorful villain who likes to stroke a pussy." I could not, however, restrain myself from commenting on that fact. I have issues.


This actually makes me feel sorry for the makers of Land of the Lost. I just hope this doesn't discourage other filmmakers and movie studios from taking beloved, serious science fiction properties and remaking them as lame comedies.


Good idea. This can't possibly fail.


As long as I'm linking to MTV Movies Blog, they also quote from an interview with Shia LeBeouf in which he comments on the upcoming Tranformers sequel by saying, "This is escapism. This is a fun movie." For those of you unfamiliar with Hollywood-speak, statements like that are said when you've just made some big, high concept action-adventure film that is so horrible and unbelievably stupid that your association with it causes people to question your sanity. The most common defense in cases like this is to accuse the movie's critics of being major league tightasses who only like Jane Austen adaptations and thus could never, ever like movies made for regular folks. The insanely bad movie in question is often quaintly described, as LeBeouf did, as fun or escapist. Other descriptive examples are a cartoon, a popcorn movie or something that brings out your inner child and DAMMIT MAKES YOU SMILE AGAIN.

I'm sure none of this applies to LeBeouf or Transformers, of course, and I think I now owe Michael Bay another apology.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

An Apology To Michael Bay

I apologize. I really do. I've been very hard on you and have often held you up as a symbol of all that is wrong with the movie business. I've always concentrated on what you've done wrong and not on the positive aspects of your work. For instance, even while laughing and groaning at the absurdities of Armageddon, there were some decent action sequences. The first part of The Island had a cool, creepy atmosphere and some provocative ideas. Transformers had Megan Fox bending over that car, a scene that should have won it the Palme d'Or at Cannes. Yet, even with all that, I have done nothing but trash you and have never recognized that, on your worst day, you never made anything like this:

Jesus H. Fucking Christ on a fucking pogo stick. Fuck. I mean...FUCK!!! I've seen loads of science fiction that has no respect for science but this has no respect for reality.
"If the electromagnetic energy is powerful enough, it will override local gravity."

Huh? WHAT THE HELL DOES THAT MEAN? Apparently, it means that people and objects will start floating but only specific people and objects at dramatically convenient times.
Hot scientist: "The Moon will impact Earth will impact Earth in 39 days."
President: "What happens to Earth?"

What the hell do you think happens to Earth, you twit?
A chunk of brown dwarf is still stuck in the Moon.
Aren't brown dwarfs made out of gas? A chunk of GAS is stuck in the Moon? Okay, very dense gas that somehow survived IMPACT WITH THE FUCKING MOON without dissipating has now lodged itself in the Moon like beef in a fat guy's colon. How do we fix this problem. Well, this is a Grade B piece of sci-fi crap which means we now nuke the damn Moon.

Impact has all the bad elements of one of your movies, Mr, Bay, without any of the stuff that makes your movies watchable. No top level actors like Bruce Willis or Scarlett Johannson. No movie-sized budget that will at least give the movie a fun video game quality. No super sexy girls bending over cars. All we're left with is TV movie silliness and an endless list of questions.

So Mr. Bay, I apologize. I will try to look at your work in a new light and, if I end up hating the new Transformers film, I will make sure to say a quiet prayer of thanks that at least it wasn't Impact.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Brief Proposal

I have little time to write today but I did want to say how I was intrigued I was to read some of the advance reviews for the new Sandra Bullock comedy The Proposal. Basically, they all say that it's as good as a movie that totally sucks can possibly be. If you haven't seen the trailer, the plot centers around Sandra Bullock's character, a highly placed bitch-on-wheels executive at some generic corporation and her assistant played by Ryan Reynolds. She's not a citizen and is about to be deported back to the foreign hellhole from which she came (Canada) unless she does something not-at-all suspicious like suddenly announce her engagement to her poor, put-upon assistant. They go to visit his quirky Alaskan family and if you can't figure out every moment of the movie after that then any explanation from me won't help.

Reviews like this one from Louise Keller are typical:
It's contrived and predictable, formulaic and derivative, yet The Proposal has its own charm. Star charisma is part of it, but there's an interesting dynamic between the two leads. The set up is fun, too.
The only thing that really sticks out in my memory from the trailer is when Ryan Reynolds must suddenly jump into bed with Sandra Bullock and she, a woman in her 40s, seems utterly shocked not only by his morning erection but by the very existence of erections in the first place.

Not holding out much hope.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Look, tony Scott is Directing

Oddly, I have never seen the original 1974 version of The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3. It sounds like my kind of movie too so I should probably get around to it one of these days. I do feel that not having seen the original gives me an advantage in reviewing this new version. I wasn't burdened with having to compare what many consider to be at least a minor classic with what I was seeing now.

For instance, I doubt the 1974 version was shot in what I like to call Tony-Scott-Acid-Trip Vision. Those of you familiar with the work of director Tony Scott know exactly what I'm talking about. Tony Scott loves to crank his movies up to 11 with loud music and a frenetic visual style that makes you think the projector in your theater must be skipping. Intelligence and cohesive storytelling are often sacrificed at the altar of Scott-style atmosphere and this movie is no exception. On the plus side, Tony Scott is capable of making great action sequences as well as having the ability to get actors to turn in some of the best work of their careers. Maybe that's why he's been able to convince Denzel Washington to work with him for the fourth time.

Washington plays Walter Garber, a highly placed member of the New York City Transit Authority who, for mysterious reasons, has been temporarily demoted to dispatching subway trains. This is bad luck for him as a man who only calls himself Ryder and his team of criminals decide to pick his shift to competently execute a well thought out plan to hijack the Pelham 123 train and hold the passengers for a $10 million ransom. Even more unfortunate for him is that Ryder is played by John Travolta which means that Ryder will behave in an overwrought and flamboyantly dramatic manner. Travolta's penchant for overacting isn't necessarily a bad thing and actually works pretty well here. As I said, Tony Scott really knows how to use an actor's strengths and get them to do their best work.

As I also said, Scott doesn't seem to care if his stories make sense which means you get scenes like Garber being ordered out of the building by the supervisor who dislikes him even though he has been invaluable up until that point in the hostage situation. You also get the Mayor of New York (James Gandolfini) acting calm and jovial despite the fact that he's just been told that New York may be facing yet another act of terrorism.

Anyway, the story is mostly driven by Ryder's fixation on Garber and his desire to only deal with him and not John Turturro's professional hostage negotiator character. In classic movie fashion, the villain comes to say things like, "We're not really so different," to the hero which is never true, of course. It's like a fat guy telling a thin guy that they weigh the same. Still, screenwriters love to give dialogue like that to hammy, over-the-top villains and I imagine I'll be hearing it several more times before the summer is out whether it be Transformers 2, the G.I. Joe movie or a new sequel to Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants. Ryder eventually makes the demand that Garber personally deliver the ransom money. Would it surprise anyone that this is both part of his ingenious escape plan and also leads to his undoing?

Pelham isn't a bad movie. It's watchable, I suppose. There's just nothing really extraordinary about it. I think the movie's flaws can be traced back to Tony Scott's distracting and seizure inducing direction. A thriller like this is never going to be believable but if the movie is put together with clockwork precision then you can completely forget that fact and just enjoy the ride. However, if you end up with someone life Scott who has to constantly announce to the world, "Lookie lookie at these visual effects while loud hip hop comes blaring through your theater's speakers," then you tend to get pulled back into reality and that's the last place you should be.

Oh well, the new Michael Bay movie is coming out in two weeks. I'm sure that particular exercise in Attention Deficit inducement will make this look good by comparison.

Friday, June 12, 2009


It's been a while since conservative movie site Big Hollywood did anything that sustained my attention. They've mainly been splitting their time defending Carrie Prejean for making a controversial right wing statement and condemning Megan Fox for making a controversial left wing statement. I've complained before about the fact that it only took a few months for them to become a major yawnfest but, occasionally, they do get a bit of the old spark back and it seems like no one is sparkier than S.T. Karnick.

Karnick was last profiled here when he expressed his view that the CBS show The Eleventh Hour was the most awesomely conservativiest ever. Unfortunately for Karnick, the show has since been canceled due to liberally biased television ratings. Now that Eleventh Hour can no longer be a stepping stone toward conservative ascendancy, Karnick has focused on another mediocre entertainment product headed toward financial failure, Land of the Lost.

Did you think that Land of the Lost was a below-average comedic vehicle for Will Farrell's manic shouting? Shows what you know. Turns out it's actually a damning indictment of people who listen to those uppity, full-of-themselves scientists who try to fool people with their fancy-pants "evidence" into rejecting the conservative view of the world.
Moreover, there is actually a very good, important, and timely thought in Land of the Lost. In a very amusing way, the film satirizes the current-day perversion of science in which claims of consensus are used as a blunt instrument to shout down opposing ideas.
In the movie, Will Farrell's character develops a theory that he claims will allow him to travel through time and space to another dimension. The problem was that he couldn't prove it which led to a brutally skeptical interview with Matt Lauer (playing himself) and a loss of status due partly to his theories and partly due to his childish antics (like attacking Lauer on live television).
Lauer’s reaction perfectly represents the media’s reaction toward, say, those who claim that the scientific evidence shows that anthropogenic global warming is not occurring and the current temperature trends of the earth show the very opposite of a crisis. Instead of actually engaging the scientific evidence, the media whores simply claim that all reputable scientists agree that there’s a crisis requiring the absolute destruction of Americans’ civil and economic liberties, and that anyone who disagrees with that premise is the equivalent of a Holocaust denier.
And so we see how seriously the views of S.T. Karnick should be taken. As many global warming deniers do, he blames the premise on an international cabal of scientists seeking to use environmental regulation to impose some sort of one-world government on the planet and destroy, "Americans' civil and economic liberties." I'm not sure which liberties he's talking about. Economic liberties went bye bye after the previous administration allowed money lenders to run naked and crazy through the streets and conservatives still argue that the only way to preserve our freedom is to allow the government to do warrantless wiretapping.

Karnick goes on for several paragraphs bitching about society's greatest enemy, that being Scientific Consensus. Scientific Consensus is seen by him as something liberals use to make conservatives look stupid. He proves his point by making stuff up, like saying that the United Nations' International Panel on Climate Change report was written by politicians and not scientists. I guess he means politicians like this guy, or maybe this gentleman or maybe this Australian fellow. He doesn't present any evidence for this other than climate denial platitudes he reads on right wing websites other than a link to a report that's been thoroughly debunked.

And he got all that from Land of the Lost. Seriously, excellent indication that your life has not gone well is when you are taking life lessons from Land of the Fucking Lost. This is another example of a conservative like Karnick who can't stand the fact that real life keeps proving his core beliefs to be wrong so he looks for a comforting alternative to reality. In his mind, he has gone back in time and shot red matter at the Earth in order to start up a new, alternate timeline* in which global warming is a sinister conspiracy undone by the brave work of one S.T. Karnick. A grateful world gets Angelina Jolie, Kate Beckinsale and Scarlett Johannson to fight in Thunderdome** to see who gets the right to screw him first as a reward.

This is the second time that S.T. Karnick has held up a work of fiction as a fine example of conservative values only to have it fail shortly afterward. I'm really hoping he thinks that Transformers 2 has a hidden lesson about tax cuts increasing revenues so that he can give it one of his patented tongue baths and have it go down in flames too.

*Notice how I pick better movies than Karnick does for my analogies.

**Did it again.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Look At My Briefs--6/10/09

Short comments on various subjects are something I, and pretty much the entire internet, do all the time. However, I never had a name for it until today. Last time, I called it "Look At My Briefs" and now you can all tell your grandkids that you were here the day I announced that I will be using this as the official title of, well, this and will be doing so long after everyone is sick of it.


Did Fox hype the fact that David Carradine was on this week's episode of their dumb doctor show Mental? You'd think they'd have promoted the ever lovin' crap out of this fact but I didn't find out until the day after when I read this. Maybe they thought it was in poor taste to exploit a man who died so recently or maybe they're just certifiably brain damaged idiots who don't think of things like letting people know that a beloved actor who recently died will be on their network and that it would make Carradine shed a tear in the afterlife if they didn't watch it. Or maybe they did and I just missed it. I'm guessing a mix of all three.


Here's some good news. Plans to make a new Alien movie may have hit a snag since the studio wants Ridley Scott, director of the first film, to direct this one too. Scott, on the other hand, wants an unknown director of German commercials to pick up the reins. Scott feels that Carl Erik Rinsch, a name you may recognize as the villain in every single ripoff of Die Hard, is fully qualified to step in and be in charge of a project of this magnitude because A) his commercials are known for their avant-garde visual style and B) Rinsch is supposedly dating Scott's daughter. With credentials like that, you can understand why Alien fans are justified in their skepticism for this new project and would love to see it die.


I love Doctor Who. It's certainly the best science fiction show ever made. Even back in the 70s when the effects and costumes were somewhat cheesy, Doctor Who stood above the likes of Star Trek. For the last five years, new episodes of Doctor Who are the one thing on television I don't miss. With all that said, if, for any reason, I ask my family to do for me what this guy's family did for him, I really hope they ignore me.


Dear Internet,

When referencing Rob Cohen's new movie Medieval, please note that President Obama just this morning signed into law a bill that forbids anyone to use the phrase "ROB COHEN GETS MEDIEVAL ON YOUR ASS" when discussing it. Seriously, this is the third time today I've seen this and it's already old.

Sincerely Yours,
Mike Clear

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Lost In Time And Lost In Space...And Meaning

I am not a pop culture purist which is why I'm able to enjoy films like the new Star Trek for what they are rather than completely losing it and feeling that the change in the timeline and the fact that Kirk now has a 2009 haircut are the absolute worst things ever and were clearly part of a conspiracy against me.

Which brings me to Land of the Lost. I'm not a Land of the Lost TV show fanatic but I do have good memories of it. While it was basically an adventure show for kids, it was also intelligent and provocative enough to appeal to older fans of serious science fiction. That's not surprising considering it included writers like David Gerrold and Larry Niven. The new movie version of Land of the Lost that came out this week is anything but serious science fiction. It is a comedy with high concept special effects. This brings me to my point: I don't mind this at all. Oh sure, I'll approach this new product with a high degree of skepticism and wonder ahead of time how it will measure up to the original, but if they want to make it a comedy, all I ask is that they make it a funny and entertaining comedy. So, was it?

Wellllllllll...sometimes. There were some very funny moments AND there were some very unfunny moments. The lead character is Dr. Rick Marshall, a physicist whose theories of traveling to alternate dimensions have long since made him a laughing stock in the scientific community. Marshall is what you might describe as a Will Farrell Character. This would be a type of character that Will Farrell often plays who is something of an idiot savant. He excels and performs at a genius level on one particular area of life but fails utterly at just about everything else. Luckily, Will Farrell was available to play this Will Farrell role so that worked out.

Rick Marshall has been reduced to teaching grade school science where even his 4th grade class feels free to call his theories stupid. However, he still has one believer in the form of fellow physicist Holly Cantrell (Anna Friel) who convinces him to take some sort of time/space transporting thing that Marshall has invented (which basically looks like a couple of batteries tied to a wave detector, probably because that's what it was) on an expedition to an area of the country known for...oh God I don't know...some kind of science fictiony stuff.

This is where we meet Will Stanton (Danny McBride), a redneck survivalist type who gives tours of a cave known for strange occurrences. If you're thinking, "Hey, weren't Will and Holly the names of Rick Marshall's teenage children in the television show?" you would be correct. Now, Marshall's son is a crude, low brow survivalist and his daughter is a hot scientist with whom he wants to have sex. Got that? Let's move on.

Marshall's dumb looking machine actually works and opens a rift in space/time that plunges them into...THE LAND OF THE LOST. Old stuff from the TV show is now incorporated into this new movie, such as the monkey-man Cha-Ka, Grumpy the T-Rex and the race of lizard men known as the Sleestaks. However, all these things now exist for comic effect. Due to a miscommunication, Cha-Ka routinely grabs Holly's breasts and also serves as a foil for Marshall's manic personality. Grumpy, who seems to have a rudimentary understanding on English, actually takes offense when Marshall ridicules the intelligence of the T-Rex. The barbaric Sleestaks can't decide whether they're mindless killers or part of an ancient society (in their defense, there is a point in the movie where they fall under the control of a mad scientist).

The rest of the plot isn't worth discussing as it merely serves as a framework for jokes. So, are there enough funny jokes to make this movie worth seeing? It really depends on the individual. I did laugh quite a bit but not enough to recommend the movie. Yes, surprisingly, Will Farrell's humor based on socially inappropriate behavior and frequent manic outbursts actually got old. However, the three teenage boys sitting behind me seemed to be having a good time all the way to the end. However, I think that particular audience would have a better time going to see The Hangover and they must have agreed since that movie made about twice the money this one did last weekend.

So, Land of the Lost isn't as bad as I had heard but it's not that great. I just wish the producers hadn't destroyed my childhood by completely changing everything...oh damn, now they've got me doing it.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Let's Get This Over With

Our story so far: In August 2008, I first heard of a movie called An American Carol about which I wrote several times. Long story short, this David Zucker directed comedy was supposed to herald a new era of conservative dominance over the movie industry and turn Hollywood into the West Coast annex of the RNC. The one flaw in this perfect plan was that, as time went by, word started getting out that the movie was on an epic level of bad. The movie's inarguable box office failure sparked some hilarious conservative conspiracy theories and buried hopes of making a series of overtly conservative films for several generations. That was pretty much that except for one nagging little detail. Despite my intention to do so, I had never gotten around to seeing the movie I had spent so much time trashing. I decided that no way in Hell was I going to plunk down the nine dollar theater price but, when it came out on DVD, I always managed to find different movies I wanted in my Netflix queue. "Oh look, Hannah Montana--Season 1 just came out, guess Carol has to wait till next week," is something I would typically say. It looked as if I would never actually get around to watching it.

Until now. Until I discovered that Netflix had it available for streaming which made me think on a lazy Saturday afternoon, "Why not?" so I microwaved some popcorn, clicked the PLAY button under the movie's icon and prepared to see if I was wrong.

An American Carol is bad. Showgirls bad. Bride Wars bad. As bad as fetish videos of women who stomp grape jam with their feet are for people who don't have that particular fetish. I know, I know, you're thinking, "How could the 8 millionth rip-off of the Scrooge story directed by David Zucker whose last good comedy, The Naked Gun, came out 20 years ago possibly be bad?" That should have been the first clue for the movie's investors. They should have thought that when Zucker pitched them the movie, said, "Oops, we forgot our checkbooks," run out of their so fast that they left Road Runner clouds behind them and had someone call Zucker later on to tell him that they had died. Instead, they agreed to finance this movie and, as a result, now have jobs where they pleasure anonymous men on the street for three dollars.

The movie opens with a shot of the title superimposed over an American flag and pans down to the ideal conservative world: a neighborhood street fair where the sun is shining, kids are playing and no one is black save for one old woman who gets hit in the face with a Frisbee in a moment that is both the movie's first attempt at humor and the movie's first failed attempt at humor. We see good old Leslie Nielsen playing the same role he's been playing for Zucker since Airplane. This time around, he's making some burgers for the kids which, in the movie's second failed attempt at humor, inexplicably taste horrible. I can't figure that out as barbecued hamburgers are tough to screw up. I also can't figure out why this was thought by anyone to be funny. Anyway, Nielsen gathers the kids around and tells them the Scrooge ripoff story which is the actual plot of the movie.

Middle Eastern terrorists led by Aziz (played by outspoken conservative Robert Davi who now gets to add this to a resume to such stellar films as The Hot Chick, Call Me: The Rise and Fall of Heidi Fleiss and, his magnum opus, Showgirls) decide that they need a professional movie maker to help them with their efforts to recruit suicide bombers. They need someone who hates America and that leads them to Michael Malone (Kevin Farley). That's his name in the movie, anyway, but he's really a conservative caricature of Michael Moore.

Hey, did you know that Michael Moore was fat? No, seriously, he's really fat. Also, did you know that fat jokes about Michael Moore never, ever get old? That's the opinion of this movie, anyway. Ha ha, a mouse pooped on a pizza and he ate it. Oh, a twinkie was smashed against the wall and he ate it anyway. Are your sides hurting from laughter yet? If not, I'm sure one of the 8000 other "Michael Moore is fat" jokes will make you chuckle. Anyway, the fat guy, in addition to making movies with titles like Die You American Pigs (seriously), also heads up an anti-American organization called Moovealong.org which is trying to abolish the 4th of July. In a callback to A Christmas Carol, Malone is visited by his nephew that has recently joined the Navy who invites him to celebrate 4th of July with him before he ships out to Iraq. Ignoring the Scrooge story parallels in his life, he goes home for his nightly gorging and is confronted by the ghost of John F. Kennedy who tells him that he will be confronted by three spirits to help him atone and realize how awesome America is because it fights needless wars against non-whites.

The first ghost he meets is George Patton (Kelsey Grammer) who helps Malone up after he gets trampled by a crowd (something that also happens a lot and, like fat jokes, apparently isn't supposed to get old). Patton takes him back in time to a World War II peace protest which, for some reason, is supposed to convince Malone that peace is bad. Or something. When Malone is informed that the people here cannot see him, he tries to fondle a woman's breasts and gets slapped (oh yeah, he also gets slapped endlessly, another example of the movie's Doctrine Of Repeating Jokes Endlessly). Patton then takes him to the 60s and that's where this plot recap ends. I think it was around the 40 minute mark that I decided life was too short to waste another second of it on this crap and turned the movie off. Maybe Zucker was saving all the funny jokes for the last half. If he did, I will never know.

So why did this movie so spectacularly fail? Very simply, it wasn't funny. I think I laughed three times (like when terrorist leader Aziz ends up blowing up his own car) in the 40 minutes I watched it, not good for a movie that had about one joke per minute. Thing is, Zucker and crew wouldn't have made this movie if they didn't think it was funny. The only reason anyone could have found any of this garbage to be funny is summed up by Filmcritic.com's Bill Gibron who said:
Just too insular to be engaging.
A lot of this stuff probably is hilarious to people who live on a steady diet of right wing radio, Fox News and conservative blogs. It has been pointed out in several places lately that conservatives have created their own insular mythology and have forgotten that outsiders have no idea what they're talking about when they reference that mythology. I predict it is only a matter of time before you turn on Fox News and see this:
Good evening all, I'm Chris Wallace. At the top of the news tonight, Darmok and Jalad at Tanagra. Also, Shaka, when the walls fell. Fred Barnes, any thoughts?
With that in mind, I must amend my previous observation: The biggest problem with An American Carol was that it was funny to David Zucker and a very slim portion of the population, but no one else. I can see Zucker opening up Final Draft and wetting himself with laughter as he wrote yet another "Michael Moore is a big talentless fatass who hates America and loves terrorists" joke and then sent the script out to fellow hardcore conservatives who gave him positive feedback and validation. It simply never occurred to any of them that the bulk of the movie going public would disagree with them.

And so, I'm finally done with An American Carol. If it is ever mentioned here again, it will almost certainly be in the context of, "This movie was as bad as An American Carol," a statement I can now make with authority.

Monday, June 8, 2009

How's It Hanging?

The Hangover is one of those movies described as "the sleeper hit of the summer" because it's so dull that it puts people to sleep.
I love that line. It was how I had planned to open this review of The Hangover before I saw it and simply assumed it was going to suck. Since I ended up liking it, I was unable to use it. Except I did use it so SUCK ON THAT, LOSERS! (Please note that the previous remark was directed only at those of you who are losers. If you are a winner, please do not suck on anything.)

The plot is very simple and exists mainly as a clothesline upon which numerous funny adventures can be hung. Doug (Justin Bartha) is getting married so he and three buddies head to Vegas for his bachelor party. These three buddies include Phil (Bradley Cooper), his somewhat amoral friend who finances his part of the trip by literally stealing money from the kids he teaches. Also, there's Stu (Ed Helms) who is made by Phil to feel ashamed of the fact that he's a dentist and "not a real doctor" and is possibly the most whipped guy ever. He lies to his controlling, shrewish girlfriend Melissa (fellow Daily Show alum Rachael Harris) and says that the bachelor party will actually be taking place in Napa Valley's Wine Country. What truly highlights the pathetic state of Stu's life is that Melissa once cheated on him and he actually defends her by saying that the guy, "never came inside her." Finally, you have Alan (comedian Zack Galifianakis), Doug's soon-to-be brother-in-law who is both crude and at least a little bit insane.

With a cast that is equal parts wacky and zany, the stage is set for wacky zaniness. If there's one lesson this movie has to teach, it's "Don't drink heavily even two days before your wedding" and proves it by showing them taking their first drink and cutting to the next morning. As they come to from their drink-and-drug induced coma, they discover that their room is in shambles and, somehow, there is now a tiger in their bathroom. Stu is missing a tooth and, most importantly, Doug, the groom, is nowhere to be found. Oops, almost forgot, there's a baby in their closet. Thus, their epic Heroes Journey begins as they search for leads to find Doug and get him back to Los Angeles in time for his wedding.

One of the first things they discover is that they've also lost track of the precious Mercedes that Alan's father lent them for the trip and that they have somehow procured a police car. A lead takes them to one of the many wedding chapels in Las Vegas where Stu discovers that he got married to a stripper played by Heather Graham, a woman who has so utterly mastered the role of a woman who makes a living by taking off her clothes that she could teach a class on the subject. It turns out that the baby is hers so that's one mystery solved but still no sign of Doug.

Other adventures include a naked Chinese man in their trunk, a meeting with Mike Tyson, and the discovery that Alan can do Rain Man style card counting all of which adds up to a very funny movie.

I was very, very skeptical about this going in as the trailer didn't make me laugh like it should have. It also had three strikes against it in the form of director Todd Phillips whose best previous effort was the very uneven Old School and writers Jon Lucas and Scott Moore whose two previous efforts were the stupid Four Christmases and the godawful Ghosts of Girlfriends Past. Perhaps taking people who had previously made bad movies and combining their talents like this is a new winning formula. Oh, what a winning formula it was. This movie with no stars made more than twice the money as Will Farrell's big special effects film Land of the Lost, another movie that I am currently assuming will suck. I'm betting my assumptions will be closer to reality this time around.

To put it simply, if you're not put off by low brow comedy, you'll probably like The Hangover. This was the perfect antidote to An American Carol which I had watched earlier in the day (more about that this week) and it had sucked all the joy out of my life. The Hangover undid Carol's efforts to destroy my soul and for that, I'll always be grateful.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Things I've Learned From Watching Movies Part 70

If you are ever planning to hijack a New York City subway car, you'd best be certain that Denzel Washington isn't on duty that day at the Transit Authority. (This also applies if Bruce Willis, Keanu Reeves or pretty much anyone who has ever headlined a movie happens to have that job.)

Friday, June 5, 2009

If It's Friday...

...then it's once again time to check the Tomatometer.

First up, we have The Hangover. Currently this little comedy is #1 among major releases at 81%. It stars a group of people you've barely heard of and directed by Todd Phillips. In the ads, you'll notice they brag that he directed Old School but make no mention of his last movie, School For Scoundrels. That's because the second one was something that I, an obsessive movie buff, had to look up just so I could remember how much it sucked. Still, I like the ads and the critics have nice things to say so I shall set my mind to the "Open" position.

Up next, we have My Life In Ruins. This was made by Nia Vardalos, the woman who surprised us many years ago with the surprise hit My Big Fat Greek Wedding. The charming, funny movie was the type of film that made people go back for multiple viewings. She surprised moviegoers again with a movie called Connie and Carla in which she and Toni Collette pretended to be drag queens. People who like Wedding were expecting this to be good and were surprised when it had the entertainment value of something you wipe off your shoe. Based on that, the fact that My Life In Ruins currently has a 7% rating should come as no surprise. I know, I too am shocked especially since Nia Vardalos is breaking new ground with her story of a middle aged woman who can't find a man only to discover that the perfect man was right there all along. Still, congratulations are in order. The makers of My Life In Ruins can take some comfort for the fact that theirs is not the worst movie coming out this week.

That honor belongs to Land of the Lost which, as of this writing, has a good, solid 5% rating. Wow. I didn't have high hopes but I figured it would at least have a few saving graces. You know, things like decent special effects coupled with jokes in the right places and OH MY GOD you will never believe this. I just checked the page again and Land of the Lost has skyrocketed to a staggering 10%. At this rate, they'll be up to 17 or 18 by the weekend. I guess that's the good thing about starting at the bottom. There's no place to go but up. Oh, My Life In Ruins? You're shit out of luck.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

How Weary, Stale, Flat and Unprofitable

Wow, first some Hollywood genius comes up with Where's Waldo -- The Movie and today we have ANOTHER great, can't-miss idea. You all know Hamlet, right? Melancholy Dane? His dad's ghost wanted him to avenge his death? Spoke in cliches? Yeah, that Hamlet. Four hundred years after it was written, it is still considered to be one of the greatest works of art that the English speaking world has ever produced. To this day all aspects of Shakespeare's play are studied and debated. Why did Hamlet hesitate to avenge his father's murder? Why did Ophelia kill herself? Was there a time when Hamlet was a happy and contented man? How did Hamlet like his eggs? Poached? Scrambled? There have been memorable movie versions of Hamlet with Laurence Olivier's 1948 rendition generally considered to be the best. Well, turns out there's going to be another one. Not that there's necessarily anything wrong with that. Hamlet has been filmed several times, as I said, and will probably be filmed many more times in the future, barring nuclear war or a zombie outbreak.

Emile Hirsch is set to play the title character. He's a good actor and just might be able to pull off one of the greatest roles ever written. Twilight director Catherine Hardwicke is signed on to helm the film. I'm not a huge fan of hers but I'm reasonably sure she won't give us a makeup wearing Hamlet with glistening skin so that eliminates one worry. So, what is the great, can't-miss idea to which I referred way back in paragraph one? It turns out that Hirsch and Hardwicke have decided that what we've been seeing for the last four centuries is an inferior product and have decided to toss out all of Shakespeare's fruity dialogue. No one in this version will be saying to his son, "Neither a lender nor a borrower be." You won't be hearing, "There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, Than are dreamt of in your philosophy." And, "To be or not to be," will probably now be replaced by, "Um, whoa, bummer."

This is not the first time someone's had the brilliant idea to do this to Shakespeare. Remember the movie O which took the revered Venetian General Othello and made him a high school basketball player? Yeah, neither does anyone else. Oh, what about 10 Things I Hate About You which once again put Shakespeare in a modern high school setting. People know this movie for three reasons:
  1. Like Joe Dirt, it's one of those lame movies that Comedy Central likes to run 20 times a year.
  2. It had Heath Ledger in it.
  3. It really, really sucked.
Let's not forget Scotland, PA...oops, too late, everyone's forgotten it.

Oh well, it's not the first stupid idea the movie industry ever came up with and it certainly won't be the last. Who knows, maybe this new movie will defy the odds and be good (it almost certainly won't, of course, but it's fun to say that). If it does become a hit, it will make it easier for me to make my new movie. It's Julius Caesar retold as a Judd Apatow-style stoner comedy. Instead of, "Et tu, Brute?" my character says, "Dude you stabbed me. Totally lame."

Wednesday, June 3, 2009


You know what would be a great idea? A movie version of Where's Waldo. Especially now about ten years after most people stopped giving a crap about Where's Waldo. Really, this can't fail, especially after the hugely successful screen adaptation of another 90s fad called Magic Eye Poster -- The Movie.

According to Variety, this is exactly what's happening. Not only did Universal Studios go out of its way to acquire the rights for a Where's Waldo movie but...
U and Chris Meledandri's family film unit have acquired screen rights to turn the "Where's Waldo?" book series into a live-action family pic. Deal was worth high-six against seven figures. Meledandri will produce.
I guess all that news you hear about a recession and lean times is a load of utter crap since the only way I can figure that this would be possible is if the bank called Universal and said, "You all have so much money that it's overloaded our vault. You need to spend some of it NOW!"

Quality-wise, this should be on the same scale as movies based on video games and the number of good movies based on video games is exactly none. Hell, video game movies start off with more of a story than Where's Waldo. Even the recent godawful Street Fighter movie had characters and situations at least loosely based on a simplistic video game story. What does Waldo have? He hides in a crowd of colorful characters for some indeterminate reason. Where do you even start from there?

Probably they'll do something lame like Waldo steals some evidence that could put away a local crime boss and has to hide for 90 minutes while they try to get it back. If they really want to make me enthusiastic for this project, they could have Waldo hiding from God. Those damn Waldo posters are always shown from a sky high perspective anyway so it would make sense. They could be one of those lucrative Christian/crossover movies like Passion of the Christ or the porn version Ass-ion of the Christ (very popular among Christians because, though there was loads of graphic sex, they always said afterward that what they did was wrong). Maybe Waldo is jacking off and God tells him that pleasuring yourself is a sin but Waldo doesn't want to hear it so he keeps finding increasingly ingenious hiding places but, in the end, you can't hide from God. In the end, Waldo embraces God's love and promises that, from now, on, he will only have sex with a woman in the missionary position for the purposes of procreation under the holy covenant of marriage.

There you have it, Universal. If you're interested in optioning this idea, just let me know. I also have ideas to make movies about Spuds MacKenzie, the Macarena and all kids of stuff that was popular in the 90s. We'll make a fortune.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

And Speaking Of Lousy Kids Movies

Being entertained by what you see in Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian is comparable to being entertained when you tell a retarded guy to get a can of polka dot paint and laughing your ass off when he comes back saying he can't find it. Only children could be excused for laughing at something like that in the same way that they are the only ones who can't be blamed for liking Night. Everyone else has no excuse.

Night once again follows Larry Daley (Ben Stiller) and his adventures with museum exhibits that magically come to life at night. Since we last saw him, Larry has left the museum and made a fortune making infomercials to sell crap. After not having visited the museum for months, he discovers that the exhibits are being transferred from New York to the Smithsonian Institute but the magic tablet that brings them to life will be staying in New York. This does not sit well with that damn monkey from the first movie who steals the tablet and ends up bringing back to life the Egyptian tyrant Kamunrah (Hank Azaria) who was on display at the Smithsonian.

One of the first things you learn about the Smithsonian in this is that some of the world's most famous and valuable artwork and exhibits on the planet are not guarded by things like alarms and motion detectors. Instead, the Smithsonian's entire security system is a few inept guards who, apparently, don't even work at night. This allows Kamunrah (Hank Azaria who got a few chuckles from me when I realized he was playing a mummy and was imitating Boris Karloff) and his new allies, Genghis Khan, Al Capone and Napoleon to move freely and launch their plans for world domination. Yeah, that's right, WORLD DOMINATION. These guys think that they and their small band of henchmen who can't even go out in the daytime since the tablet only works at night will take over the world. Kamunrah's plan seems to involve using an ancient spell to summon an army of Egyptian spirits. From what I saw, this "army" of birdmen armed with spears could be taken out by one guy with an M-16 but hey, what the hell? Sure, the world is in real danger of being taken over by Kamunrah.

Night isn't all bad. There's a funny scene with Stiller and Jonah Hill playing a douchebag security guard. There's also Amy Adams playing Amelia Earhart and looking damn cute while doing so. The problem with Night is a problem that all fantasy and science fiction must solve. You must suspend disbelief. You have to make the audience forget that what they're seeing is impossible. Night at the Museum has too many moments of stupidity, bad dialogue and characters who don't seem real even in this unreal world to achieve that with anyone but children whose standards for this are much lower. This is the polar opposite from Up which didn't make you think it was realistic, it just made you want it to be.

Not that they care about what I think, of course. this movie's made a bazillion dollars so far which means the next sequel will be pretty much the same when they go to someplace like the Louvre and Stiller teams up with a living Mona Lisa who will often exclaim, "Sweet Crepes Susette!" when she gets startled. Really, I'd bet money this will happen.

Monday, June 1, 2009

And Away

Words like "wonderful" and "exhilarating" and "genius" get thrown around so much that they lose at least some of their impact, if not all meaning. Know when you read the next sentence that I don't use those words lightly.

Up is a wonderful and exhilarating work of genius. It's as close to perfection as you can get. In fact, there just aren't many movies made in this century old medium that are better than Up. Up is not a kids movie. Hannah Montana and Night At The Museum are kids movies. They're the movies that Mom and Dad really don't want to see but end up seeing anyway because their kids nag the ever loving crap out of them until they relent and end up watching Miley Cyrus sing forgettable country/pop songs for 90 minutes. Up, on the other hand, is the definition of a family film. It's blend of action, humor, magic, wonder and touching humanity can be enjoyed by parents, kids, and everyone else*.

The movie opens with two kids named Carl and Ellie who dream childhood dreams of exploring the world and having grand adventures exploring places like the remote Paradise Falls in South America. As they grow up and fall in love, their adventure comes in the form of their marriage to each other that turns bittersweet when they discover that they can't have children. They move on though and their marriage lasts for decades until Ellie succumbs first to old age, leaving Carl (voiced by Ed Asner) assuming that he will simply live out the rest of his days alone and bitter in the house he shared with Ellie. There are two forces that will prove Carl wrong though. One is a developer who wants to build a high rise on Carl's property. The other is an annoying kid named Russell.

The developer seizes an opportunity to have Carl committed to an old folks but Carl gets the last laugh. As a former balloon salesman, he had loads of balloons and helium in his home so filled up the balloons, tied them to his house and simply floated away. His destination? Paradise Falls, the place where much younger versions of Carl and Ellie once dreamt of exploring. Other than the fact that this almost certainly wouldn't be possible, what could possibly go wrong? I did mention an annoying kid named Russell, right?

Russell is a member of the Wilderness Scouts who is determined to get his "Assisting The Elderly" merit badge in order to become a Senior Scout. Carl wants nothing to do with him and doesn't realize that Russell is on his front porch when he lifts the house into the sky.

And that's just the beginning. We follow Carl and Russell as they face various types of danger on their way to the South American jungle where they meet giant birds, talking dogs and a former hero who has long since gone mad as Carl and Russell grow to depend on and appreciate each other more and more. Carl never had a son and Russell is neglected by his dad but Carl is too consumed by his grief to realize that the two could fill some of the holes in each others' lives.

Up is another winner for Pixar. I especially appreciate some of the subtle touches like the way Ellie's empty chairs are made brighter so as to highlight how empty Carl's life is now. I doubt I'll see a better movie this summer. Naturally, it almost certainly won't be nominated for a Best Picture Oscar (though it will at least be nominated for Best Animated Film, the award they had to create so they could stop being embarrassed by the fact that Pixar wasn't winning Oscars).

*Hmm, that really makes no sense. Anyone not covered under "parents and kids" must be both genetically engineered and childless. Oh well, moving on.