Monday, January 31, 2011

Ain't No Good At Speechifyin'

The King's Speech is everything they say it is. I'd still like to see The Social Network or Inception win for Best Picture but now I wouldn't be too upset if this movie from the Emerald Isle was to walk away with Oscar gold. Is England the Emerald Isle? Now I don't think so but it's too late. Time to move on.

I was completely ignorant of this story of the man who started life as Prince Albert and ended it as King George VI until this movie came out. I had no idea that he had to work hard to overcome a serious stammer in order to be an effective monarch at the dawn of the broadcasting age and especially to help rally his people during that war that didn't quite end all wars but it sure as heck did try. Colin Firth plays Albert, the Duke of York and second in line for the throne of Great Britain after his older brother, David (Guy Pearce). This is just fine with him as he has no desire to be king. He's a painfully shy man who's been forced by circumstances of his birth to engage a worldwide empire even though it's a sometimes impossible chore for him to speak. He also finds that even his wish not to be king is in jeopardy due to the very famous affair between his brother and an American divorcee named Wallace Simpson.

The story starts a few years before Albert ascended to the throne when, out of frustration, Albert says the hell with it and decides to give up trying to treat his condition. His wife Elizabeth (Helena Bonham Carter who plays this role to perfection) doesn't accept this and seeks out an Australian speech therapist named Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush). Logue's methods, developed during World War I while working with shell shocked soldiers, differ from Albert other therapists in that he sees the stammer as a symptom of a deeper psychological condition. That condition is probably his discomfort with the royal life and the demands and expectations of his father, King George V, a man who thought he could simply bully the stammer out of Albert. The Prince doesn't care for that idea nor does he care for Logue. Logue wants to do something that only Albert's family is allowed to do and that is to call him Bertie and he wants Albert to ride a cramped elevator down to his drab office rather than be treated in his luxurious home. Fortunately for Logue, Albert tolerates what is probably partly a sincere belief that this is the way to do it and partly a somewhat common Australian irreverence toward the British monarchy because of immediate evidence that Logue's methods are effective.

This is one of those lovely British films that manages to employ just about every great British actor of the day and, in the case of Rush, one great Australian actor while creating a solid mood and atmosphere that makes you forget that it's 2011 and makes a bygone era seem natural and familiar. I'm not surprised that director Tom Hooper had done this before in the wonderful seven part HBO miniseries about John Adams. I imagined screenwriter David Seidler had significant experience in writing historical dramas and it turns out I was right. For example, he wrote 1999's Come On, Get Happy: The Partridge Family Story. Seriously. I see nothing in his IMDB profile that would make me think, "There's only one guy who could successfully pull off an ambitious drama like this and that's David Seidler," and I wonder if there's some fascinating story behind the writing of this screenplay. Be that as it may, well done sir.

Well done to everyone, in fact. It's a superbly told story with an almost technically perfect balance of drama, humor and atmosphere and it was a pleasure to watch. I now look forward to the sequel in which George VI and Lionel Logue invade Germany and talk Hitler to death.

Friday, January 28, 2011


My last Liveblog was a mediocre 80s film that exploited a pop culture trend. After that, I wanted my next one to be more contemporary and you almost ended up reading about Miley Cyrus in The Last Song but then I noticed something else on Netflix Instant list, something...wonderful. In the late 80s/early 90s, America had a brief flirtation with a certain Latin dance. This sparked a film making and marketing strategy convergence that caused two movies about it to be released in the same week. Sadly, only one of them is available for instant streaming so that's the one I'm doing. Strap yourselves and tighten your sphincters as you prepare to read my real time comments on this movie you've never heard of that stars no one. That movie would be...LAMBADA.

0:00:00 -- Before even beginning, I noticed this line in Netflix' description of the film: "To gain the barrio kids' respect, Kevin demonstrates his dazzling lambada moves on the dance floor." One way or another, good or bad, this shit just got legendary.

0:00:30 -- Wow, only 30 seconds in and it already has signs of massive suckage. It's a Golan/Globus film (no time to explain so Google it if that means nothing to you), a song is playing that sounds like every 80s dance tune ever made, the first line of dialogue was some frat boy yelling, "BREWSKIS," and it was directed by Joel Silber. He directed Breakin', a movie so shitty that Breakin' 2 was actually an improvement. The circle is complete. Moving on.

This mobile phone can call someone who's nearly 2 blocks away if the wind isn't blowing.

0:10:00 -- The movie opens at a party being thrown by wealthy high school douchebags exalting in the privileges that come with being a wealthy high school douchebags. These kids must not be very smart because they all look to be clocking in around age 25 yet they're still in high school but at least they're rich douchebags so they really don't care. The next day, the head of the math department gets sacked for dating a Latino woman (seriously). This provides an opening for Kevin Laird who, I assume, is the "Kevin" mentioned above who will soon be entrancing barrio kids on the lambada floor. I suppose this will be all right so long as he doesn't marry any of them. Meanwhile, a math student named Sandy has an obvious crush on the ridiculously handsome Kevin. Luckily, she's a high school student in her early 20s so at least it's legal. Later, Sandy sees her boyfriend, Dean, hitting on another girl. Dean is a flippant jerk with a huge ego, poofed up hair and a Ferrari so you know that, on a wealthy douchebag scale of 1 to 10, he rates a 12. Sandy jumps out of Dean's car and goes with a friend to a dance club known to be frequented by people who aren't white so she can at least meet someone who'll piss off her parents. Also, Kevin leaves his wife and son behind, jumps on his motorcycle and heads off to the same club.

That's Kevin. He really loves his wife. That's not her, by the way.

0:35:00 -- As I said, Kevin and Sandy wind up at an inner city club where the only thing they dance is...LAMBADA, THE FORBIDDEN DANCE. I know it's called the Forbidden Dance because that other lambada movie I mentioned was called The Forbidden Dance. One of the character said it had been outlawed in Brazil and that's why it's called that. It basically involves a boy and a girl grinding their crotches against each other repeatedly until the song ends and Kevin does it so expertly that all the club kids become entranced and stop dancing. They follow him into a room and he damn well better not be doing this to teach them math and FUCK FUCK FUCK HE'S DOING IT SO HE CAN TEACH THEM MATH. This really bothers fellow lambadanista Ramone (Adolpho "Shabba-Doo" Quinones who played Ozone in the Breakin' movies and again, the circle is complete). Why? It just does and shut up, that's why. I want to stress how god damn amazed I am at either the sheer stupidity or the sheer balls in making a movie called Lambada and then making it about some guy running an underground math class. Meanwhile, Sandy has also fallen under Kevin's lamabada induced spell but oddly doesn't have a desire to learn math. Instead, she gets hot for teacher as seen in an extended fantasy sequence where she and a shirtless Kevin are doing the lambada. My sex fantasies usually involve actual sex but maybe this is what high school girls actually do so I won't judge. She gets so worked up that she goes back to the club another night and does start grinding with Kevin on the dance floor. I imagine these scenes made the movie very popular with people who think the idea of teachers fucking their students is awesome. Still, she's not Latino so the school should have no problem with it.

1:00:00 -- I have to wonder how Kevin first explained all this to his wife. "Honey, I want to run an underground tutoring class to help kids in the barrio pass their GEDs but the only way they'll respect me and take me seriously will be if I grind up against half dressed club hotties, some of them underage, doing a dance so erotic that it's against the law in the country that invented the thong." "Sounds cool, sweetie. Pick up some milk on the way home." He makes a bit of headway with Ramone by showing him math can be used for pool hustling which makes him a bajillion times cooler than my math teacher or any math teacher ever. Meanwhile, Sandy's lust for Kevin is now so thick you could sell it by the slice. She won't take no for an answer and keeps trying to stick her hand down his pants while he's talking to the school principal. This all seems wrong but you have to realize that stalking and molesting someone was considered adorable back in the 90s. Oh, isn't this movie called Lambada? I forgot because the movie is now about tutoring and teacher fucking so it should have been called that.

Ramone is pushing 40, making him the creepy guy at the club and too old to be in a high school class yet I'm the only one who seems to notice.

1:20:00 -- Sandy dances with Ramone to make Kevin jealous unaware of the fact that Kevin couldn't care less and instead he loads his study group whom he's nicknamed Galaxy High onto a bus and taken them to the school where he works. He has this brilliant, can't-miss idea to use the school's computers to help them practice the GED. It was a bit nostalgic seeing those old 1990 Macs. It made me think that, in just a few years, they'd be using these 8 megabyte hard drives to connect to AOL and to call people they never met dog raping homos on Usenet because someone disagreed with them that Babylon 5 was way better than The X-Files. Anyway, Sandy suddenly noticed that Kevin was not standing around in a jealous rage finally ready to rip her clothes but had, in fact, left so she followed him. Douchebag Dean showed up looking for her and Ramone told him where she was so he activated the douchebag signal to summon his buddies to help him beat up Kevin. Why beat up Kevin? Why not? Ramone underwent a complete personality change and went to the school to help Kevin and Sandy and everyone ended up getting arrested. Kevin got fired and Sandy, who has completely forgotten that she wanted Kevin to ride her like she was Secretariat, organizes the kids to help him get his job back and I have this creeping, terrifying feeling that, somehow, this will all be resolved by putting on a show.

If the 80s had never existed, they would have to have been invented to accommodate this guy.

1:44:00 -- I was wrong. The fact that the movie is called Lambada made me think that the lambada would somehow be involved but that was my fault. Instead of putting on a big show, the whole situation was resolved with a math contest. Despite the fact that Kevin's firing was one of the most justifiable teacher terminations in history, the Superintendent of Schools, for reasons only known to the screenwriters, really wants a reason to let him stay so they decide to hold a math contest. Yes, this movie that started off as a showcase for a sexy dance is ending with complex geometry questions between Galaxy High and Rich Douchebag High and Kevin gets to stay if the barrio kids win. Naturally, it ends in a tie with the ending to be determined by the final question between Dean and Ramone. Ramone frames his answer by describing the pool hustling tactics Kevin had shown him and Galaxy High wins. Kevin gives some emotional speech that causes both sides to realize that we're all brothers under the skin and, finally, a big lambada fueled finale happens right there on school property. I remember not being allowed to do the play Grease because the principal didn't like the subplot of Rizzo's pregnancy scare yet the principal of this elite private school says nothing when everyone runs into the rain and literally starts ripping each other clothes off and grinding against each other. Still, at least the whole stupid math contest was over, as is the movie. And that, folks, is how our ancestors during the strange, primitive time known as 1990 thought it would be a good idea to take the lambada, something that, at the time, was thought of as the mysterious embodiment of sex itself and used it as a plot point in a movie about a wholesome math contest. If you go to film school, please forget you saw any of this.

I would have liked to have gone to the high school that lets you have lambada fueled dance orgies in the rain with your teacher. The pizza parties I had with my teachers were good too, I guess.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Look At My Briefs -- 1/27/11

I'm not sure how but, somehow, it is once again Thursday, the day I present another edition of my brief comments on various subjects I like to call Look At My Briefs.

Kevin Smith pulled a clever stunt in which his producer auctioned off the distribution rights to his new film Red State only to sell the rights to himself for $20. His plan is to distribute the film himself the way producer William Castle used to do it in the 50s, taking it from town to town himself. His hope is that this would eliminate the need to spend millions of dollars on distribution and advertising costs. I don't see this working but man, it would be great if it did. If it doesn't work, I'll gladly pay 30 bucks for the movie and show it to my family to recoup the costs. My family will be mad when I charge them $10 for popcorn but they love me so they'll get over it.

Wait a minute, there's a third Olsen sister? And she's making quality movies and not stuff about twins who have to switch places in order to save a community center or whatever the hell the Olsen twins' movies are about? If we were closer to April 1, I wouldn't believe a word of this and I still don't fully believe that this girl didn't just purchase the rights to the Olsen name.

I like to think Gale-Anne Hurd was making a joke but I think most people who say stuff like, "A zombie invasion is less scary than a financial meltdown," actually mean what they say, at least until they think seriously about it. People doing that is literally worse than the Holocaust.

To those of you who think that the failure of the Academy to nominate Waiting For Superman in the Best Documentary category is prima facie evidence that the nominating committee all got hand jobs from the teacher's unions, you might want to read this.

I still think Hailee Steinfeld should have been nominated for Best Actress and not in the supporting role category. She was the lead character of the film and, if anything, Jeff Bridges was the one supporting her. Still, I hope she wins if for no other reason than that I can't think of who the hell else is nominated for Best Supporting Actress.

Despite an improved second episode, I still think American Skins is a pale imitation of its British original. Sadly, instead of its quality, people are freaking out over all of its non-existent child pornography. Some high profile advertisers have dropped out and, to my surprise, ratings dropped by half in the second episode. I'd like to think it's because everyone agreed with me that it wasn't that great but it's more likely that parents forbade their kids from watching it lest they see nipples and bare butts that weren't there. If it's the latter, it's a good thing they did that because it's not like the kids can just pull a phone out of their pockets and just watch it online. MTV is actually showing a bit of backbone, probably because the people complaining about it would eliminate MTV itself if they could but they will cancel it if the ratings don't improve. This puts me in the awkward position of defending a show for which I do not particularly care though, as I said, it did get better in episode 2.

Big Hollywood debating itself: Hollywood celebrities are self absorbed tightasses who should lighten up and take a joke vs. SARAH PALIN JOKES ARE MEAN AND CRUEL AND INEXCUSABLE SKREEEEEEEE!

Italian-Americans are complaining about Jersey Shore filming in Italy. I'll only complain if America lets them back in.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Monday, January 24, 2011

In The Bleak Midwinter

January, traditionally, is the worst time for movies. Well, it's the worst time for big budget studio made movies. You also get the high quality indie films that had a one week release in the previous year to qualify for Oscar contention but those movies cater to a different audience from mass market studio fare. Today's review, sadly, is not for one of those.

I'm glad I didn't know ahead of time that No Strings Attached was directed by Ivan Reitman or I might have expected more from it. I'm not sure why as any Ivan Reitman movie that didn't have Bill Murray is mildly amusing at best.

No Strings Attached is about a group of awful people who treat each other terribly in a way that's supposed to make the audience laugh though, judging from my and the audience's reaction, there wasn't a lot of that. Ashton Kutcher plays Adam and Natalie Portman plays Emma, two dumb people who enter into an idiotic relationship in the stupidest way possible. They meet as teenagers at camp and he tries to parlay her lame attempts at comforting him over his parents' divorce into a failed attempt at fingering her. They meet again at college and she invites him to accompany her to a family thing that turns out to be her father's funeral. This does set up a funny shot where Adam is surrounded by mourners in formal wear while he's dressed in blue jeans and his Michigan State sweatshirt so I suppose it was a plus for the movie that she's a self-absorbed idiot. They meet up again a few years later when they're both living in Los Angeles because, in a city the size of Los Angeles, you're bound to run into the girl you tried to finger as a teen who humiliated you at a funeral. They become good friends and that's when more stuff happens.

Adam gets upset when his movie star dad (Kevin Kline) hooks up with his former swimsuit model girlfriend. This and the fact that he is an assistant to the writers of a Glee-style television show instead of a writer himself. Never mind that this is a position an aspiring writer would literally kill for and never mind that he'd already broken up with the girl when Dad got together with her. It was still enough to send him into an alcohol fueled meltdown where he ends up at Emma's and, through a series of very dull circumstances, they end up having unexpected sex. This is when they decide to become platonic sex buddies, a prospect that works out as well as you think it would in a romantic comedy about two people who are both perfect for and crazy about each other.

So, you know, there's the plot. There have been worse plots. The challenge with a movie like this is making you care enough about the characters and inserting enough laughs to make you overlook how utterly ridiculous it is and this movie fails the challenge. I was surprised at how little I cared for anyone in this movie. Natalie Portman supposedly has some devastating intimacy issues that made her character a very unpleasant person though they just went away when it was convenient for the plot to do so and Ashton Kutcher just whines and whines and whines again and whines some more about his father and Emma and his TV writing career which, by the way, is actually going pretty well. There are a few saving graces like Kutcher's banter with his friends, one of whom is played by Ludacris. There's also a sexy and overly talkative associate producer played by Lake Bell who champions Adam's writing ambitions but those are all buried by the lack of laughs and the surplus of horrible people. Plus, it has some of the worst music I've heard in a long while. The whole score sounds like the same bad jazz song played just a bit differently each time. The music was what kept me from at least getting a nap.

Oh well, January is almost over and maybe we'll start getting some decent movies again. Looking at upcoming releases, I see Natalie Portman's Black Swan partner Mila Kunis has a new movie coming out with Justin Timberlake called Friends With Benefits in which they play two friends who become sex buddies and...AAAAAHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!

Friday, January 21, 2011

Closing My Eyes And Thinking Of England

This week, American audiences were treated to not one but two brand new versions of popular British shows. Since America is the country in which English was invented and Jesus was born, you would think this would be a good and natural thing and that God's favorite country would produce television superior to a nation known mainly for having an aging figurehead on all its money. Oddly, this wasn't the case.

But I kid the British. Yes, I kid because I love. Specifically, I love your television shows. Mind you, I am under no illusions about them. You all on the other side of the Atlantic are just as capable of churning out brain damaged crap and labeling it mass entertainment as we are. The difference is that, when you're television is good, it's really good. Doctor Who is a better science fiction show than anything that's ever been on in the US. Monty Python, even 40 years later, is still a better example of how to do sketch comedy than anything America has ever produced. For a more contemporary example, Peep Show is funnier than anything currently running in America (30 Rock being its only real American rival). And Skins is, with the exception of season 4's final two episodes, one of the best things ever.

And now we have Skins in America thanks to the good folks at MTV. Somehow, the good folks at Music Television found an hour in the week in which they weren't glorifying foul mouthed, promiscuous guidos or teen girls who've never heard of birth control to create and broadcast its own vision of Skins. If you're not familiar with it, it's a very well written show about teens. Unlike your normal show about teens in which the "teens" are actually mature, sophisticated 25 year olds who are ridiculously wealthy and spend most of their time living soap opera plots. Skins, on the other hand, insists on actually having kids under the age of 18 play kids under the age of 18. They're also from families whose income ranges from middle class to much lower (though one of them did come from money, not sure if they'll copy that yet or not). They also do things like take drugs and have sex without experiencing some sort of horrible punishment. In fact, they actually seem to find these experiences pleasurable. The show is also wildly funny in the way it deals with some very realistic situations in a dramatic and entertaining way. So how did it translate to American television? The first episode was, for the most part, a remake of the first episode from four years ago. It was too much to hope for that they would come up with original characters and scripts, I guess. Some of the names are different and the gay boy is now a lesbian girl but, ultimately, they're the same people. The show suffers in comparison. The acting isn't as good and I feel they've removed some of the gutsy spirit that drives the British show. I felt like I was watching a high school drama club trying to do their own production of the original script. Plus, as other people have pointed out, the language wasn't adapted. American kids don't speak in British slang. An even bigger mistake is that American kids don't go to the British school system which is what they're going to here. That's simply lazy and I expected better.

Also suffering in comparison to its original is Being Human, the story of a vampire and a werewolf who become friends and decide to move in together in an apartment haunted by a ghost. The British show isn't perfect but it does have a very real and natural feel to it. It has humor but the humor evolves from the situations and the established characters. The characters in the American show, on the other hand, all behave as if they're characters in the Scream movies. People behave in a post-modern style and seem to be winking at the audience. They don't speak in dialogue as much as they do in patter. The British werewolf, George, behaves like a socially awkward guy whereas the American werewolf, Josh, behaves like a standup comedian whose act revolves around why he can't get laid. I think people who never saw the British version will like it more than I did.

The good news is that both shows are about to start new seasons in the United Kingdom. It's a shame that there's no way for me to see it over here until 6-8 months pass and they finally decide to show it on BBC America. Yep, no way at all.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Look At My Briefs -- 1/20/11

I present to you now the 50th anniversary edition of my brief comments on various subjects I like to call Look At My Briefs. No, it's not really the 50th anniversary but, if you want to call your boss and say you're taking the day off for the anniversary, I'll back you up.

I'm not the least bit upset that a new sequel/prequel/whateverquel to Alien has now been shelved. There are too damn many completely needless sequels made at the expense of new and interesting projects. New and interesting projects like, let's say, the movie Prometheus that producer Damon Lindelof and director Ridley Scott is going to do instead.
“While Alien was indeed the jumping off point for this project, out of the creative process evolved a new, grand mythology and universe in which this original story takes place,” said Scott in a statement. “The keen fan will recognize strands of Alien's DNA, so to speak, but the ideas tackled in this film are unique, large and provocative. I couldn't be more pleased to have found the singular tale I'd been searching for, and finally return to this genre that's so close to my heart.”

"In a world flooded with prequels, sequels and reboots,” stated Lindelof. “I was incredibly struck by just how original Ridley's vision was for this movie. It's daring, visceral and hopefully, the last thing anyone expects.”

That actually gets me excited, especially when I think that these two aren't hacks who think of this as an excuse to do a slasher film set in space to make a quick buck. Good luck to Scott, Lindelof and everyone else involved, unless Prometheus is about robots who shapeshift into trucks and helicopters.

If you told me today Max Bialystock was a real guy and was producing the Spider-Man musical on Broadway, I would believe you. There have probably been rockier openings in Broadway's long history but I never heard old time theater people talking about the number of deaths involved when Gigi first premiered.

Speaking of "too many sequels". I would say no to the TRON: Legacy sequel but I would have said no to TRON: Legacy and Disney doesn't care what I think anyway, especially when they figure that I, as a movie fan, will probably see it if they make it. Hell, if the numbers worked, I'd make it if I were Disney. That's one of the problems with the movie industry that, to my surprise, this blog has been very ineffective at correcting.

Apparently,and I'm not sure if anyone is interested in this, Anne Hathaway has been cast to play Catwoman in the new Batman movie. Really, is that something that would generate any interest whatsoever? Probably not. I'm not really sure why I'm mentioning it.

My favorite line of this article in which Seth Rogen recounts the apocalyptic beliefs of George Lucas is, "Lucas assures Rogen he doesn't have a spaceship." Well, it's a good thing he went out of his way to confirm that because I was wondering.

If Ricky Gervais had spent two hours doing "Mike Clear is an asshole" jokes, I would probably be pissed. He didn't, though, so I found him funny. The controversy surrounding his role as Golden Globes host reminds me of the time Stephen Colbert spoke at the White House Correspondents Dinner and was actually funny and entertaining at the cost of injuring the delicate feelings not only of the politicians but of the members of the Washington press corps in attendance. The entertainment press is similar to the political press in that too many of them see themselves not as observers but as active members of the community on which they are supposed to be objectively reporting and thus engage in knee-jerk defense of the people they see at cocktail parties. If nothing else, Gervais' performance will be remembered for years just as Colbert's was whereas whatever inoffensive piece of milquetoast that the Globes' producers hire next year will be remembered in the same way that the guy who replaced Stephen Colbert was.

One reaction to Gervais' I'm interested in is that of Big Hollywood. After all, it was only a few weeks ago that the right wing movie site published several articles like this one from their editor, John Nolte describing Gervais as the worst thing ever for an article he wrote extoling the virtues of atheism. Hey, wait a minute, it turns out that BH's Nolte absolutely loved it and even described it as speaking truth to power.
In the bubbled, hypocritical mind of some in Hollywood, the only reason Gervais crossed a line is because he went after them. Had he been as relentless in ripping apart Sarah Palin, her young children, Jesus Christ, or George W. Bush, today the comedian would be celebrated as “edgy” and “courageous” — because only in Hollywood is throwing red meat to a hard-left crowd considered “edgy” and “courageous.” But Gervais didn’t do that. Instead, he trained his satirical fire on Hollywood Power and today there’s serious talk about whether or not the comedian will be brought back to the Golden Globes next year as host.

Of course, if Gervais had given Sarah Palin, Jesus Christ or George W. Bush the treatment he gave members of the movie industry, Nolte would be accusing Gervais of trying to destroy everything good and pure in America, the land Jesus came from. How do we know this? I already posted the link of Nolte's reaction when Gervais talked about his atheist beliefs but maybe Nolte's changed in the past three weeks and isn't simply applauding Gervais because the comedian went after people he didn't like. I think he has changed and all I have to do to believe that is ignore these articles published just yesterday describing Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert in what are literally Orwellian terms for segments they did on Sarah Palin. Of course, all Hollywood would have had to do to be spared the wrath and jealousy of John Nolte was to regard this movie as the greatest thing ever put on celluloid.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Lady Dilemma

Yesterday, I talked about a bad movie featuring the standard Seth Rogen character. Today, I have a similar situation. In this case, the bad movie features the standard Vince Vaughn character. That would be a witty guy with a major league superiority complex who uses his above average intellect to con and hustle his way through life. Somehow, he's able to do all this without driving away everyone he cares about, at least until it's convenient for the plot for this to happen but he usually manages to win them back in the end despite the fact that he broke their trust in numerous ways. This movie has Vince Vaughn character and, luckily, Vince Vaughn was available to play him.

Vaughn and Kevin James play Ronnie and Nick, best friends since college who are now partners in a business that develops and sells new automobile models to major car manufacturers. I know what you're thinking: "Oh Lord, not another movie about that." One thing I liked about this movie is how hard they work at their jobs and how those jobs affect their personal lives. Characters in movies like this usually go to work in their law firms or ad agencies and sometimes make vague references to a project or a client but the bulk of their time is spent dealing with some kind of personal crap and they act like their jobs pretty much don't exist. Another thing I like is that they have age appropriate wives. In movies, men in their 40s are often paired up with girls young enough to be their daughters and, when done to often, it can be very distracting. To me anyway. In this movie, Ronnie's longtime girlfriend is played by Jennifer Connelly and Nick's wife since college is played by Winona Ryder, both of whom look awesome and managed to spare us scenes of Vince Vaughn making out with Miley Cyrus. So far, this sounds like a pretty good review so why did I call it a bad movie.

One reason it's a bad movie because it's a comedy and so many of the jokes aren't funny. This is fatal for the movie since Vaughn, the main character, is so unlikable. Vaughn often plays unlikable men but that's OK because he balances it out with enough jokes to make you want to watch him. Even movies I didn't particularly care for like Four Christmases had enough funny Vince Vaughn lines to make it bearable but, sadly, that's not the case here. Vaughn's Ronnie discovers Nick's supposedly wonderful wife is cheating on him with a guy named Zip (Channing Tatum not looking clinically depressed for once). The thing to do here would simply to have told Nick what was happening but then there wouldn't have been a movie (not that this would have been a mad thing) so Ronnie at first confronts Geneva (Ryder's wife character), an action that escalates to the point where Ronnie loses the ability to behave rationally. This all would have been fine but, to my great surprise, the jokes just weren't funny. This is the one movie one truly unforgivable sin. Oh, there are some laughs here and there. Queen Latifah is very funny as Ronnie and Nick's auto company liaison, for instance, but she wasn't on that often and even she got annoying toward the end.

As I write this, I'm noticing the similarity to what I said yesterday about The Green Hornet. These are wildly different movies that are bad for similar reasons. I should save these reviews and just copy and paste stuff when I review Adam Sandler's upcoming film Just Go With It. Sandler will almost certainly play the standard Adam Sandler character and it will almost certainly not be funny though I'll have to toss out the part about age appropriate wives since that movie has 44 year old Sandler romancing 23 year old swimsuit model Brooklyn Decker. Still, that movie will have 23 year old swimsuit model Brooklyn Decker in a swimsuit so maybe it won't be so bad.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Bad Buzz

The Green Hornet is a towering example of what happens to a movie when you make bad choices. I don't know who made the various decisions that took this movie's perfectly decent concept of a vigilante pretending to be a criminal and drove it off a cliff. Maybe is was Seth Rogen and his longtime writing partner Evan Goldberg. Maybe it was director Michel Gondry. Maybe it was nameless studio executives who wanted a blend of goofy comedy and superhero action and ended up with neither. I'm guessing they all bear some responsibility but it has the feel of nameless money men who don't let the fact that they have no idea how to make a decent movie stop them from interfering with they who do.

When the movie first started, I thought maybe the poor reviews were wrong and that Green Hornet might turn out to be enjoyable. Christoph Waltz, recently one of the most deserving winners in Oscar history for his win in the Best Supporting Actor category, plays Chudnofsky, a name that makes me grateful I can cut and paste stuff from IMDB. Chudnofsky is a ruthless gangster who suffers from self-esteem problems. A rival (an uncredited Jmes Franco) dresses him down for his age as well as his lack of charisma and menacing presence. The "menacing presence" problem is quickly rectified when Chudnofsky single-handedly kills everyone in the room yet the now dead rival's words haunt him throughout the rest of the movie. This opening scene as well as the character of Chudnofsky are great. I wish I had had a massive heart attack during the opening scene so I wouldn't have had to witness a movie that failed to live up to it.

As I said, it was a monumentally bad choice to make the Green Hornet into the typical Seth Rogen character. You know what I mean. Slacker, a bit dumb and generally incompetent at whatever he tries to do in life. Normally, he'd be bad at getting women too but in this case he's heir to a large fortune, a fact that easily makes beautiful young women think that his privates should be in their mouths. Rogen's character, Britt Reid, has spent his life being a disappointment to, and living in the shadow of, his father, a man who is both a prestigious newspaper publisher and kind of a dick. This causes mixed feelings when his father dies from an allergic reaction to a bee sting. This causes Britt to reevaluate his life and that is when he meets Kato (Chinese action star Jay Chou). Or rather, that is when he notices Kato as Kato has worked for years on his father's estate but Britt isn't the kind of guy who pays attention to employees. Kato, it turns out, is a genius inventor, skilled engineer and a master of martial arts. Kato should have been the hero of the film with Britt acting as his financial sponsor but, unfortunately, Britt insists on tagging along as they begin careers as masked vigilantes who pretend to be criminals in order to infiltrate the underworld.

That previous paragraph lays out a very nice premise for what could have been an entertaining movie. Sadly, as I said, they made bad choices. For instance, Britt Reid is not only a typical Seth Rogen character but he's also one of the hate inspiring main characters I've seen in a long time. Seth Rogen has played an asshole in the past but he's balanced it out with funny jokes and his personal charisma and made you end up rooting for those awful people he's played. It didn't work this time, though. The funny jokes didn't come often enough though the unfunny ones did and he kept hateful things ranging from mistreating Kato to hiring Cameron Diaz as his assistant and treating her in such a way that the characters from Mad Men would have chastised him for his misogyny and sexual harassment. On the plus side, I've already mentioned Waltz, Jay Chou's fight scenes were good and the ending was crazy as the Hornet and Kato literally drive their car up an elevator to the top floor of a building.

As I said, I don't know who to blame. Rogen and Gondry have written, starred in and directed better movies than this so what happened here? I don't know and it's not something I can do anything about so I won't worry about it. I feel bad for them if it wasn't their fault. If it was, may they be eaten by ants.

Friday, January 14, 2011

The Re-Breakening

Today's Liveblog is one of the most famous movies ever made that no one has ever seen. Roaring all the way back from that strange, primitive time known to historians only as "The 80s", it is with pride and a bit of fear that I will now comment on, and spoil every second of, a movie that I only noticed a few days ago was available on Netflix Instant. That movie is, of course, 1984's BREAKIN 2: ELECTRIC BOOGALOO.

Ah, 1984. This is what your parents used to do when they were your age, kids.

(James Earle Jones voice) Previously on Breakin. I've never seen the sequel but I have seen the original so let me bring you up to speed. Aspiring dancer Kelly meets two street dancers named Ozone and Turbo. Having never before been exposed to anything vaguely ethnic, the unbearable whiteness of her being is overpowered by the raw power of their melanin and she quickly abandons every goal she's ever had and decides to become a street dancer herself. As a reward for forsaking her comfortable existence, she is given the street name Special K so...yeah. The three audition for the oldest, whitest group you've ever seen putting on some sort of show. When told they can't audition because the kids aren't "their" kind of people, they start dancing anyway. The oldsters are at first angered but quickly become seduced by the moonwalky-pop-and-lockish rhythms of the young crew so they slap together a stage show that makes the kids the biggest stars ever. I didn't care for this movie but perhaps that's because it was lacking in any sort of boogaloo, much less electric. Let's see if that was it.

0:04:00 -- The song playing during the opening credits tells us we should all "believe in the beat" so, you know, do that. Even though she was one of the biggest stars in Los Angeles where she was being regarded as the bestest dancer ever, Kelly is now dancing in some sort of chorus line and, worst of all, is no longer hanging out with Ozone and Turbo. That may literally be the saddest news I've ever heard. Seriously, I was expecting some lighthearted dancing and I get this Shakespearean tragedy? Wait, WHY aren't they hanging out together anymore? Ooh, a mystery! Also, it turns out Kelly has parents who are very rich which means they can afford to have extra large sticks shoved up their asses and they really want her to quit dancing, go to college and marry some rich douchebag who undoubtedly has an ass stick bigger than theirs. Let's watch.

0:11:00 -- OK, this movie's pissing me off now. They played with my emotions by telling me that Kelly, Ozone and Turbo were no longer friends but what happens? Kelly shows up at Ozone's house and they're all hugs and smiles and there's no mention of any trouble or dialogue like, "Hey Special K, I haven't seen you since...the incident." One thing I've learned is that the entire emotional well being of everyone in Ozone and Turbo's neighborhood is entirely dependent on Kelly's presence and they're so happy to see her that everyone, including police and public utilities workers, starts break dancing. This leads to a massive procession toward Ozone's place of employment, center. Oh shit! This means a heartless land developer is, as I type this, trying to take it from them. But he can't! Where else will the kids learn break dancing skills and hygiene and stuff? Oh, what am I talking about? This is a low budget movie trying to exploit pop culture trends. Surely they'll come up with a better plot than that.

Warning: the director LOVES crotch shots. Seriously.

0:20:00 -- In a turn of events no one could have possibly foreseen, it turns out that a heartless land developer has his eye on the community center and has managed to get it condemned. The kids will lose their unsafe, rundown shithole of a community center unless they raise $200,000 in 30 days to fix it up. For that money, of course, they could reopen the center in a 20 room mansion but they seem to have their hearts set on this place. Meanwhile, they all go to their favorite club, Radiotron, only to be informed that the floor is, and I quote, "owned by Electro Rock." Electro Rock is something that only exists in movies like this. They're an EVIL DANCE CREW! Their only actual evil act is smugness but that's enough for me I HATE THEM HATE THEM HATE THEM AAAHHHHH!!!!!!

Remember that time during the Reagan years when everyone dressed like a gay Civil War soldier?

0:30:00 -- The kids figure that the best way to raise the $200,000 dollars in a month is a combination of (and this is true) car washes, bake sales, drawing caricatures and having a mime perform. They all seem to be honestly, genuinely surprised when this turns out to be insufficient. Please note that it was the 22 minute mark when Turbo said, "Let's put on a show." Meanwhile, Kelly has a chance to audition for the lead in a prestigious dance show in Paris but OH NO if she does that, she'll have to abandon the can't-miss fundraising opportunity that is an amateur street show. We can't worry about any of that now, though, because Electro Rock has returned and they end up in a competition that has solved conflicts since time immemorial. They had A DANCE BATTLE! Not that anything really got settled as there were no judges or anything. Side note: Ozone's former girlfriend, Rhonda, is jealous of his relationship with Kelly. She stood out because she read her lines like a 4th grader playing a tooth in a school play and because she looked to be about 15 years older than anyone else at the community center so I thought she may have been the director's mistress or something. It turned out her named was Susie Bono, Sonny Bono's third wife. I'm not sure if that signifies anything but at least now you can answer that if you're ever asked on Jeopardy.

0:56:00 -- Kelly invites Turbo and Ozone to accompany her when she has dinner with her snooty parents. It goes about as well as you probably think it would go. Her father invites Kelly's former fiancee whose name I can't remember so I'll call him Richguy von Douchington. Richguy and Kelly's father insult the non-whites at the table, referring to them as "you people" and saying that, if they gave them the money for the community center, they would spend it on drugs. On the plus side, Turbo and Ozone did like the freshly baked rolls so it wasn't a total loss. A rather clever scene in which Turbo literally crawled up a wall and danced on the ceiling made me realize something; this movie isn't that bad. Oh, it's not great. Or good. But it has its moments. It's better than the first movie anyway. Plus, the club's DJ is played by Ice-T before he released Cop Killer and became the guy used by culture warriors to scare the hell out of middle aged white people. As the music in this is about as offensive as a Disney cartoon, Ice-T is singing what is basically a child's introduction to rap in Ozone and Turbo's favorite club. Ozone tries and fails to make an alliance with Electro Rock and he also fails to get Kelly to turn down the job in Paris. There's a surprisingly large amount of plot considering that, around every three minutes, the whole cast breaks out in a random break dance scene.

Something tells me this guy's gonna piss himself if he turns around.

1:16:00 -- The city zoning commission failed to grant the pleas of the neighborhood residents, I assume because they made impassioned arguments instead of just dancing. They switch tactics and start using civil disobedience instead. Turbo wholly embraces this by stealing the lunches of the construction crew and ends up falling down a flight of stairs when they chase after him. Ozone and the rest of the kids manage to get him to wake up by, how else, dancing. After learning that she turned down the job in Paris for the big community center show that will totally, definitely raise $200,000, Kelly's rich A-hole of a dad tells her that he'll give her the money if she quits dancing and ends what is now a budding romance with Ozone but Ozone won't let her, supposedly on principle but I think it's really because he hasn't seen her naked yet. It just occurred to me, it's 1984. Kelly probably has full, natural pubic hair...EEEWWW!!!! Best not to think about that. All the kids gather at the community center when the bulldozers show up to tear it down. Their initial tactic for driving the construction crew away is, of course, dancing but the teamsters are the only ones on the planet with a natural immunity to the charms of pop and locking. Turbo shows up with a broken leg and won't let them pass. It seems like any of the non-injured people could have done this but no matter, it worked and everyone goes dancing after the bulldozers as they drive away and this better not be how they save the community center.

1:34:00 -- Damn it, that was how they saved the community center. This one minor loss was enough for the guy who wanted to put up a shopping center to say fuck it and go away. Thus, the neighborhood was spared the hell of having their property values rise and quality of life go up. But wait, the building is still condemned so they still need the money. It looks like maybe a few hundred people showed up for their little show so all they need is for everyone there to donate a thousand dollars and they're set. Luckily, the show was being shown on television since it was the most important event ever and Kelly's parents saw her. This caused them to finally feel the power that is Electric Boogaloo course through their systems and their hearts grew three sizes that day as they donated the rest of the money needed and everyone, including Electro Rock, started with the hopping and the hipping as a singer once again extolled me on the virtues of believing in the beat and the credits rolled. Is there a Breakin' 3 and if not, why not? Come on, Hollywood. You all thought it was just a swell idea to put Jeff Bridges back in his virtual world he hadn't been in since 1981, so why not this? They saved the community center and now they can save the motion picture industry itself. Get on that ASAP!

Ice-T would probably suck every dick on the planet at once if we would all just forget about this.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Look At My Briefs -- 1/13/11

It's snowing here today in northern New York. I assume that everyone on the planet is also getting snow which means none of you has anything else to do except take a peek at another edition of my brief comments on various subjects I like to call Look At My Briefs.

Even though I didn't care too much for The Cape, I'll disagree with this Salon headline and assert that television can, in fact, do supeheroes. As evidence, I present the first season of Heroes. While it sadly went downhill, season one of Heroes was as good as television gets. Case closed. I win.

Some of the saddest news I've heard in a long time is that the script for Ghostbusters 3 is ready to go. Going by Ghostbusters 2 and the fact that it's been 20 years since that came out and no one really wanted a third one, I just can't imagine this would be any good. Is it possible that I could be wrong and that this could be a delightful romp that will take me back to my childhood? Well, I suppose it's poss...NO NO NO! That's exactly what Ivan Reitman wants me to do. I will now and forever, without seeing it, judge the movie poorly and refuse to change my opinion no matter what evidence comes my way because that's how an intelligent film critic behaves.

One remake I can honestly say is a good idea is Total Recall. The Arnold Schwarzenegger movie is a decent action film and not much else. I'm sure this will have action but producer Neal Moritz at least implies that they'll be shooting for something closer to the original Philip K. Dick story We Can Remember It For You Wholesale that it was based on. That's the case with most screen adaptations of Philip K. Dick. Even the good ones like Blade Runner and Minority Report differ wildly from the original work. You have to expect that from movies, of course, or else you'll drive yourself insane but for now I will remain a bit optimistic that something resembling Dick's intelligent science fiction will make it to the big screen.

This has been a week for bad news but at least we can all be relieved that, for now, Michael Douglas has scored in his battle against cancer.

I'm trying to figure out which is a better example of reality fucking with me. Is it Baz Luhrmann's wish to film The Great Gatsby in 3D or the fact that Jersey Shore's Snooki is now a published author? I suppose I should congratulate Miss Snooki for having the dignity not to cash in on her fame by tossing a few ideas to a ghost writer and instead insisting on writing the whole book herself and submitting it anonymously so it would rise above the other books in the slush pile on its own merits. If that's not what happened, don't tell me because I don't want to know.

After suffering through several years having to hear about how seeing Janet Jackson's nipple was destroying the country and seeing it blamed for everything from the financial crisis to swine flu, I now thoroughly enjoy it when the nation's professional prudes lose a battle. Soon, the nation will be a seething cauldron of hedonism. That's what they think, anyway.

Onion Sportsdome is the best new show to be on Comedy Central, I can't remember the last time they had a decent show. I still like South Park and The Daily Show/Colbert but if you take those two out, Comedy Central has as much actual comedy as a 1970's Soviet farm documentary. Sportsdome is a live action parody of, among other things, ESPN's Sportscenter and, unlike the countless South Park ripoffs that Comedy Central has been feeding us for years, this is actually funny. Keep up the good work.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011


If NBC's new superhero show The Cape was an animal, it would be a zebra. Why? Because, like The Cape, I couldn't care less about zebras. I know we're supposed to be concerned about the extinction of any species but if every zebra on Earth succumbed tonight from some sort of horrible zebra plague, I would probably mumble, "That's horrible," and go back to making my homemade yogurt. Do you make your own yogurt? It's good. I like it way better than the stuff you buy in the store and I definitely like it better than The Cape.

As with zebras, I don't wish death on The Cape. It wasn't the worst show I ever saw. I even think it has the potential to become good. But it's not now. Good, I mean.

The actual Cape is a cop named Vince Faraday (David Lyons) whose employer, the police force, is about to be taken over by a private company called the Ark Corporation. Faraday should have known right away that something was wrong because the CEO, Peter Fleming, is played by James Frain, an actor best known for playing bad guys. Faraday must not watch much television though because he failed to recognize the evil Frain and thought he was a nice guy until he discovered all the crazy illegal activities that Peter Fleming was into, up to and including the fact that Fleming is really a masked villain named Chess who recently murdered the Chief of Police. Faraday's other mistake was not realizing that, in stories like this, the guy you think is your best friend is secretly working for your enemy and that allowed the best friend to betray him and help Chess capture him.

Chess saw this as an opportunity and made the world think that Faraday was Chess. Faraday then stumbled underneath a train car full of fuel before it blew up and that should have been the end of that except for the improbable stroke of luck that allowed Faraday to survive that explosion. You all with me so far? Because this is where it gets weird.

Faraday is rescued by Max Malini (Keith David) and his Carnival of Crime. They're part of an actual carnival plus they rob banks dressed as clowns/sideshow freaks/etc. The reason it never occurs to law enforcement to actually check the local carnival to see if anyone there matches the description of the bank robbers? Shut up, that's why. Anyway, Malini and his band of hardened criminals are actually a swell bunch who take pity of poor Faraday and make him a supersuit, the centerpiece of which is an old trick cape. It's made of spider silk which, Malini assures us, is stronger than kevlar. I guess it's also how it stretches out so it can do things like grab guns out of peoples' hands and grab unsuspecting criminals from behind and jerk them away. Oh boy, does Faraday love to jerk people away. I have no idea where they end up but I guess it doesn't matter. The makers of The Cape feel that jerking people away is so great that there's no reason not to do it numerous times. Anyway, armed with the cape, a series of nifty carnival tricks and a sexy know-it-all blogger named Orwell (Summer Glau), Faraday is now able to try to take down Chess and keep his family safe because Chess thinks Faraday is dead.

Now, if I ever became a vigilante superhero who had no actual super powers, instead of the Cape, I would probably call myself the Gun and do battle with Chess and his operatives by shooting them in the face but Faraday wants to do it the hard way so he uses that stupid cape that always fails when he tries to use it at the beginning of a fight but usually comes through for him by the end of it. But that's just me. The real observation here is that, if I was making a television show about a vigilante superhero, I would watch movies like Iron Man and The Dark Knight as well as the first season of Heroes and try to figure out what made them hits. The Cape lacks the humor, pathos, interesting characters and serious storytelling that those three examples had. What's left is a typical revenge story in which two dimensional heroes battle very dull villains.

As I said, though, it has potential and I may even watch it again to see if that potential is fulfilled. Or I might try to find a zebra documentary. Are they white animals with black stripes or black animals with white stripes? Never mind, I don't care.

Monday, January 10, 2011

No Reason For This Season

When I first checked out the Tomatometer rating for Season of the Witch last Thursday, it rang in at a resounding 7% positive. When I looked again on Saturday, it had dropped to 3%. As of this writing, it has rocketed back up to 4%. I will now damn this movie with faint praise. While it is definitely bad, it isn't as bad as a 4% rating would make you think it is. It has its moments and isn't really any worse than other horror movies of its type. That type, sadly, is, "dark, depressing and stupid."

Nicolas Cage and Ron Perlman play Behman and Felson, two fourteenth century European knights who spent about ten years fighting the Crusades before getting fed up with killing women and children. When the movie opens, we see them at the beginning of their military careers on a battlefield in which one computer generated army is fighting another and they seem chipper and enthusiastic. We drop in on them every few years becoming more and more jaded until Behman accidentally stabs a woman In the joke review of this I wrote on Friday, I described Nic Cage's choice to play his character as a clinically depressed mumbler. I was wrong about that. He doesn't mumble but man oh man, is he ever depressed. In fact, everyone in the movie is depressed to one degree or another. I'll never, ever understand why so many horror movies decide to make their characters depressed. Watching people like that isn't entertaining. It's (surprise) depressing and leads to things like having your movie get a 4% rating on

When the two knights return home (I think they're in England but it really doesn't matter), they find a country being ravaged by the Black Death. When they get arrested for desertion, an act that actually seems to perk them up a bit, they find out that local church officials think an accused witch (Claire Foy) is responsible. Considering medieval Europe's track record on finding actual witches, you'd be right to be a tad skeptical that this girl was really a witch but I failed to mention the movie's opening scene in which a hanged and drowned witch came back to life and hanged the priest who killed her the first time so I guess those sadistic, homicidal medieval witch hunters weren't so bad after all.

The authorities tell Behman and Felson that they can go free if they escort the witch to a far off abbey. Turns out the monks there have some ancient witch killing book that can take away her powers. At this point, one might ask why such you wouldn't make many copies of this book and pass them out all over the country in case a witch pops up so you wouldn't have to escort her to some remote abbey. You may also wonder why, if she's really powerful enough to create a damn plague, she can't just magically unlock herself from her cage and run away. One of those moments I was talking about when I said the movie has its moments is that those questions actually get answered. It's not much and doesn't make up for everything that's wrong with the movie but it's something.

What is wrong with the movie? As I said, everyone is depressed. Felson and Behman are depressed because of the horrors of war. The country folk are depressed because everyone is dying of the plague. The witch is depressed because everyone wants to kill her. Even the land itself looks depressed. It's either fall or spring and everything is gray and barren and, something I accurately predicted on Friday, everything looks like it was smeared and stained with manure. This is an ugly and unpleasant looking movie. I suppose director Dominic Sena and whoever else was responsible for these art direction choices to evoke an atmosphere of dread appropriate to a cursed land being ravaged by disease. What they ended up with was a movie that got a 4% rating.

Even Nic Cage couldn't save it as he eschewed the normal crazy moments he normally likes to bring to the screen in favor of being depressed and solemn all the time and, for the most part, the other actors followed his example. Still, it wasn't what I expected. What I expected was the worst movie ever in the history of anything and that the experience of watching it would make me want to tunnel down to the Earth's core so that the theater would be swallowed up into the ground with me and others would be spared the horrific experience of watching it. Fortunately, it wasn't quite that bad and that was a welcome relief. So my advice is to avoid Season of the Witch as only 4% of you will like it. To those 4% I ask, what the hell is wrong with you?

Friday, January 7, 2011

Bizarro World Movie Reviews -- Season of the Witch

Nicolas Cage has had so many great roles that it's hard to pick a favorite. One wonders how he could top modern classics like Con Air, Bangkok Dangerous and The Sorcerer's Apprentice. If you are one of the people who thinks that, wonder no more. As we look back on the years of our lives, we will think back to the dawn of 2011 as a truly grand time to be alive because that is when we saw the greatest role of Nicolas Cage's long and storied career. January, 2011 is when we saw him in Season of the Witch.

I didn't know what to expect when I stepped into the theater but I know what to expect now. I expect to headlines telling me about Season of the Witch's record setting box office. I expect to hear people talk about the ways this movie changed their lives and made them want to be as good a person as Season of the Witch is a movie. And, most of all, I expect to see Nicolas Cage come Oscar time on Stage accepting his Academy Award for Best Actor. Yes, I know that the January premiere date disqualifies it from consideration this year but an exception must be made in this case. If Nicolas Cage is forced to wait until 2012 for what is justly his, that would be a crime that was literally worse than the Holocaust.

Cage plays a Knight of the Crusades named Behmen. I fully expect that name to become the most popular new baby name for both boys and girls this year and to retain the #1 spot for at least the next decade. I personally am planning to change my name to Behmen but I will continue to have people call me Michael so as not to be confused with the large numbers who will almost certainly be planning the same thing. Nicolas Cage takes the biggest chance of his career on the bold acting choice of playing the character as a clinically depressed mumbler and I'll be damned if it doesn't pay off. He fits in perfectly in the world of the film, a dark world in which everything looks as if it were smeared with manure. You would think this would turn off an audience and make them feel so horrible that death that they would pray for carnivorous worms to rise from the floor of the theater and swallow them up so they wouldn't have to watch the end. Fortunately, Cage and director Dominic Sena, the guy who directed Cage in his last truly great movie Gone In Sixty Seconds, knew better. They knew that, instead of depressing you, this movie would have the opposite effect and draw the depression from you. When you watch this, you can feel Nic Cage lifting all your worries and burdens from you and taking them on himself as if you were the sky and he were Atlas. When it's over, you're so relieved that you don't dwell on things like a lack of entertainment or anything resembling logic in the plot.

Season of the Witch is the kind of movie you see more than once for the sheer joy of watching an artist like Nicolas Cage at work and for generations to come, an acting school's curriculum will consist of one thing. They will show Season of the Witch, point at Nicolas Cage and say, "See what he's doing? Do that!" And if we accomplish nothing else in our lives, we will be able to say that we were there when it all began.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Look At My Briefs -- 1/6/11

HAPPY NEW YEAR! I'm sure that by now you've all recovered from any lingering after effects of that wonderful holiday. You may have a drunkenly conceived baby on the way but it'll be weeks before you know about that. To take your mind off it, why not read another edition of my brief comments on various subjects I like to call Look At My Briefs.

Number one on this list, Game of Thrones, is the only one that really catches my attention. The idea of a modern classic fantasy novel being adapted for HBO makes me tingle and not because it could get the True Blood treatment and be full of boobs. Fringe is watchable but I really couldn't care less about it. Mildred Pierce and Luck hold promise, of course, but they don't cause curiosity in me. I'll watch Roger Ebert's new show, of course. I'm just happy the new season of American Idol didn't make the list.

The new lead actress in the Spider-Man musical looks so sweet and pretty. It's a shame that her very presence in that show means she's doomed.

One of the few reasons to see either Clash of the Titans or Prince of Persia was that they both starred sexy British actress Gemma Arterton. This is why I'm pleased to see that she is set to make a new version of Hansel and Gretel the very first cinematic version of that fairy tale that can be called "boner worthy". The Brothers Grimm would be so happy right now.

If Hallie Steinfeld gets a nomination for Best Supporting Actress for her role as Mattie in True Grit, it will be one of the worst nominations in history. That's because, as this Hollywood Reporter article points out, she should get a nomination for Best Actress. Mattie wasn't just the female lead of the movie. She was the main character and it's every other character in the movie, including Jeff Bridges' Rooster Cogburn, that is supporting her. From beginning to end, the movie is Mattie's story. Same deal with the book as its original cover art clearly shows. Most people think the title refers to Rooster Cogburn but, in the end, it's Mattie who has true grit. I know the producers and her handlers want to up the chances of a nomination but the girl was great and deserves her shot at the Best Actress nod.

Two other True Grit items. One: it turns out that it has become the Coen brothers most financially successful movie ever. It's not their best film but it's still good news and well deserved. Two: Ethan Coen's son, Buster, is only 15 but he's already my hero.

I'm assuming reality itself is messing with me now.

The answer to this question is, "Not jizz in their pants the way everyone at Big Hollywood will."

The link in this article to the Red Band trailer of the new Ashton Kutcher/Natalie Portman comedy No Strings Attached was apparently pulled by the producers. When you try to start it, it says it was pulled off YouTube. It was very cagey of the producers to do that because, if they hadn't, their movie may have gotten free publicity and more people would have gone to see it.

Personally, I think Betty White should be worked to death and then shot by a one eyed Jeff Bridges. I can't be the only one who thinks that, right?

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Things I've Learned From Watching Movies Part 86

It turns out witch-detecting is way more complicated than comparing their weight to ducks.

This movie where Vince Vaughn plays a smug, humorous jerk who thinks he's smarter than everyone he meets is way different from all those other movies in which Vince Vaughn a smug, humorous jerk who thinks he's smarter than everyone he meets.

Dumpy slackers make the best super heroes.

When in doubt on whom to cast, just cast everybody.

Constantly fucking the same person over and over can inspire intimacy and affection for that person. Thank God this movie has finally taught society that lesson.

Plots in movies are optional. If you get one, think of it as the filmmakers tipping the audience.

Anthony Hopkins is tired of all those damn Oscars cluttering up his mantle so he did this.

Monday, January 3, 2011

The "F" Word

The best thing I can say about Little Fockers is that it gave me exactly what I expected, that being a few laughs and an excellent opportunity to take a nap which, sadly, I did not do. This should not come as a surprise as the two previous films in this series (if you don't know what they are, I will not burden you with knowledge of their existence) were exactly the same in terms of tone and quality.

Once again, some of the finest actors working today teamed up to make a shining example of mediocrity and, of course, were rewarded with a huge box office gross that means we'll be treated to Bigger Fockers, President Focker and Fockers in Space in years to come so we have that to look forward to.

Once again, Robert DeNiro and Ben Stiller play a former CIA agent Jack Byrnes and his nurse son-in-law Greg Focker. The animosity between them has been lessened by time and the birth of grandchildren and they're now quite friendly with and comfortable around each other. The pending divorce of Jack's other daughter from her cheating husband has caused him to form an even tighter bond with Greg but it has also made him extra sensitive to any sort of sign that Greg might also be cheating. Enter Jessica Alba as a sexy drug company representative full of flirtatious pep and prone to excessive hugging. Oddly, I've been assured that her character is the most realistic part of the movie and that her behavior, which seemed inappropriate to me, was exactly what young, female drug reps do when trying to convince doctors and hospital officials to purchase their products. I guess this means Jessica Alba finally has a shot at an Oscar. Anyway, the Three's Company-style plot really takes off when Jack realizes that Greg has (understandably) downplayed the looks of his new business associate to his wife. This arouses his heightened suspicions and begins a series of circumstances based on huge misunderstandings that are equal parts wacky and zany and ends with Owen Wilson in tights and a cat barfing up a lizard.

In their crusade to bury the reputations of every actor who was famous in the 70s and is now one of our most beloved and respected talents today, the producers have managed to get Barbra Streisand, Dustin Hoffman and Blythe Danner to reprise the roles they developed in the last two movies and also got Harvey Keitel to join the cast and join his fellow veterans in this death march of their careers. Laura Dern's in it too and probably some other people I forgot. This is Judgment At Nuremberg level casting for a movie that includes a scene in which Ben Stiller has to inject Robert DeNiro's penis while a 5 year old boy looks on. I really hope there's not an unrated version of that scene on the DVD.

When a comedy has a ridiculous sitcom plot like this, it has to be really funny to make up for it. Little Fockers has a few funny moments but not enough of them. Sadly, my opinion was not shared by the millions who made this movie #1 during the biggest movie going season of the year but that's the way it goes. As the success of past films like Four Christmases shows, holiday audiences love inoffensive family films and that "funny" is not a requirement they list when choosing whether or not to view a comedy.

So, that's that. The latest chapter in the never ending Focker story is out and that's the best thing you can say about it. See you all in a few years when Ben Stiller leaves the series and is replaced by Vince Vaughn in the movie Uncle Focker.