Friday, October 29, 2010

Things I've Learned From Watching Movies Part 84

When in doubt, spit in a dog's face.

Spoilers can be put on movie posters if they're subtle enough. For instance, this movie cleverly hides how long it will take for the protagonist to free himself.

Movie stars cost a fortune but being able to put their faces on the screen is worth every penny.

Aliens aren't required to have their invasions make sense or serve any easily recognizable purpose.

Just because it's about trains and has Denzel Washington doesn't mean it's a sequel to Training Day.

Sure, it's the final chapter but not the FINAL final chapter.

No matter what she's done, Elizabeth Banks is too hot to go to jail.

Don't go see this movie about Viagra salesmen if it's over four hours long.

The story of Showgirls is timeless and should be remade again and again.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Look At My Briefs -- 10/28/10

Remember folks that next Tuesday is Election Day and that it is your civic duty to go to the polls and vote for another edition of my brief comments on various subjects I like to call Look At My Briefs.

Disney is apparently considering dropping Keith Richards from the latest chapter in that never-ending story called Pirates of the Caribbean because of past drug use. I normally wouldn't care except for the fact that I honestly can't recall a single moment of the last Pirates installment except for the brief scene where Richards showed up as Jack Sparrow's father. Seriously, did the rest of that movie even happen? Then again, no other person in the history of the planet has taken drugs including the other cast members, producers or even the very Disney executives who will be making the decision mere minutes after not snorting coke off a hooker's ass.

In yet another attempt for Rupert Murdoch to pretend that the old, withered peanut between his legs is still the massive didgeridoo it was back when he was a boy in Australia poking koalas with a stick, his company, NewsCorp, is threatening to not cover movies at all if its various media outlets don't have access to the movie stars. Seriously studios, call their bluff because a bluff is exactly what it is. You think they're going to stand silently by and watch the ratings and circulation numbers of their competitors rise when people who, for some reason, just have to see clips and screencaps of the latest Transformers movie all because Shia LaBeouf won't agree to be interviewed so he can say things like, "I really had fun making this," and, "Making this was loads of fun," and, "Michael Bay was so much fun to work with"? What I expect you movie folks to do is withhold those massive ad budgets from the Fox Network and see how long it is before NewsCorp starts running those precious puff pieces again.

Dear Hollywood: Really? I mean, I know the kid's popular and all, but, really?

SighFigh has canceled Caprica. Good. It was a flawed but decent show. I could just never get past the fact that, 60 years down the road, the actions taking place now were going to lead these people to prehistoric Earth where they would fuck Neanderthals according to the will of God.

Big Hollywood has been tying itself up in knots trying to pretend that this Saturday's Rally to Restore Sanity is a big fat dumb stupid thing stupid that no one takes seriously and no one will show up to anyway. Meanwhile, in the real world, crowd sizes are being estimated at being somewhere around 150,000 which is over 50,000 more than Glenn Beck's Whitestock event that happened back in August and was celebrated as the greatest thing ever by Big Hollywood. I've been experiencing many moments of schadenfreude recently and I wonder if it's possible to get hooked on it.

Speaking of shadenfreude, there was a time when groups like the Parents Television Council could threaten to never use toilet paper again if any toilet paper companies advertised on shows they found offensive and said advertisers would take them seriously but that time has passed. Television networks have too much on their plates these days to worry about a group of prudish tightasses threatening to sick their flying monkeys on them. They have to worry about competitors like HBO and Adult Swim taking away all their viewers by broadcasting donkey shows and don't have much worry left to spare over some self-appointed bluenose group trying not to look crazy when they say that pictures of two of the 24 year old stars of Glee posing in their underwear constitutes pedophilia.

Sure, disappointment with the last three films aside, I'd love to see new Star Wars films. I'm just worried that Lucas didn't learn anything from Episodes 1, 2 and 3 and will make them about the Sith instigating an intergalactic Teamsters strike.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The Not-So-Sweet Hereafter

There are two events in human history that have truly made me proud of my species. The first was when we put men on the Moon. The second happened just last year when society overwhelmingly favored the movie Paranormal Activity over what was previously thought to be a can't miss for that week's #1 movie slot, the latest Saw sequel. I hate the Saw movies. I hate the Saw movies more than I hate any real person. You can imagine my ecstasy last Halloween when I saw the weekend box office results and discovered that the independently made low budget Paranormal Activity had thoroughly crushed Saw VI. Mind you, I would have been happy if a pro-Nazi docu-drama called Wow, Wasn't Hitler Swell had beaten Saw VI but the fact that it was beaten by a movie I liked a lot was the sweet, buttercream icing on my schadenfreude cake. And now we have Paranormal Activity 2.

Oh yes, I did like Paranormal Activity 2. It's not quite as good as the first movie but it's still pretty good. I like the sequel for the same reasons I liked Paranormal Activity. In fact, a more apt title than Paranormal Activity 2 would be More of Paranormal Activity. That's a good thing.

The first movie was a triumph of minimalist, low budget filmmaking about a young California couple who slip into increasing levels of fear, frustration and despair when they come under siege from an evil spirit. Like Blair Witch Project, it was made to look like a documentary that the characters filmed themselves with a digital camera and was, in my opinion, the best movie to use that gimmick since Blair Witch.

The new movie is both a prequel and a sequel. Most of it takes place two months before the events of the first film with some bits at the end set in that film's aftermath. Katie and Micah, the doomed couple from the first film, are still alive and not possessed here but they're supporting characters now. Taking center stage is Katie's sister Kristi, her husband Dan and Dan's teenage daughter Ali. Dan and Kristi at first take a lot of home movies of their newborn son Hunter which allows us to see their lives up until their home is trashed by vandals. They think it's vandals anyway. That gives them the excuse to install security cameras in most rooms of the house and we once again see the slowly escalating supernatural invasion of their lives.

They give a bit more explanation this time around as to what it is and why it's literally giving this family hell, but the hell with that. It doesn't really matter why this ghost/demon/whatever is scaring and torturing these people. What matters is that this family is terrified and, sometimes, so are we. I normally don't read other critics' reviews before I write my own but I did read Ebert's and he thought it was a bad thing that most of the frights were from Gotcha Moments. That's true. For the most part, people are going about their lives when all of a sudden BAM all the kitchen drawers and cabinets open at once or BAM someone gets dragged down to the basement by an invisible force. Yes, those do happen but don't worry if you haven't seen it. The fact that you know they're coming won't help you prepare for them. You won't know when they're coming. Oh, you'll watch for them. Your eyes keep scanning up and down the screen looking for a shoe moving by itself or a pan falling from its hook for no reason but you won't know when that will happen. You just know it will.

The Gotcha Moments along with the sheer normalcy interrupted by the increasing feelings of dread and inevitable doom worked for me. If it doesn't sound like it will work for you, don't join the people who gave this movie a record breaking opening weekend. Hell, go see Saw VII this weekend instead. I'm sure their plot gimmick of killing people using Rube Goldberg inspired torture devices hasn't gotten old yet after 7 movies though, if you want to make me happy, this latest and supposedly last Saw film will once again be chopped up and spat out by a low budget psychological horror film whose initials are P.A.

Monday, October 25, 2010

The Sweet Hereafter

As we all do, the three main characters of Hereafter must deal with death. Their circumstances and journeys are all wildly different but they all have the same question. Is there anything after death and how do we deal and connect with it while we're still alive?

The way I felt after seeing the Clint Eastwood directed Hereafter reminded me of the way I felt after seeing Knowing. Don't worry, the world doesn't end in Hereafter like it did in Knowing. Oh, sorry. SPOILER ALERT: the world doesn't end in Hereafter like it did in Knowing. My feelings about Knowing were so mixed up that I had to devote two articles (here and here) to try to figure out for myself how I felt about it and it looks like I'm going to have the same problem with Hereafter. Unlike the marketing that makes you think it's a rip-roaring ghost story, it's a low-key movie that takes its time dealing people who are trying to find answers that haven't truly and satisfyingly been found since human history began. There do seem to be some ghosts though you never actually see them and they do very little. This movie is about the living.

First you meet a lovely French journalist named Marie LeLay (Cécile De France). She and her producer/boyfriend had the bad luck to visit Indonesia when it was hit by a tsunami that killed over 100,000 people. The boyfriend, Didier, was lucky enough to be several floors up in a luxury hotel when it happened. Marie, however, was on the ground in an open air street market when the ocean rose up and over her. She was one of the lucky ones, though. She was fished out of the water after she stopped breathing and was given CPR by two men whose names she never even knew. But when she did stop breathing, when she was dead, she saw things that included the little girl whose life she had tried to save. She goes home to Paris where her near death experience renders her increasingly unable to live as she did before.

In London, you meet 10 year old twin boys named Marcus and Jason (Frankie and George McLaren). They lead sad lives with a drug addict mother but they also fight hard against the efforts of Social Services to take them away. Jason dies when bullies chase him into the street and he gets hit by a car. Marcus wears the hat that allowed the world to tell them apart. He loses the hat in a tube station and misses the train while trying to get it back. This act saves his life as the train was blown up in a terrorist bombing and he becomes starts exploring ways to talk to Jason on the other side. This leads him from one person to another claiming knowledge of the afterlife and the ability to speak to the dead. Some of them probably think they really can talk to the dead, some are out and out quacks but none can give Marcus what he wants. For that, he finally goes to George Lonegan (Matt Damon).

George works in a sugar processing plant in San Francisco. He doesn't make much and even that meager income is in danger of disappearing when rumors emerge that the plant is about to lay people off. He really wants to keep this job since his best option after that is to go back to his old way of making a living, that being as a psychic medium. When he was young, George had encephalitis. When he recovered, he found he couldn't touch people without seeing and hearing their dead relatives. He became a very successful psychic until he just couldn't handle it anymore and quit, much to the chagrin of his brother (Jay Mohr) who is insensitive to George's pain and is always pressuring him to get back in that business. George's plight is dramatized when a potential relationship with Melanie, a woman he met in a cooking class (Bryce Dallas Howard), is destroyed because she thought it would be cool to have him contact her dead relatives and she finds out the hard way that it's not. Maybe she didn't think he was real but he told her something horrible about her past and it devastated her.

Random acts of luck, both good and bad, play a crucial role in this story. Bad luck leads them all into their bad situations. They really need to meet each other yet they live don't even live in the same country and it's only a stroke or two of good luck that makes that happen. There's really no indication that it was beings from the Great Beyond that made that happen. This isn't Ghost Whisperer. There's only one instance where one of the dead manages to directly intervene in the affairs of the living and even the good consequences of that were more a matter of luck. One of the best things about this movie is that it feels real even though it deals with the supernatural.

It's not a horror movie. Nothing monstrous comes jumping out of the shadows and you never see a ghost except in glimpses of the next world. As I said, this movie is about the living and how we deal with death. It's about how we need to believe that we go on and how we never really get an answer. Many will say that they firmly believe we do yet even they who claim supreme faith that our souls go to paradise are devastated when their loved ones die or when they face death themselves. This movie doesn't offer easy answers and it's not about that. It's about three people trying to heal from their various experiences with death. As I did with Knowing, I at first came away thinking that the film was unsatisfactory yet my mind keeps going back to it, going over scenes and moments again and again. I don't think it's for everybody but I would recommend that everybody see it anyway as the more I think about it, the more it fascinates me.

Friday, October 22, 2010

I Touch The Fire And It Freezes Me

I've decided to shake up my Liveblog paradigm this time around. Instead of doing a movie on Netflix Instant I haven't seen, I have an honest to God Netflix DVD in my house and I have seen it though it was so long ago that all I can really remember is that it was stupid. Behold if you will a movie that tried to start a franchise that, if successful, would be in the process of a reboot as we speak. I give you a movie most of you should be grateful that you've never even heard of: 1984's Streets of Fire.

0:00:40 -- The opening credits tell us that this movie is a "Rock and Roll Fable" set in "Another Time, Another Place" which means...well...absolutely nothing. Wait, Walter Hill directed this? The guy who did The Long Riders and 48 Hours also did this? Mr. Hill, if you wanted to cause me pain, you could have kicked me in the balls. It would have been less cruel.

0:07:00 -- Luckily, you don't need me to describe the past few minutes as you can watch it yourself on YouTube.

If you clicked "Play", you heard a song called "Nowhere Fast" that sounds like what you hear when you pressed the DEMO button on old Casio keyboards played by a band called Fire Inc. who almost certainly would be considered one of the greatest bands ever had the 80s never ended. Sadly, they did and now they make their grandkids watch this movie over and over. Also in the clip, you saw that song being lip synched and spastically danced to by a very young Diane Lane while her manager, a very young Rick Moranis, looks on. Also looking, a villain played by a very young Willem DaFoe in this very forgettable role two years before his unforgettable big break in Platoon. He's the guy in the shadows rocking a less douchey Edward Cullen look. You missed a few seconds later when DaFoe led his evil biker gang to kidnap Lane's character, singer Ellen Aim. Luckily for the gang, no one bothered to put any sort of security whatsoever in place so the kidnapping went beyond smoothly. Fun fact: I managed to recognize a 28 year old Bill Paxton sporting a pompadour jumping out of the audience to help. He got his ass kicked but he probably just wanted to make Diane Lane one of his wives anyway.

0:16:00 -- The "Another Time, Another Place" turns out to be the 1950s. If this movie is to be believed, the 50s were pretty much controlled by neatly dressed gangs and that each city only had 2 cops a piece to counter their influence. A girl named Reva (Deborah van Valkenburgh whom I recognize as having starred in some 80s sitcom I don't feel like looking up) seems to think the only one who can stand up to these creeps is her brother (and Ellen Aim's old boyrfiend) Tom Cody (Eddie and the Cruisers star Michael Paré). Tom wears trenchcoats, suspenders and sleeveless denim shirts, a look you could wear back then without anyone thinking you were gay. Reva tells him that it was a gang called the Bombers led by Raven (DaFoe) that took Ellen. You wouldn't think an entire biker gang could take a huge singing sensation in front of hundreds of witnesses and stay hidden but, as I said, this city seems to have only 2 police, neither of whom seem capable of finding their own asses.

0:30:00 -- Cody has formed his own supergroup by going on the hunt for Ellen with Ellen's manager, Billy Fish (Rick Moranis, a well known comedy star who was the absolute perfect choice to play this humorless douchebag, and yes, I'm being sarcastic, who probably wished he could turn into a dog in this movie too) and a former female soldier named McCoy (Amy Madigan) whose tough girl act combined with her manly style of dress and comment that Cody wasn't her type are probably supposed to imply that she's a lesbian except that, in the 50s, lesbians hadn't been invented yet. The main tactic used by these three to reacquire Ellen is for them all to be belligerent assholes to one another. Fish knows exactly where the Bombers are holding Ellen, information that would have been useful if this town had a functioning police force. They arrive at what is supposed to be a rundown biker bar but is actually quite a nice place with a decent band called The Blasters singing. Fun fact #1: Marine Jahan, the woman who actually did all the dancing Jennifer Beals supposedly did in Flashdance, is dancing on the bar in a thong and fishnets which makes me suddenly respect Walter Hill's filmmaking genius. Between the guys cheering for her and the rest of the crowd cheering for the band, I wondered how this bar made money since it certainly wasn't by serving drinks. Fun fact #2: Willem DaFoe is dressed like a very butch and stylish fisherman.

0:32:20 -- Ed Begley Jr. just stumbled onto the screen looking like something out of The Road Warrior. This completes the efforts of the 1980s to take every B and C list star of that era and smear them like dung all over my computer screen.

0:51:00 -- Lots of guns went off, lots of stuff blew up and the Magnificent Three managed to free Ellen with zero causalities and, for that matter, very little effort. It's almost as if a biker gang parading around in public isn't the ideal group to be kidnapping celebrities. Cody let Raven know exactly who he was which, if I remember correctly, means the movie will be calm and peaceful from here on out. The gang decide to ditch the awesome 1951 Mercury Convertible they were driving and instead barge onto the tour bus of a black do-wop group called the Sorels at gunpoint. Fun Fact: one of the Sorels is Mykelti Williamson who went on to play Bubba the shrimp guy in Forrest Gump. Another one is Robert Townshend. A few years after this, he made a movie called Hollywood Shuffle, a comedic look at how blacks were treated in Hollywood and the limited number of roles they were allowed to play. Musicians were one of those roles though I'm sure he wasn't the least bit inspired by this movie to make that one.

1:02:00 -- Now that Ellen has been rescued, the cops have suddenly appeared but HA HA they're looking not for the kidnappers but for the ones who rescued her. Why? Because this movie is fucking stupid, that's why. I thought I'd explained this already. I'm now assuming it was legal to kidnap hot singers back then. One thing that really stands out about this movie is that every character, every single one, is pissed off all the time. Cody's pissed because he had to rescue Ellen. Fish is pissed because he had to depend on Cody. McCoy is pissed because everyone else is. And Ellen? Ellen is pissed because Cody rescued her. Why is she mad about that? Because this is a GOD DAMN STUPID MOVIE. Don't make me say that again. Fun Fact: Michael Paré has one all purpose facial expression.

See you all in about 30 minutes to wrap this piece of crap up.

1:33:00 -- As any woman would be, Ellen was suddenly irresistibly turned on by Tom after he was unforgivably cruel to her. Tom then decides to leave the bed of the smoking hot 18 year old Diane Lane to walk around and say stupid dialogue with McCoy. After Ellen says she'll run off with him so they can have hot sex every night, Cody punches her in the face (yes, he really did) and goes back to confront Raven for no particularly good reason. For the first time ever, the local cops decide to confront the Bombers and fail miserably so Cody and Raven must have a sledgehammer fight to determine...well fuck, I don't know what this will determine. This may seem stupid but it was very common in both the 50s and the 80s for disputes to be solved by a vicious, festively dressed criminal and a stone faced vigilante having a sledgehammer fight while the police looked on. Don't believe me?

Fun Facts: Willem Dafoe is pretty good at playing a one dimensional, over-the-top villain. Michael Paré, on the other hand, sucks balls at playing a one dimensional, over-the-top hero. Long story short, Cody beats Raven and the Bombers are driven off when everyone in town suddenly shows up with a firearm proving that the NRA is right. Ellen then hires the Sorels to open for her and they have a happy joy fun time benefit concert which is how this all began but what the hell. Once again, Cody passes up the chance to hang around and repeatedly fuck barely legal Diane Lane even though, judging by his appearance, he spends his days working in a bottlecap factory so he can come home and jack off to underwear ads in the Sears catalog.

Final Fun Fact: the soundtrack to this movie is the best part of it. Ry Cooder's background score is great and some of the songs even went on to become bigger hits than this movie ever was. There are only two songs that truly, completely suck and those are the ones supposedly sung by Ellen Aim. The first one you've already seen. The second, "Tonight Is What It Means To Be Young", closed out the movie and has the distinction of being one of the most pretentious songs I've ever heard as well having lyrics that were about ten completely unrelated subjects. Seeing it, it becomes obvious why you've never heard anyone say, "Wow, that Diane Lane sure can dance," or, "Man, that Walter Hill should direct more musicals." I will now embed that song so it can play me off. Take it away, long forgotten band.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Look At My Briefs -- 10/21/10

It's a brisk Autumn day in this place where I live. It's a great day to stay indoors and warm your hands around another edition of my brief comments on various subjects I like to call Look At My Briefs.

Count me in the "mildly disappointed at the Mad Men season finale" category. Only mildly though. I wasn't the least bit surprised when I heard the editing job on it was rushed and had only been finished last Wednesday. I thought there was some metaphysical meaning I wasn't getting when Don and Megan were in California and BAM suddenly they're back in his NYC apartment. Not I see that it was just a poor job done by the producers. Still, it had enough content and surprises to make it better than just about anything else on television though I'd like to knock together the heads that thought it was a good idea for Joan to lie to Roger about the abortion. If you want a full recap and in depth analysis of Sunday's Mad Men finale, just look at every other site on the internet. That's why I don't do Mad Men recaps.

Speaking of disappointing television shows, let's talk about Glee. I didn't like Glee at first but its humor and music won me over. I thought the second season had found its legs with the Britney Spears episode until they had the wheelchair bound Artie join the football team. "There's no rule against it," Finn said. Well there god damn well should be a rule against it. If the school has no rule against a kid in a wheelchair being used as a battering ram on the football field, I'm fairly certain the city, country and state have several laws prohibiting it. That, however, paled in comparison to the lame spirituality episode in which atheist Kurt comes under passive/aggressive assault from the churchgoers determined to convert him when his father has a heart attack. Still, next week they're doing a Rocky Horror themed episode so they have me as a viewer for at least one more week.

Everyone though actress Jill Quigg did a great job as the low class criminal whose daughter had been kidnapped in Gone Baby Gone. Now we all see that she wasn't acting.

I'm glad to see Ben Affleck has announced his next project as a director because, well, he's so damn good at it. I'm not pleased to see his next project looks like a retread of Groundhog Day but two excellent films from him have earned a bit of trust from me. Not much though. Watch out Affleck or you'll end up talking about how excited you are that your next film will be the direct-t-DVD production of Paycheck 2. Oh, Ben? Do yourself a favor and don't hire any criminals for this one.

Big Hollywood hasn't rated its own post for a while now and most weeks I skip them altogether. This week, though, they've managed to catch my attention with no less than three articles. There's this review of Winter's Bone from Dan Gifford in which he sees the story's violent meth dealer villains as self sufficient Randian Tea Partiers. Then there's Brian Cherry's post in which he openly questions why the band SheDaisy doesn't currently have a record deal, goes on to an incisive and detailed answer leaving no doubt why they don't before going back to wondering how such a popular band could not have a record deal. Finally, we have Leigh Scott taking left wing critics to task for criticizing the upcoming Superman reboot even though he only cites one anonymous critic. As to what sparked the criticism, Scott dismisses any reasons given for the ones he pulls out of his ass. One of these is that liberals supposedly hate director Zach Snyder. The other is Scott's imaginary Superman script in which Superman is a brave Tea Partier who tries to warn the world against General Zod who, in Scott's mind, is modeled after Barack Obama.

Meanwhile, in the real world, there was some actual news about the Superman movie. I agree completely with Monika Bartyzel's assertion that the last thing we need is a movie about Superman's origin. When movies try to take on comic book superheroes, the first movie in the franchise is usually mediocre at best* because it focuses on the origin story. Even Batman Begins wasn't as good as The Dark Knight. I hope Snyder decides against this and, if not, I hope he doesn't insist that people talking about how the young Kal-El was sent to Earth from his dying planet Krypton label that information with a spoiler alert.

* Iron Man being the notable exception.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010


As I look into my magic mirror, I see far, far into the future, more than two months in fact. One thing I see is all the little children excited about the coming of Christmas and how they're deluding themselves into thinking they'll get decent gifts in this economy. What I want to talk about today, though, are the films coming out between now and the end of the year. I am now going to try and predict what will be the best movie to come out in this competitive holiday season and what will be the worst. These are both very difficult to predict as there are promising entries in each category and I'll almost certainly be wrong but it's Tuesday and that means I'm supposed to put something new up today and it may as well be this. First, the best.

I came close to picking Due Date, the new comedy from the people who gave us that instant classic The Hangover. Comedies don't get the respect they deserve since, to be good, they must look like they took no effort to make and the trailer for Due Date looks like Robert Downey Jr. and Zack Galifianakis got together and just casually and expertly ad libbing their scenes in one take. At the very least, I predict it will somehow manage to outshine Morning Glory and Little Fockers as the best comedy of the season. So, what will the best movie be?

This is the time of year is always loaded with Oscar hopefuls. This year, we have entries like Julie Taymor's rework of The Tempest and Miramax's attempt at Oscar #300,000 with The King's Speech. Naomi Watts playing Valerie Plame in Fair Game looks promising but it was directed by the guy who made Jumper. When I reviewed Jumper, my entire article was one paragraph long and was summed up by the unimaginative-but-true headline "Jumper Sucks" which is why Fair Game gets knocked out of contention. Another runner up is Darren Aronofsky's Black Swan but, admittedly, the main reason I'm looking forward to this is because of a reported sex scene between Natalie Portman and Mila Kunis. No no, I'm kidding. I'm looking forward to it because it looks like an interesting, artful look at a living nightmare and not because Natalie Portman and Mila Kunis will rub their sweaty, naked bodies against one another, heaving and thrusting until mutual nightmare. Yeah.

In the end, though, there's only one choice, at least from the information I have, and that is the Joel and Ethan Coen remake of True Grit. This looks to actually outshine the original that earned John Wayne an Oscar. Jeff Bridges who, judging by this and the bits of him we've seen in the Tron promos, is now legally obligated to hold onto the look he had in Crazy Heart, was the perfect choice to step into the role of Rooster Cogburn and the Coen brothers are the perfect choice to do whatever the hell they choose to make a movie out of so yes, I'll be at a theater on Christmas day when this comes out. So, that's my prediction for the best. Whatever will I choose for the worst.

Naturally, there are way more candidates for worst than there are for best and it is so very hard to choose but choose I must else I fail to meet my arbitrarily set goal. This trailer for Yogi Bear jumped out at me when I first saw it but this looks like a dumb, harmless kids film. I've already mentioned TRON:Legacy but if I chose that it would mean Jeff Bridges was in both the best and worst movies of the season. It now occurs to me that I don't care if I do that or not but, I'm not choosing TRON. That's not even in the same timezone as some of the other selections.

For the season's worst movie, I look to Thanksgiving Day. That's the day we get both the winner and the runner up. The runner up is Dwayne Johnson's revenge film Faster. The trailer looks like both a very stylish and very stupid Deathwish ripoff that is poised to defy anything even vaguely related to reality and logic. Johnson's character will either be killed at the end or be allowed to go free after taking the law into his own hands and committing several cold blooded murders which means Faster should be a celebration of depression and pointless nihilism no matter what happens. So, what's worse than that? This.

Oh yes, my No-Prize goes to Burlesque. I simply can't figure how a major film studio like Sony was convinced to basically remake Showgirls. That movie at least had that tall girl from Saved By The Bell taking her clothes off. This new movie has Christina Aguilera. is she taking her clothes off? No. She's just singing forgettable songs when she's not playing a girl who is utterly entranced by the idea of singing burlesque songs while getting felt up by Stanley Tucci. This will truly be the most painful Thanksgiving ever.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Better Dead Than Red

Did you ever read Warren Ellis's 3 issue graphic novel Red? It's a pretty good story of a retired spy being marked for death by his former employers. I went to see a movie supposedly based on that and my only conclusion is that I walked into the wrong theater since this movie has very little to do with Ellis's work. Oh well, I'm the one who's always saying filmed adaptations don't need to be in any way faithful so long as what they are is good.

So, was Red the movie any good? On the whole, it didn't suck. This means that, when broken down, parts of it did not only suck but defined the word "suck" for future generations.

The first half of Red was surprisingly good and made me forget that it wasn't like the book. This part of the film was action mixed with some smart characters doing their jobs in a competent manner. Mind you, this is a big studio action film so the definition of "smart character" isn't necessarily the same as it would be for movies like Inception or The Social Network. Grading on a curve, however, the characters played by Bruce Willis and Karl Urban make Stephen Hawking look like a drooling halfwit.

Willis plays Frank Moses, a retired CIA field agent that's described as a man who has brought down entire governments but now lives a boring and mildly pathetic existence since he retired. The highlight of his current life is flirting with a service rep for the office that sends out his government pension checks named Sarah Ross. She's played by Mary-Louise Parker and I was happy to see that they cast someone age appropriate instead of Hollywood's usual style of having 55 year old Bruce Willis put the moves on someone like Amber Heard or Vanessa Hudgens. That, the movie's first action sequence and the introduction of William Cooper, Karl Urban's CIA assassin character, were three points in the movie's WIN column for me and I settled in for a nice Saturday afternoon of light entertainment.

Sadly, the movie insisted on being 2 hours long instead of being a winning 60 minute short feature. The whole thing started falling apart when, during a car chase, Moses casually steps out of a moving car and strolls along the street. This is some very fake looking CGI. This is where the movie stopped being a spy thriller with action thrown in and became and action movie with, well, nothing else thrown in.

I'm sure you all know the story from the ads. Frank Moses, for some reason, has been marked for death by his old bosses at the CIA. After he takes out the first hit team they send, the highly competent Cooper gets the assignment. He doesn't ask why they went him dead but he does get annoyed when he discovers they lied when they said Moses was an analyst and not a field agent/superman that he reveals himself to be. Moses kidnaps potential girlfriend Sarah because he correctly assumes that the CIA will try to use her against him and together they lead Cooper and the rest of the government on a merry chase across the country as Moses contacts fellow agency retirees played by John Malkovich, Morgan Freeman and Helen Mirren. Those three are amazing actors as always. It's incredible to me that they can so easily played aging spies after they played Edward, Jacob and Bella. Also, a guy who deserves bigger roles and more recognition is Karl Urban, something I've thought pretty much every time I've seen Karl Urban. You probably know him best as McCoy in the last Star Trek film. He's playing the title role in a reboot of Judge Dredd thought he'll be doing that in the shadow of the last Dredd, Sylvester Stallone, which means he should have no problem distinguishing himself in that role.

Sadly, the movie devolves into a pattern of "Go here, shoot this, go over there, shoot that" but, all in all, I suppose it's worth your time.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Bizarro World Movie Reviews -- Jackass 3D

In the past ten years, one word has dominated the world of entertainment. When you hear that word, so many thoughts enter your mind at once. You think of this amazing thing called life and about the sense of wonder that only children truly feel. Most people can't remember what their world was like before this came into their lives and most would not want to. The word, of course, is Jackass.

When it was announced that the internationally recognized MTV television classic would be made into a major motion picture, fans were evenly divided as to whether this was a good idea. How could the simplicity of showing crude guys doing dangerous stunts possibly survive the scrutiny that comes with being on the big screen? Many begged the producers not to do it while others put their faith in Johnny Knoxville, a man who had never let them down before, and the rest of his crew. I don't need to tell you their faith was rewarded in the form of Jackass: The Movie. Critics hailed this is one of the perfect moments in cinema and fans thought of it as the defining moment in their lives and both groups came to a consensus: they should never dare to make another movie.

And then they did. Jackass Number Two generated a level of excitement unseen since the end of World War II. Kings and Presidents attended its gala 2006 Hollywood premier and their reviews were unanimously positive. "Fucking awesome," said Great Britain's Queen Elizabeth. "I got so excited watching it that I came in my pants," said then-President George W. Bush. The leaders of both Israel and the Palestinian Authority expressed such mutual admiration for the film that they very nearly forged a new peace treaty that very night. Again, all were in agreement. The Jackass gang was fortunate enough to have captured lightning in a bottle twice. There should not be a third attempt. "Another sequel? What, are you shitting me?" said renowned physicist Stephen Hawking when asked about the prospects of a third Jackass movie. "Sure, I'd love to see those lovable fucks pull that off. I just can't see them doing it and I'm the world's smartest man."

I am here today to tell you that the world's smartest man was wrong. Jackass 3D is like nothing you've ever seen. Imagine if you saw a dragon playing poker, a unicorn writing War and Peace and a supernova exploding out of Scarlett Johansson's privates at the exact same moment. Multiply that experience by ten and you just might begin to approach the intensity of Jackass 3D.

This is, of course, the first Jackass movie filmed in 3D. For the first time, you feel like you are in the room when Johnny Knoxville gets punched in the balls with a clown hammer or when Bam Margera staples his own buttcheeks together. The whole Jackass experience has been elevated from simple, silly entertainment to a visceral experience unlike any that was even technologically possible before. 3D has never been truly and effectively used until now and it was, of course, the guys from Jackass who managed to pull that off.

When you go see Jackass 3D, and you will, it will be your duty to remember every moment not just of the film but how you felt before you saw it and how your life was changed for the better afterward. You will want to live forever not out of any fear of death or lust for life but so you can tell future generations of the wonder and the majesty and the sheer Jackassitude (a word that will certainly go into wide use after this movie comes out) of what you witnessed on Friday, October 15, 2010, the day we stopped being the Global Village and became the Global Family.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Look At My Briefs -- 10/14/10

Halloween is fast approaching. This year I think I'll go trick or treating dressed as another edition of my brief comments on various subjects I like to call Look At My Briefs.

You may have noticed this week that the Sun shone brighter, the air smelled sweeter and that the world seemed to be filled with just a bit more love than it was last week. That can be traced directly to Warner Brothers' decision to cancel the 3D conversion of the upcoming Harry Potter film. This has nothing to do with costs, the fact that 3D is no longer the pathway to instant hitdom it was just a few months ago or that, currently, 3D is either a detriment or adds very little. No, they just felt they didn't have time to properly finish the conversion so it was either do a half assed job or cancel it. They are planning to do next year's final chapter in 3D as well plus they are currently working to convert the other Potter films for 3D Blu-Ray but, for now, we must take what we can get.

A few weeks ago I did a takedown of the new Jimmy Smits show Outlaw. I'm pleased to report that my article was so effective that Outlaw has now been canceled. I don't take all the credit. No ,much of that goes to you, Clear's Lunatic Legions, and the fact that you do anything and everything I tell you to do. Yep, all 5 of you.

People are still bending over backwards to completely misunderstand The Social Network. Screenwriter Aaron Sorkin has been trying to set people straight but the best explanation I've seen so far comes from Pandagon blogger Amanda Marcotte. She really understands that this is a character study and that a 100% accurate telling of the founding of Facebook or, God forbid, Facebook itself would make for interminably dull viewing.

If by "Good conservative comedy" this Big Hollywood writer means "desperately unfunny to anyone who's not a right wing nut" then yes, the Right Network is good conservative comedy. If you don't laugh when you see it then you must not have been told to laugh by your liberal teleprompter (ha ha). And yes, the first joke told in the YouTube clip the above link leads you to is an Obama teleprompter joke.

If you think that Chelsea Handler is desperately unfunny and one of the most overrated presences on television then here's some good news. There will soon be another half hour of television that you don't have to worry about watching. Chelsea is planning to model a Larry Sanders-type sitcom after herself and her show so now we'll get another half hour of jokes about fucking, black guys, asshole kids and fucking black guys who knock her up with asshole kids.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Terrible 2's

Last week, I saw two movies I really liked. This week, the universe looked upon that situation and said, "This will not do," so it aimed its giant karmic middle finger my way and gave me two movies I absolutely hated. I know this is true because I hated them both for pretty much the same reason. In each case, the movie was a colossal bore infested by incredibly stupid characters.

The first clunker up is Life As We Know It starring Katherine Heigl. Those of you who've been paying attention to the movie scene for the past few years saw the name Katherine Heigl and said, "Say no more. We know why it sucks." Since Knocked Up, her one decent film, Katherine Heigl has replaced Rob Schneider as the person whose mere presence on screen guarantees an experience in pain. Some would blame her penchant for nutty, career-destroying statements she likes to make but the truth is that her movies consistently suck.

Life As We Know It is a light romantic comedy about a mother and father who die and leave their adorable baby daughter an orphan. I don't remember how they died but I assume it involved peeing on an electric fence because these people were idiots. Why were they idiots? Their will decreed that guardianship of their beloved child be shared by a couple who actively loathe each other. One of them is Heigl's character, Holly, a woman whose main focus in life is taking her elitist bakery that sells bread with unpronounceable names into a full fledged snooty restaurant. The other is Eric Messer (Josh Duhamel), a guy who insists that you call him Messer because he's a douchebag and douchebags do things like insist that you call them Messer. Messer's spends his life doing three things: covering sports (his job), fucking women he's just met and bugging the ever-loving crap out of Holly, a woman he knows because of their mutual friends (the dead parents).

When Messer and Holly move into the home of their deceased friends and take over parenting duties of young Sophie, they reveal themselves as people who not only have zero knowledge of babies but probably weren't sure babies even existed. Simple, basic things like feeding and changing diapers seem to be far beyond the skill set of these two. They live in one of these movie neighborhoods that are heavily populated by colorful characters but, sadly, they're even dumber than Holly and Messer. I'd say it was all played for comic effect except that none of it is all that funny. Oh, there were a few laughs here and there but not nearly enough for this movie to honestly call itself a comedy. Anyway, it's a romantic comedy which means eventually Messer and Holly notice how good looking the other one is, have hot sex, fuck everything up for stupid, narcissistic reasons before fixing everything five minutes before the credits roll and if that's a spoiler to you then you don't deserve to ever step into a theater again.

Anyway, Life As We Know It was a mostly dull though occasionally funny and entertaining film. Congratulations, Life As We Know It. You were the best movie I saw all weekend.

The worst movie, surprisingly, is Wes Craven's My Soul To Take. It's simply the dullest movie I've seen in a very long time. The characters were stupid, the scares weren't frightening and the jokes were horrible. If this were a horror movie, I'd say Wes Craven was being possessed by a ghost or a demon who has no writing or directing ability.

It's about a man with multiple personalities, one of whom is a serial killer. The night he dies, seven kids are born. In the 16 years that have passed, the kids gather every anniversary of the killer's death to do, I don't know, something in the woods. "Some say the Ripper's seven personalities passed into us," one of them states. Really? "Who the hell is going around saying stupid shit like that?" is what I would be saying if this were real life but, then again, this is a Wes Craven movie (or at least a Demon-Wes-Craven movie) so it turns out I would be the jerk if I said that. Yes, these seven kids all have one of the Ripper's personalities. There are no clues as to who has the killer part other than whoever just got hacked up by the Ripper probably isn't the Ripper. The kids themselves range from dull (like Bug, the anti-social misfit who I'm fairly certain is the hero of the story though I can't for the life of me figure out why) to downright hateable (like Penelope, a really annoying Christian who has a crush on Bug and again, for the life of me, I can't figure out why).

This is normally where I'd try to be nice and tell you about the moment or two of the awful movie that I liked but there are no moments like that. There were no performances that rose above the others, no memorable dialogue and it was so visually unimaginative that I barely noticed it was in 3D.

So, ok Universe, message received. I was too happy last week, you balanced it out this week so maybe this Friday's release of RED will be watchable. I hope so as I've never been a fan of anything Jackass-related and don't see myself starting now.

Monday, October 11, 2010

No, YOU meet ME Halfway -- Conclusion

Last Friday, I ran long and had to extend the Liveblog of Sylvester Stallone's Over The Top. Who could have imagined there'd be so much stupidity in an 80s arm wrestling movie that the cutoff point would come at 0:27:15? I vow, however, that the movie's final hour will be covered in this post and I will not obsess over every little piece of stupidity. When we left Stallone's Lincoln Hawk, he was teaching his 10 year old son to drive his 18 wheeler. On a public highway.

0:28:15 -- JESUS CHRIST, HE'S ACTUALLY LETTING THIS LITTLE BRAT DRIVE THE TRUCK. Luckily, only eight people died. Man, I only lasted one minute. I feel like I'm in high school again.

0:39:00 -- After initiating young Michael into the family arm wrestling business by having him beat some kid with Daryl Hall hair in some low rent diner, Linc takes his eyes off the kid just long enough for a couple of guys hired by the boy's grandfather to grab him. Don't worry though. This is the 80s so it was perfectly acceptable for Linc to run down the pickup truck the thugs were driving and ram it with his young, unseatbelted son inside. I don't think I mentioned this before but the boy's mom is really sick and she just got off the phone with Linc weakly saying that, no matter what happens, Mike should stay with him. The ever sharp Linc responded by saying he couldn't wait to see her. Yeah, should be quite a reunion.

0:49:00 -- I'm sure you will all be shocked to hear that Mom died before they got there. In a moment of grief, Mike runs back to rich Grandpa Robert Loggia. In an act that is sure to let any custody judge know that Linc really has his whole personal thing together and that he's ready to raise young Michael, Linc rams the gate of Grandpa's palatial mansion with his truck. When Linc and Cutler (Grandpa) confront each other, it's a contest between Stallone's solemn non-acting, a feat Stallone was only just then mastering and still masterfully does to this day, and Loggia's bulging-forehead-vein overacting. Loggia is wealthy so he wins and Linc is carted off to jail.

1:00:00 -- In a jail where, for some reason, Stallone is the only one sweating, Linc is told that Cutler won't prosecute if he leaves the state. Failing to have been seduced by Linc's life of eating greasy truck stop ribeyes and sleeping in a truck, Michael tells him that here, at least, he has a home. Linc tells the boy that the world doesn't meet anyone half way, a piece of advice guaranteed to make him a huge success just like his father, does the thing you and I would do. He goes to the World Arm Wrestling Championship in Vegas, sells his truck and bets the proceeds on himself. Meanwhile, Mike finds some letters Linc had written to him over the years and, following in Dad's footsteps, steals his grandfather's 4X4 and drives from Bel Air to Vegas to watch Linc arm wrestle.

1:01:00 -- There's currently an arm wrestling montage made very cool by the movie's theme song sung by Sammy Hagar. The video in that link includes Stallone's stick-up-the-ass look that indicates he's ready to arm wrestle.

1:14:00 -- After the announcer informs everyone 20 times that this is a double elimination competition and that you have to lose twice to be eliminated, Linc shockingly loses a match BUT DON'T WORRY, THE ANNOUNCER SAYS, BECAUSE YOU CAN LOSE TWICE. While waiting for his next match, Cutler offers Linc a new truck and $500,000 to get out of his life. Linc turns down cutler's offer with some macho version of "Pshaw!" Meanwhile, Michael is still making his way to Vegas, a city which, judging by all the signs and monitors showing the match, now seems to have an economy based entirely on arm wrestling.

1:33:00 -- Oh darn, the movie's over but, on the bright side, the movie itself makes us very happy that it's over. Michael has previously unknown ninja powers as he eluded his grandfather and got past the elite arm wrestling championship security to find Linc just before he's going to fight 5 time undefeated arm wrestling champ Bull Hurley (the evil arm wrestler I mentioned last Friday). Linc's forgotten all that crap he was saying about not giving up and instead embraces the philosophy that has made him a broke truck driver by pretty much giving up. All he needed, of course, was a pep talk from a 10 year old to get him back in the ring. Bull Hurley is bigger, stronger and a much better and more experienced arm wrestler. It's a shame there isn't some historical precedent in Stallone's career that would tell us if Sly's character has a chance against this guy so we'll just have to wait till the match is over to see if he does. Long story short, Linc wins and he and Michael do the dance joy. Loggia's character saw this and his heart grew three sizes that day as a dozen years of hatred for Lincoln Hawk were swept away at the sight of Hawk's steroid ridden body holding both the trophy and his grandson. As Linc and Michael drive off in Linc's new truck (one of the arm wrestling prizes), we are played out by a forgettable band playing a forgettable 80s movie song called "Take It Higher" as I attempt to forget I ever saw this movie. That is a goal I'll probably achieve.

Friday, October 8, 2010

No, YOU meet ME Halfway!

Time once again for one of my famous and popular Liveblogs. This is a movie I haven't seen before and the comments you read, other than errors corrected during proofreading, were written as I watched the movie. Yes, I will be spoiling every last second of this. Last time around I went to Hulu but today I return to Netflix Instant to watch what is probably the greatest movie ever made about arm wrestling. Going all the way back to 1986, you can now watch me as I watch Over The Top starring Sylvester Stallone.

0:00:15 -- Aw man, 15 seconds in and I already have something to bitch about. The Cannon logo just popped up. That makes it a Golan/Globus production which, to those of you old enough to remember, means that the movie has a 90% chance of sucking at Marianas Trench depths.

0:03:50 -- And it's even directed by Menahem Golan himself. I found this out during the opening credits sequence where Stallone is driving a big rig through some sort of Pacific mountain range while a song about being free or something by a Survivor cover band I'll call The Generics played. A bit of a shock to see Stallone looking so young as opposed to looking like an old man wearing a Sylvester Stallone mask like he does today.

0:04:25 -- Using Made-For-TV-Movie fonts in their credits, I've discovered that Stallone was one of the writers. I would have figured that out for myself when people started speaking in stupid dialogue. The other author is Stirling Silliphant, the guy whose long career in Hollywood included The Towering Inferno and The Poseidon Adventure. And now he's writing about arm wrestling for a guy whose most famous catchphrase is, "Yo!" Perhaps Silliphant would have been comforted to know that, in only 9 more years, he would be dead.

0:20:00 -- Stallone plays Lincoln Hawk. Excuse me, that didn't seem right. Instead, let me say that Sylvester Stallone plays LINCOLN FUCKING HAWK!!!!! Lincoln Hawk is the kind of name you should only have if you're in a blaxpoitation movie fighting pushers in East Harlem. This Lincoln Hawk, however, is a truck driver picking up his estranged son from military school and drive across country with him in some sort of attempt at bonding. The son, Michael, is a tad annoyed that the only way he could have seen in his dad in the ten years since he was born would have been to buy a ticket so he could watch him fight Apollo Creed. Hawk figures the best way to start bonding with your kid during the Reagan years is to share a steak so they pull into this craphole of a truck stop. This is where they encounter The Smasher. Mr. Smasher had apparently seen Rhinestone and figured a guy who looks like Stallone would be easy pickings in an arm wrestling challenge. Hawk wins of course but is then confronted by another arm wrestler, an EVIL arm wrestler who will be his opponent at some big arm wrestling get together or something. This is called foreshadowing. Stallone learned that in screenwriting school and decided to use the crap out of it here. Oh, Hawk didn't want to leave his kid. He had to because he was framed for drug dealing by the boy's grandfather (Robert Loggia who I think was cast when the studio wanted someone who could act) or some such nonsense. Oh well, I must now leave the comfort of Microsoft Word and click back over to the Netflix tab. See you in a bit.

0:25:00 -- Kenny Loggins is singing a song called Meet Me Halfway. I know it's him because it sounds like every other song he ever sang. Meanwhile, Hawk is actually managing to make up for 10 years of shitty parenting and successfully bonding with his son. This once again proves something that movies have proven again and again. There is no problem, be it needing to get laid or trying to deal with the aftermath of nuclear war, that can't be solved with a road trip.

0:27:15 -- Now Hawk wants Michael to actually drive his truck. This is good news for me as I'm assuming the scene that follows will be the truck driving off a cliff resulting in their fiery deaths.

This seems like a good place to stop since, as is always the case with my Liveblogs, this is getting long. Will Linc and Michael survive this incredibly stupid action and go on to become the greatest father/son arm wrestling team in history? Tune in next time to find out.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Look At My Briefs -- 10/7/10

It's cold and rainy today where I live. That means it's an excellent day to dress warmly, get a cup of cocoa and curl up with a good book. You, however, have chosen to chuck the book part and instead read another edition of my brief comments on various subjects I like to call Look At My Briefs.

I normally don't concern myself with how much a movie made or lost but it's really too bad that more people didn't go to see Let Me In. It's such a well made film and I thought it would come in at a decent second or third after The Social Network last week but, as you can see if you clicked the link, it didn't. I realize my influence over a film's audience pretty much only works on me but, if you're in the mood to see a decent horror film, Let Me In would be an excellent choice. If not, well, it really is a shame if you don't.

Speaking of The Social Network, a backlash has sprung up against it. The two most common complaints are its lack of historical accuracy and how it's not really about Facebook but Cinematical had an article saying it doesn't truly define a generation. I find this argument pointless since I'm of the opinion that no movie, be it American Graffiti or The Breakfast Club, has ever truly defined a generation. One worry I have is that this backlash, especially the accusations that it smeared the parties involved, could cost it Oscar nominations.

Here's a bit of good news if you're anything like me and were dreading the return of Superman to the big screen. 300/Watchmen director Zack Snyder will be in charge of the next version. I'm hoping they don't feel the need to once again cast Kate Bosworth as Lois Lane, the role she played in Superman Returns. I like Kate Bosworth but she was a poor choice on an epic scale to play Lois Lane for several reasons starting with the fact that she was too young. I'd cast Kate Beckinsale but then again I would cast Kate Beckinsale in just about everything including Yentl.

Another good bit of superhero movie news is that Darren Aronofsky will probably be directing Wolverine 2. I honestly believe that he couldn't do a worse job than was done with the first Wolverine movie which means the sequel will almost surely look incredible in comparison to the first. That's an admirable position for a filmmaker to be in and makes me think I should direct the next Twilight movie as I would be called a genius filmmaker no matter what I did. I can guarantee if I did that, hardcore Twi-heads would hate but everyone else would cheer when Edward got staked by Blade.

Or maybe I could build my reputation on the next Transformers movie but, unfortunately, Michael Bay has insisted on keeping control of that franchise for now. They've even come up with a title that is 100% guaranteed to make no one who wasn't planning to see it change their minds.

Doctor Who is my favorite show. Neil Gaiman is my favorite writer. The fact that the BBC is getting their Gaiman in my Who means they've figured out how to make two great tastes go great together. Gaiman's vague spoilers will be more than enough to keep Doctor Who fans arguing for months about what's going to happen and man oh man are they going to be upset when they find out that he obviously means that the Master is returning wearing a Dalek suit of armor in order to help the Sontarans conquer the Earth. I mean, really, it's obvious to anyone who reads it.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

It's Complicated

Yesterday, I reviewed Let Me In. Let Me In is a haunting and very high quality film. I think it's one of the best movies of the year. However, that wasn't the only movie I saw over the weekend and, to give you a hint of the other movie's quality, Let Me In wasn't the best movie I saw this week. The Social Network is, simply, the best movie so far this year. Until now, that title belonged to Inception but The Social Network makes Inception look like something the dog puked up, swallowed and then puked it up again. But I kid Christopher Nolan.

This is the story of the creation of Facebook, a web site some of you may have heard of. You can tell it's an important film because people can't stop writing about it, if only to dismiss it and call it unimportant. I've read a few saying it's not really about Facebook and that's true. It's not about a web site but rather about the people who created it. A more potent criticism is that it's not historically accurate. In the end, when it comes to movies, that doesn't matter. Whether a film based on true events is eerily accurate or complete fiction doesn't affect if it's good or bad.

The opening scene introduces us to Mark Zuckerberg (Jesse Eisenberg) in 2003 when he was a sophomore at Harvard studying computer science. The David Fincher directed movie portrays Zuckerberg as a genius with limited social skills out on what he doesn't realize is the final date with his girlfriend, Erika (Rooney Mara). Erika has been putting up with his flaws for a while and gets fed up when he passive/aggressively insults her 10 times in about 3 minutes. Mark doesn't think the breakup was justified so he goes back to his room and starts drunkenly writing intimate and embarrassing details about her on his blog. While doing this, he also takes out his anger on the entire female gender when he angrily whips up a website called that took pictures of every girl at Harvard and asks people to rate who's hotter. These are real life incidents that his detractors use to attack him to this day. Mark got in a bit of trouble for this but he also gained the attention of three members of one of Harvard's final clubs. This was educational to me as I didn't know what the hell a final club was. Depending on your social one monetary position in life, they can either be described as a place where Harvard's finest young men (Yes, even in 2010, they're all male) meet and form bonds and friendships that mold and benefit them OR a place where rich, well connected misogynist touchholes get together to drink and wonder why the rest of the world thinks they're touchholes.

Anyway, three members of one of these clubs hire Mark to take their idea for a Harvard dating site and make it a reality. Instead, Mark enlists his roommate Eduardo Saverin to give him business advice and financial aid to create his own site which he will call The site's addictive nature makes it an instant hit, much to the chagrin of Mark's former business partners who couldn't help but notice that Mark had created something that was at least similar to their idea without them. This spawns the first lawsuit against Mark.

The second one happens when Mark and Eduardo have a falling out, a falling out that starts when Mark allows Sean Parker to become involved in The Facebook. I knew some of this story going in but I had no idea that the Sean Parker, the founder of Napster, had a hand in the creation of Facebook. At this point in time, Napster has gone from being the hottest thing ever to being a glorious and epic failure and Parker (Justin Timberlake in a pitch perfect performance) sees Facebook on the laptop of a recent hookup and quickly recognizes its potential. Parker comes off as a schmoozing parasite who takes advantage of Mark's hero worship of him to become an intricate part of this new company. He's also portrayed as a man whose vindictive nature and personal excesses put the future of Facebook in danger.

I have no idea what the real Mark Zuckerberg is like but he's fascinating in the movie where he's a man whose entire life is an example of irony because he has difficulty connecting with people yet he creates the greatest personal connection tool in history. The story is told Rashomon-style in which characters being deposed in the various lawsuits give their versions of events but they all agree on Zuckerberg's nature. When he talks to people, his conversations are more like real life blog posts. He states his harsh, unfiltered opinions then waits for people he regards as his comments section to respond. Eisenberg, as well as the entire cast, did a great job.

September has been a very good month for movies. This Friday, there's a new Katherine Heigl comedy coming out so I'm sure she'll put a stop to that.

Monday, October 4, 2010


In 2008, a wonderful Swedish film was released in the United States called Let The Right One In. Yes, the review says I thought it was a Norwegian film but I'm pretty sure Swedes and Norwegians don't at all mind when you confuse one for the other so I think I'm good. Anyway, its marvelously original story about vampires stood out at a time when the world was in the grip of Twilight fever. I wasn't happy when I heard an American remake was in the works because I assumed it would try to become the next chapter of Twilight. I figured the 12 year old main characters would be replaced by sexy 23 year old actors playing sexy 16 year old kids who would always be taking showers or lying around in their underwear and that it would also be loaded with CGI vampire effects and action sequences.

Instead, writer/director Matt Reeves somehow convinced an American movie studio to finance what turned out to be a fairly faithful remake of a dark and insightful foreign film about children that most children wouldn't be allowed to see. There are a few restrained and intelligent uses of CGI and the one real action sequence is actually an improvement over the original's handling of the same scene. In other words, Let Me In is about as good as a remake can get and it was wonderful to see a filmmaker who was able to show us this story from his own point of view while also being respectful of the original source material.

The main characters of Let Me In are now named Owen and Abby. Kodi Smit-McPhee, who played Viggo Mortensen's son in The Road, plays 12 year old Owen, a boy whose weakness and shyness make him a target for some very sadistic bullies at his school. His parents aren't much help to him. His father seems to care but he's left home and is mostly out of the picture. His mother, whose face we never fully see, is usually too busy appreciating a good glass of wine to notice that Owen is miserable. It's 1983 which means he can't lose himself in the internet or an XBox so he has very little pleasure in his life.

Then you have Abby, a girl who is 12 but, as she says, she's been 12 for a very long time. Kodi Smit-McPhee is perfectly cast as Owen but I was skeptical when I heard Chloe Moretz was being cast as the vampire. The girl in Let The Right One In seemed to perfectly embody darkness and sadness but when I saw Chloe Moretz as Hit Girl in Kick Ass, I thought she was too bright and cheerful looking to play the vampire girl tormented by the conflict between her human conscience and her inherently evil nature. Turns out I had nothing to worry about. Chloe does something that film scholars like to call "acting" and manages the various emotions she is called upon to portray. They didn't even have to dye her blond hair black as I assumed they would.

When they meet, they each see a kindred spirit in the other. They are each outcasts though in very different ways. They're at an age when puberty is just starting to try to gain a foothold on their bodies (one will always be that age) so Owen is able to develop a crush on Abby and be perfectly satisfied with just holding her hand. This is true even when, after a particularly traumatic and bloody experience, she comes to him for comfort, removes her bloody clothes and gets into bed with him. In a year or two, Owen would try to turn around and touch more than her hand. Sadly, in a year or two, Abby will be too young for him to do anything like that. It makes their relationship both a wonder and a tragedy.

Abby hates killing but she can't stop. Blood isn't so much food as it is an addiction. When Owen cuts his finger and blood drips to the floor, she knows he's watching but she can't stop herself from getting on her knees to lick the blood up. Abby doesn't go through life alone though. A middle aged man (Richard Jenkins) travels with her and he apparently does most of the killing for her. The movie never says outright who he is. IMDB lists him as "The Father" but he's not her father. When I saw the Swedish version, I theorized that he was a pedophile who had only recently committed himself to Abby, an idea that, according to my research, is hinted at in the novel. In this movie, however, it's implied that he's been with her since he was Owen's age. He may have been a brother or some other relative but now he is her servant, kind of like Renfield was to Dracula. Whoever he is, his commitment to Abby is so complete that he makes two very gruesome and final sacrifices to protect her.

Let Me In is a violent film that deals with serious themes. It is not an anti-sex parable disguised as light entertainment. Vampires are not beautiful teenagers who sparkle in the sun and keep us pure until marriage upon which time we ascend to perfection with them. I heard someone in the audience ask if Abby was evil. The answer to that is both yes and no. Abby is decent and caring until the lust for blood gets to be too much to bear. Then she's a ruthless killer. Like Owen, we come to care about her and feel sorry for her. She cares about him too. That's why the movie ends the way it does and why that ending is both happy and sad.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Some Guy Tries To Figure Out Mad Men

I usually only like television shows where a guy puts on sunglasses while making sarcastic comments about dead bodies and then sprinkles white powder on everything which he looks at under a microscope and then BAM the crime is solved. Knowing this about me, my friends still insisted that I watch Mad Men. I just need to ask, is this a real show? I wouldn't put it past my friends to make a fake television show and try to pass it off as real. Still, it's been going on for years and I've seen those actors in other things so if it was a joke or a hoax, it would have gotten awfully expensive by now.

Assuming it's real, what's the deal with it? There's this really handsome guy named Don except his name's not really Don, it's Dick. When someone first called him that, I thought he was being insulted but it turned out to be his name. Anyway, Don/Dick is great at coming up with slogans to sell things like Ajax so this big 1960s Madison Avenue advertising firm hires him. I guess he lied on the part of his job application that asks if this is your real name or a totally bogus one or maybe they just didn't care about things like fake names back in the 60s. When Don/Dick isn't trying to come up with slogans that will get people to smoke Lucky Strikes, he's grabbing almost every vaguely hot woman and bangs her. I didn't know people even had sex in the 60s but, if this show is to be believed, they did it a lot.

For some reason, there are two women Double D hasn't touched who work right there in his office. There's Peggy who, for some reason, passed on don and got herself knocked up by some scummy little shrimp boy named Pete Campbell. Peggy is always getting harassed at the office because she's a woman but, for some reason, she never goes to her HR rep to complain. Maybe women were cool with that stuff back in the 60s.

Another woman Don has never been inside of is Joan, which is very odd since she has breasts that have their own gravitational field. Seriously, I bet immigration is always searching her since she could smuggle illegal immigrants between those things.

Thing that gets me about Mad Men is that everything people say has about eight different meanings. If Peggy says, "Hi, Don," it's a greeting, an insult, a subtle comment on interpersonal relationships between men and women in the days before women's lib was in full swing and a question about whether Don wants to go grab tacos with her for lunch or just eat a tuna salad sandwich at his desk. In Two and a Half Men, when Charlie Sheen says he wants to have sex with a woman, that's what he means, damn it. Why can't Mad Men strive to be more like that show?

You know what? Maybe I'm wrong about all of this. My only consolation is that soon, if I remember my history correctly, the Vietnamese will soon invade America and kill them all. I'll definitely watch that episode.