Friday, December 11, 2009
That this holiday thriller manages to deftly portray the trauma of sexual abuse in the workplace serves as a footnote to more important cinematic issues. First, the popcorn I purchased was buttered much too heavily for all but the most eggnog-inebriated of office party co-workers. Second, I think the soda fountain mixing ratio was fucked up, because my Dr. Pepper tasted a lot like the generic Dr. Thunder, which, if you’ve ever had, you’ll know is for poor people.
All plot issues aside, Robert DeNiro (of Hootie & the Blowfish fame) manages to turn in a heart-wrenching performance as Cliff Buckworth, a particularly naughty photocopier repairman. The canoodling couple in front of me who couldn’t be pried apart with a crowbar unfortunately missed Cliff’s climactic burning Christmas tree scene because they were burning some Christmas trees of their own.
Veteran director Kirk Jones, fresh off his Santa Monica hit and run acquittal, seems to have suffered more than just fender damage from the ordeal; he’s clearly forgotten the lessons he learned from TreeSaurus and Burn Wagon 2: The Long Ride Home, which is to say: write more jokes. In fact the only reason I laughed through this entire slow-moving shit-wagon of a movie is because after the first ten minutes I put on my headphones and listened to Louis C.K. stand-up.
5 out of 5 stars.
Monday, November 30, 2009
In New Moon, Edward and Bella learn that having a high school relationship where one of you is a human and the other is vampire is not just a fun-filled sex romp. One of you will inevitably want to suck the other's blood, and both of you will be really emo about everything.
Laden with themes of teenage sex and bestiality, New Moon is a romantic tale that will certainly titillate everyone; from the prepubescent girl to the socially disturbed forty-something man.
4 out of 5 stars.
Monday, November 23, 2009
Life throws a lot of things between Mortenson and love; cannibals, starvation, crazy neighbors, you name it. In one hilarious scene, Mortenson meets an attractive, single pregnant woman! Could this person be the one he was waiting for? Only to discover that she consumes her own baby after giving birth to it (gross!).
The Road is based on the Cormac McCarthy novel of the same name. McCarthy had this to say about his novel, "When I wrote The Road, I wanted to hold a mirror up to society so that we can all see just how silly we are sometimes. Life is a road we all walk upon, and it's meant to be fun. People need to stop taking themselves so seriously. And that's why I, Cormac McCarthy, wrote The Road."
I won't spoil the surprise ending, but let's just say that Mortenson learns a thing or two about being a daddy.
Tuesday, November 17, 2009
If Roald Dahl came back from the dead, and saw all that several of his books have been made or remade into successful movies, he'd probably ask the single question that is at the forefront of all hardcore Roald Dahl fans' minds: why aren't there any children being killed and/or eaten in any of these movies?
A lot of people will probably come to the defense of the films, saying that it is inappropriate to have children killed and/or eaten in movies that are made primarily for children. Or that children aren't actually eaten in Matilda, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and Fantastic Mr. Fox.
To these people, I say there are certainly children eaten in all of those stories; you just need to learn how to read between the lines. And furthermore, there was never any greater advocate of child consumption than Roald Dahl himself. The only thing he liked more than eating children was eating children in front of other children he was going to eat later.
I seem to remember an enormous crocodile just all of a sudden deciding that he wants to eat some fucking children for lunch. So what does he do? He goes into town, and brags to everyone he sees on the way about the carnage to be. What am I talking about? Some fucked-up fever dream I had? No. That's the actual plot of The Enormous Crocodile, a book written by Dahl for readers aged 5 and up (probably the only reason it's targeted for kids so young is that the crocodile doesn't get to eat the kids in the end. Instead he just gets thrown into outer space, and into the fucking sun!)
If Roald Dahl were alive today, I guarantee you he would be in Wes Anderson's office right now, demanding that more children be dismembered and gobbled up by whatever horrible creatures were in his fantastic brain that day. And I'll tell you what, he doesn't care that none of that happened in Fantastic Mr. Fox either. Fuck it – let's throw some giants in there who go around and eat orphans like they're candy, is what he would say.
God rest your soul, Mr. Dahl.
4 out of 5 stars.
Monday, November 2, 2009
In The Box, a couple is given the answer to their financial woes: if they open the box, they receive one million dollars, and someone they don't know dies.
Basically, it's the perfect invention. It has the power to generate a virtually endless stream of cash (limited to the population of Earth, I assume), while at the same time, its killing power is not compromised.
Imagine you have a gun that freaking turns people into gold whenever you shoot them with it. This box is even better than that gun, because you don't have to lug around golden corpses everywhere (very heavy), and you don't have to deal with that cocky know-it-all behind the counter at Cash 4 Gold. “Where do you keep getting these golden statues?” and “Why do all of them look they've just been shot?”
Look, Cash 4 Gold guy. You've got two jobs, and two jobs only: One. Melt down the golden corpses I give you, and two, pay me a fair market price.
The only disadvantage to the box that I can see is that it kills people you don't know. The gun that turns people into gold, on the other hand, allows you to target anyone you want. This is a big plus if you have a lot of enemies that you would like to be made into gold. On the other hand, I suppose if you have the box, you can just get the million dollars and then buy a regular gun.
So all in all, if faced with the option, go for the box.
4 out of 5 stars.
Sunday, October 25, 2009
Starring: Jim Carrey
Dir: Robert Zemeckis
Runtime: 1 hr 36 mins
In the midst of our hard financial times, money has never been more important to people, which is why this classic Dickens' tale, reinforcing the value of money, is particularly timely.
Scrooge, a hardworking man who has selflessly sacrificed his personal happiness in order to enrich society in the way only a money-lender can, is perpetually bombarded by freeloaders and beggars.
On top of all that, his only employee Bob Cratchit has the nerve to request a half-day to be with his family on Christmas. It's almost as if Cratchit is intentionally trying to antagonize Scrooge by bragging about having a family to him.
In the end, ghosts finally achieve what all the beggars and societal pressures could not: driving Scrooge mad.
It is an old story with a familiar moral message, and although it's been said so many times before, you can never hear it enough: You can have all the money in the world, but it won't matter if ghosts can get into your house and make you crazy, and trick you into giving all your money away.
Enjoy this Christmas, readers, and please remember to ghost-proof your dwelling.
4 out of 5 stars.
Sunday, October 18, 2009
The Saw franchise has successfully created one of the most twisted, diabolical villains of all time. A villain who wants you to appreciate life and live to the fullest.
No thank you, Jigsaw. I won't give up spending Saturday nights at home watching reruns of the Simpsons, and eating ice cream for dinner just because there's nothing else to eat, and I need to end my hunger somehow.
If you're anything like me, then you've spent many years crafting a cynical, slightly depressed, and highly materialistic outlook on life, and there's no way you're going to give that up just because some psycho wants to kidnap you and torture you.
Well, lucky for you, you don't have to. The solution is simple: just don't get kidnapped. Sounds easy? That's because it is! All you need to do is become really, really paranoid.
Say you pour yourself a glass of water, and then you leave the room for a few minutes and then come back. You'd probably drink that water, right? I'm telling you right now: don't drink that water! It could have been drugged while you were in the other room.
Here's another little rule I call: lights on/lights off. You make a choice whether you want all the lights in your house on ALL of the time or NONE of the time. If the lights are on all of the time, then you never have to worry about someone hiding in a darkened room waiting to attack you. If the lights are always off (my choice, both cost-wise and aesthetically), your eyes (and your psyche) will adjust to the perpetual gloom of your existence. This will give you the advantage when a kidnapper inevitably breaks into your house, as he will most likely be accustomed to "normal lighting conditions."
All the victims in Saw made classic mistakes. Mistakes like:
1. Driving a car,
2. Leaving their house,
3. Eating food,
4. Trusting anyone,
and of course: 5. Sleeping.
All of this advice and more will be included in my upcoming book "What They Didn't Teach Me in College."
4 out 5 stars.
Tuesday, October 13, 2009
Monday, October 5, 2009
Starring: Max Records
This movie was completely unrealistic. Giant talking beasts walking around, and talking? Are we supposed to believe that this actually happened? It's just silly to believe in talking beasts and magical lands. It's time for everyone to just grow up, and learn how to function in the real world.
We, as a culture, have to move on from these ridiculous fantasies. Whatever make-believe worlds we thought we saw when we were kids were obviously just a result of all those stupid cartoons we were watching, and eating too much chocolate. All the doctors agree that too much sweets, coupled with an overactive imagination can induce vivid, realistic dreams that can be difficult for a ten year old boy to distinguish from reality. But by simply eliminating the cartoons, cutting back on the chocolate, and adding years of psychotherapy, the child can be readjusted for society.
Even if the boy still sees these make-believe creatures when he gets a little older, and he's definitely not sleeping, and the creatures talk to him, and ask him to join them in their merry dances and reveries, he will know better than to do so, because he's been told over and over again that these are just illusions invented by his overactive mind, and he should take a couple of the pills and go for a walk outside or something.
The boy, now a grown man, has been monster-free for several years now, and is finally becoming used to seeing the world as other people must see it, when what should come along but a freaking movie featuring the exact sorts of creatures he'd been seeing throughout his childhood.
Honestly, what are we supposed to think about this movie?
2 out of 5 stars.
Sunday, August 30, 2009
The main character is a criminal named Kable, who finds himself under the control of a gamer whiz named Simon. They have to learn to put their differences aside while they play the game – Kable for his freedom, and Simon for the glory of winning Gamer of the Month.
Eventually people realize that killing people in real life is even more realistic (and therefore exponentially more fun) than killing people through a real person inside a video game. The “Murder Bill” (also known as the “Kill Bill”) is finally passed through Congress, and people just go nuts with it. Imagine Battle Royale, but for the entire world.
Finally, after like three hours, the movie goes back to Simon and Kable, who apparently freed himself from the game. Kable surveys the war-torn planet, and says grimly, “Look at what's happened to mankind, we've become as bad as the game.”
Simon doesn't say anything, because while Kable was talking, he was transformed into a real goat! Just like that! “What the fuck!” says Kable.
“Save me,” pleads Simon the goat (he can talk now. It was just during the transformation itself that he couldn't talk).
“I will,” says Kable. Kable goes off in search of the wizard who did this to his friend. But some things come up. His sister is having a baby, and his friend is having a BBQ on Sunday, and he eventually just forgets about it and moves on with his life.
4 out of 5 stars.
Monday, August 24, 2009
Tuesday, August 11, 2009
Monday, August 3, 2009
Starring: Our brothers and sisters in uniform
Dir: Stephen Sommers
Runtime: 1 hr 58 mins
How to: Build your own Accelerator Suit
Let's face it. We all want Accelerator Suits, but getting into the army is tough. Between needing to not have been convicted of any felonies, and not being in a gay marriage or having previously been gay married or attempting to get gay married, it is a precious few of us that are eligible for consideration for the general infantry of the US Army. And that's not even counting all those ineligible simply because they currently have an infectious and contagious disease. There is a reason it's called "An Army of One” - there's like one person in the country who can meet these outrageous standards.
If you're like most of us, you've got at least one or two or three of the above items holding you back from joining the army. That's okay. The only reason anyone wants to get into the army these days is to get their hands on an Accelerator Suit (featured in the newly released movie G.I. Joe). And now you don't need to join the army, because you can build your own Accelerator Suit by following my simple instructions.
First I would like to note that Accelerator Suits are the most dangerous kind of suit there is, with the possible exception of Poison Arrow Frog Suits. Any attempt to actually use this suit without proper G.I. Joe training would likely result in your dismemberment and death, and the dismemberment of your loved ones.
Please do not attempt to actually build this suit. Following these simple instructions will likely result in (even more) felonies for you and your loved ones, and the breaking of up to and including five international treaties. These impossibly simple instructions are for entertainment purposes only.
Should you attempt to build this suit despite my warnings, please do not make Youtube videos of it, and email the links to firstname.lastname@example.org, because I will not post them, as doing so could be construed as implicit encouragement of making these very dangerous, yet surprisingly easy to make suits.
NOTE: Due to a somewhat aggressive letter from General P_____ from the Pentagon, I have been "asked" to remove certain parts of Steps 2 and 3. If this bothers you as much as it should, please write to your local congressman.
Step 1: You will need some baking soda and vinegar. You will also need about 1 kg of weapons-grade plutonium. If you can't procure weapons-grade plutonium, any sort of regular-grade plutonium should suffice and even "I Can't Believe it's Not Plutonium!" will work in a pinch.
Step 2: Take the ______________ in ______________. Be careful when ______________ no less than seven times.
Step 3: ______________ a cat. ______________ the ______________
sticky, along with the distinct smell of human ______________.
Step 4: Build and program an automatic data interchange system. This system should feature a standard repeating process loop. Alternatively, you can take an old computer and glue the computer chips to your suit. Duct tape will work if you don't have glue. Doritos will work if you don't have a computer.
Step 5: Put it to the test! Get on top of your house * and jump down**. If you built the suit correctly, you should be flying above your neighborhood by this time. If you didn't build your suit correctly, attempt to angle your body so that the fall from the roof kills you, because your exposure to the plutonium will likely result in a much more painful death.
*Don't do this.
**Definitely don't do this, and don't video tape it.
4 out of 5 stars, why not.
Wednesday, July 29, 2009
Dir: Hoyt Yeatman
Starring: Bill Nighy, Will Arnett, Zach Galifianakis
Runtime: 1 hr. 29 mins
Hello Chaps, Arthur here.
It was not my plan to have my first entry on the magic glowing paper throw my sanity into question. Something very peculiar happened while watching G-Force. I feel I must relate these events to you, even though in doing so I risk my reputation.
Since I know of no other way to prepare you, I shall simply tell you forthwith:
The hamsters were talking.
At first I thought I was imagining it. Someone off-screen had spoken, and the hamsters had appeared in such a way that my eyes and ears were deceived. But when it happened again and again, there was no mistaking. The hamsters were speaking.
Still I resisted the notion, my rational mind holding out for a further explanation against what my heart already knew was true. I reasoned that this must be some sort of untold magic, or perhaps a clever and very skilled ventriloquist.
But no man or witchcraft could hide the truth. The truth that spoke with the Queen's English; with syntax and inflection that would make the Bard himself jealous.
I looked around the theatre to see how others were handling this unfathomable occurrence, but their eyes were fixed on the screen, and their placid smiles spoke of nothing out of the ordinary.
How peculiar, I thought, for this crowd to take such an unbelievable phenomenon so easily. But all mysteries have answers, and the answer to this one came to me rather quickly. I must be the only one who could hear them.
I felt an overwhelming sense of importance and duty. Perhaps I am the only man in history with this gift. I had visions of bridging the gap between animal and man.
The hamsters told me many things that day, but sadly none of it worth repeating. They spoke the secrets of their people. Crude and degrading things. Fornication and eating children.
However, I did feel a union of minds with Agent Juarez, a seductive mistress of martial arts. Were she only human, and much older, and also a time traveler such as myself, I think I would have found my other half.
Alas, Arthur, alas.
4 out of 5 royal jewels
Monday, July 27, 2009
Monday, July 20, 2009
Monday, July 13, 2009
Starring: Daniel Radcliffe, Christoper Lee
Dir: David Yates
Runtime: 2 hrs 33 mins
The latest Harry Potter movie takes a darker than usual turn, when it is revealed that the ever-fluctuating position of Professor of Defense Against the Dark Arts has been filled this year by Satan (Christoper Lee), in what seems to be an exceptionally poor choice, even for for the Hogwarts adminstration.
Harry and his friends learn many new spells and rituals through the awesome power that Satan grants them. This is a marked difference from the books, wherein Satan plays a mere advisory role to the children, more of a father figure to the orphaned Harry.
Do yourself a favor and drop those extra three bucks for the 3D version. Seeing the snakes jump off the screen in the scene where the children sacrifice Hermione to their new teacher is really even better than the trailer makes it seem.
Religious parents, rest easy. Towards the end of the film, the Dark Lord Satan is revealed to be in cahoots with the Dark Lord Voldemort, who we all know is evil. In the end, Satan is killed by Harry. He is crucified upside down, and the children of Hogwarts drink his blood. Harry, mouth dripping with the blood of Lucifer, screams to the children: “Let this be a warning to all who betray me! I shall crucify you upside down and share your blood with my friends!”
It's refreshing when a children's movie is built upon a solid moral foundation. And this one is very clear: stay away from Satan, kids. Even though he'd give you awesome wizard powers, it's not worth it because he works for Voldemort and is evil.
5 out of 5 pentagrams.
Sunday, June 21, 2009
Tuesday, June 16, 2009
Dir: Jon Swift
Starring: Sandra Bullock, Ryan Reynolds
Runtime: 1 hr 47 mins
The Proposal (working title: The Modest Proposal) is a deliciously quirky romantic comedy, in which Ryan Reynolds plays an overworked and underappreciated secretary to a powerful business tycoon (Sandra Bullock). Bullock’s life is perfect (or so she thinks) until she finds out she’s being deported back to Canada unless she can obtain a green card, and fast.
Bullock learns that green cards are not easy to come by, as she attempts to marry homeless man after homeless man in a hilarious homeless marriage montage. Each homeless marriage doesn’t work out for one reason or another: one homeless man refuses to marry for less than true love, another one stabs her with a rusty fork three times, and another turns out to be gay. The montage is done to the song “Safety Dance.”
Bullock sits in her dark office, on the verge of tears. What is she going to do? At that very moment, Reynolds shuffles into her office. He knows she’s in a foul mood, and he’s liable to be chewed out for the slightest infraction. “Here are those Canadian labels you wanted,” he mumbles barely audibly.
“Did you say Canadian babies?”
“That’s brilliant!” interrupts Bullock, madness gleaming in her eye. “All this time, I’ve been trying to find ways to prove that I’m American. But all I really need to do is prove that I’m not Canadian.”
“I really don’t think that’s how—”
“And what’s the one thing a true Canadian would never do?”
Reynolds gulps. “Uh… Cheer for an American hockey team?” He smiles nervously, hoping against hope that this is all she’s after, but something in her voice tells him it’s not.
“No. The one thing a Canadian would never do is eat a Canadian baby!”
“Ahh, yes,” says Reynolds, as he backs away towards the door.
“C’mon,” she says, grabbing him by the arm. “We’re going to get some dinner.”
“Can we get Italian? I’ve been craving pasta all day.”
“No… We’re getting Canadian.”
Reynolds drives Bullock to Canada. They cruise around the suburbs, until she spots a young woman pushing a baby carriage along the sidewalk. Bullock dashes out and grabs the baby.
“Drive, drive!” When she unfurls the blanket, the “baby” is revealed to be nothing more than a doll. “Blast! Let’s find another one.”
Another hilarious montage ensues, in which Reynolds and Bullock raid baby carriage after baby carriage in an attempt to kidnap a Canadian baby they intend to kill and eat (played to “Don’t Stop Believing”). In various carriages they find a sack full of cans, a baby-shaped potato, a cinder block, and a sack full of kittens. They are about to eat the potato and call it a day, when they spot one last baby carriage.
“It doesn’t matter,” says Bullock. “It’s not going to have a baby in it anyway. There’s not a single baby in this entire country.”
“You can’t just give up on your dream now,” says Reynolds. “It doesn’t matter that you came up with it last night, or that it’s completely psychotic and evil. It’s your dream, and you’re so close. Now go eat that baby!”
“You’re right!” Bullock dashes out of the car one more time, and grabs the bundle from the carriage. She can hardly believe it; it’s a real baby! She opens wide, preparing for a nice mouthful.
“Hey!” the mother yells. “Put down my baby!”
“Say that again,” Bullock says, her voice shaking.
“I said put down my baby, you freak!”
Bullock lowers the baby back into the carriage. She can’t believe it. She was so close to eating a real baby. “Where are you from?” Bullock asks. But she already knows the answer.
“I’m from Brooklyn, you crazy bitch. Now get away from me before I call the police.”
Reynolds puts his arm on her shoulder. “You want to go home?” She nods.
As they ride back, Reynolds consoles her, and after a short while, they’re laughing deep belly laughs at the silliness of life. He is completely charming, and they realize that they were in love the entire time. They are promptly married, and Bullock gets her green card and gets to stay in the United States. The end.
4 out of 5 stars.
Wednesday, June 10, 2009
Dir: Tony Scott
Starring: John Travolta, Denzel Washington
Runtime: 1 hr 46 mins
The Taking of Pelham 123 is a non-stop thrill ride under the city of New York, and maybe even into outer space. A criminal mastermind (Travolta) hijacks a subway train with one simple goal in mind: he wants to take Pelham 123 all the way to the moon. He doesn't want any money; he has no political agenda. All he wants to do is get that subway train with himself, and the hijacked passengers, onto the Earth's moon.
The main plot is broken up with a series of flashbacks, in which a young Travolta stares longingly at the moon, establishing the lunar obsession that will one day cause him to hijack a train. "Papa" the moonstruck boy says, "One day, I want to ride a subway up there, up there on the moon!"
"You shut your yapper about all this moon mumbo jumbo," his father slurs. The heavy stench of dessert wine practically wafts off the screen. "Ain't no subway ever going to be on the moon." Then his father beats him. He beats him for dreaming the same dreams he himself once dreamt as a young boy. Dreams that could never be more than dreams. He wants his son to forget these silly dreams of subways and moons.
But the boy never forgets them. If anything, the beatings only harden his will to succeed.
A simple man (Washington) goes work at his simple job of controlling New York's subways. It's not the most exciting job in the world, and that's just the way he likes it. He has several cop buddies who go after the real bad guys. The only "bad guy" Washington has to deal with is the occasional late train. Speaking of which, it looks like Pelham 123 is stuck.
"Pelham 123, respond," says Washington into the phone, expecting the train's operator to respond with something about signal problems, or perhaps a joke about molemen blocking the tracks.
Instead there is only a sinister laugh.
"Who is this?" demands Washington.
"This is the man who is going to take this subway to the moon! If I don't get on the moon in 59 minutes, in this train, I'm going to start killing hostages!"
Negotiations begin as the clock runs down. Washington offers money, but Travolta will not compromise on his one demand.
"I've spoken to NASA," says Washington. "There's going to be a moon mission in three months. We've worked out an agreement that if you give yourself up peacefully, we can put you on that shuttle, under police custody of course."
"You don't understand, do you?" screams Travolta. "This isn't about getting to the moon in one of your fancy space shuttles. This is about getting to the moon on the subway."
"I'm trying to work with you," pleads Washington "But there are no tracks that go to the moon. Subways go underground; the moon is in outer space. Please, listen to me!"
"Life is simple now. You just have to get this train on the moon," Travolta screams, and then hangs up.
Washington comes up with a plan that's just crazy enough to work. Local residents cooperate, as they transform Pelham 123's next stop to look like the moon. They even remove the tile lettering of "34th Street" and replace them with "The Moon."
Washington announces over the train intercom, "Next stop- the moon!"
The subway pulls into Moon Station. A euphoric Travolta exits the train, and is promptly tackled by the "moon police" and dragged off to "moon jail." Travolta doesn't even care; his dream has come true. But his cell-mate, Travis, reveals the disturbing truth to Travolta in a poignant final scene.
"This ain't no moon jail, man. This is just jail. We on Earth. Look around you, man. We on Earth."
We on Earth.
4 out of 5 stars.
Tuesday, May 26, 2009
Dir: George Lucas
Starring: Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto
Runtime: 2 hrs 7 mins
The Star Trek series has inspired generations to build their own spaceships out of junkyard scraps, electrical tape, imagination, and gasoline. And it will continue to inspire us as long as our imaginations are alive, or until they put a better lock on that fence around the junkyard.
Star Trek introduces Captain James T. Kirk, a strapping young spaceship captain who I hope to learn more about. The way his character is portrayed in the movie makes him seem almost familiar, as if there is a great history behind this newly invented protagonist. Perhaps in a later movie, we will find out that he's Neo's father, or that he invented light sabres, or something like that.
Many Star Trek fans will be disappointed to find that there no light sabres in the newest Star Trek movie. But the true Trekkers will know that this is a prequel, and that light sabres haven't been invented yet. Trekkers will rejoice, however, to find that the hated character of Jar Jar Binks has yet to be born.
This is an entirely different movie than the others in the Star Trek series. The universe is a different place. We're not talking about Luke Skywalker's grandparents here. We're talking about his great-great grandparents. Even the Evil Overlord of Outer Space, Darth Vader, isn't in this movie.
Although vastly different from what Trekkers have seen before, Star Trek takes you on a rickety, gasoline-propelled thrill ride through Outer Space that will leave everyone in the audience wanting to go to "Infinity and Beyond!" again and again.
4 out of 5 stars.
Monday, April 13, 2009
Crank: High Voltage
Dir: Mark Neveldine, Brian Taylor
Starring: Jason Statham, Amy Smart
Runtime: 1 hr 36 mins
Jason Statham returns to wreck havoc on those who have done him wrong. This movie opens with a memorable motorcycle chase that begins on the back of a blue whale and ends with Statham’s fist going through the head of one of the bad guys. Or maybe Statham is actually the bad guy. You don’t really know.
This movie plays with the antiquated Hollywood “Western” (by Western, I mean both the genre and the culture/ideology) paradigm that good and evil are polar opposites, and that people fall into one group or the other. If I wear a black hat, do I not also feel? This is just one of the high-minded themes that Crank: High Voltage attempts to tackle in its epic ninety-six minutes of heart-pounding intellectualism.
A Chinese gangster steals Statham’s heart. Let’s examine this for a moment. Let’s examine this for several moments, because it’s the most brilliantly crafted metaphor since Shakespeare invented metaphors.
The concept of stealing someone’s heart as a way to communicate love for someone has a disturbing origin that dates back to the Victorian era. An old doctor fell in love with his teenage patient. Although he professed his love for her at every visit, it was unrequited. With no reasonable recourse available, the doctor resorted to an unreasonable one. He cut out his own heart and mailed it her with the message “Thou hast stolen mine heart” written with his own blood. For many years it was speculated that in order to do this, the doctor had written the letter first, using blood he had drawn from a cut on his finger, and then prepared the box to mail the heart, the postage, and the recipient's address before cutting his own heart out and stuffing it into the mailbox with his last few moments of consciousness. It was later discovered that the blood and the heart belonged to another patient, who had merely gone in for a physical. The doctor was never seen again.
If your heart is stolen by someone, it means you have a deep infatuation with them that you have little or no control over (hence the “stealing” part – it’s involuntary on your end). Statham, while seeking revenge against the man who has stolen his heart also has to face the reality that he is in love with him. This adds another layer to the magnificently crafted onion that is Crank: High Voltage. Can Statham bring himself to kill the man who has in every way possible, stolen his heart? You'll have to watch the movie to find out.
4 out of 5 stars.
Tuesday, March 24, 2009
Monsters vs. Aliens
Dir: Rob Letterman, Conrad Vernon
Starring: Reese Witherspoon, Seth Rogen, Hugh Laurie
Runtime: 1 hr 34 mins
In a veritable who's who of established and upcoming Hollywood stars and starlets, Monsters versus Aliens is a non-stop thrill ride, so buckle those seat belts (a quick warning to parents: this movie will transform your kids into monsters).
The aliens are battling the monsters to determine the fate of humanity. Imagine Independence Day meets Monster's Inc. meets Alien meets Weekend at Bernie's. Picture what would happen if you combined those movies, and then you have Monsters vs. Aliens. Except it's a lot less like those other movies, and more like Weekend at Bernie's.
The monsters have to trick the aliens into believing that their boss is alive. The fate of the world depends on the aliens believing this ruse, so it's really important that they pull this off. They keep moving the body around, and getting into all kind of hilarious situations. They almost get caught so many times, but at the last moment they somehow manage to pull it off with the aliens none the wiser.
4 out of 5 stars
Sunday, March 8, 2009
Race to Witch Mountain
Dir: Andy Fickman
Starring: Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, AnnaSophia "The Little Girl" Robb, Alexander Ludwig
Runtime: 1 hr 38 mins
This movie takes me back to when I rescued a couple of witch children. I found them on a particularly empty stretch of the I-10 in Arizona. I knew they must be witches, because who else but witches would be out in the middle of the desert at night, where the only thing for miles is the high-security juvenile detention facility? They weren't going to some fantastical mountain, like the witches in the movie. They just needed to get to Mexico as quick as possible.
They never confessed that they were witches to me, but I knew they were from the moment I saw them. You could tell because they wore these outlandish full body orange suits. And, just like the movie, the cops were after them. The police are always after witches, and that just isn't right. They weren't going to catch these witches on my watch.
On the road they asked me if I would buy them some beer. I asked them if beer rejuvenates their magical powers. They just stared at me and didn't answer. I felt stupid for not knowing. As I bought the beer, I made a mental note to look it up on Wikipedia later (I did; the results were inconclusive. Please comment if you have knowledge of the magic-restoring properties of beer).
When we got to Nogales, they told me this was far enough, thanks for helping us escape. I said it was no problem, it's not like I had anything better to do.
I watched them run off. I was hoping to catch a glimpse of their magic powers in action, but all they did was pull a knife on some old couple and steal their clothes.
4 out of 5 stars.
Sunday, March 1, 2009
Watchmen Dir: Zack Snyder
Starring: Malin Akerman, Billy Crudup
Runtime: 2 hrs 43 mins
Watchmen is what we like to call “Historical Fiction.” Historical Fiction is a great way to learn about the past without reading about stupid history. Just be careful, because sometimes it can be difficult to tell what is real. That's why I wrote this guide about what's fact and what's fiction within the Watchmen Universe:
Factual or Fictional? with Tom Thayer.
Nite Owl: Fictional. The crime fighting Nite Owl is not real. His character was based on Batman, who is real. The real Batman, however, does not really fight crime. But he does duct-tape real bats to his naked body and run around Central Park, screaming at everyone.
Newspapers: Factual. Newspapers are real, you dummy.
Richard Nixon: Fictional. A “bogeyman” invented by the GOP for reasons highly speculated, but ultimately unknown. Much like an evil Republican Santa Claus, he has captured the nation's imagination, and has been the topic of many recent films, such as Frost/Nixon, Dick, and Tricky Dick and the Candy Factory of Love (spoiler: he destroys the factory).
Dr. Manhattan: Part factual and part fictional. There was no Jon Osterman who got trapped in a reactor and became all-powerful. There was a gigantic blue guy who set most of Vietnam on fire. That happened, however, nearly a decade after the Vietnam War had ended.
4 out of 5 stars.
Sunday, February 22, 2009
Dir: Wolfgang Petersen
Starring: Freddie Highmore, Jon Benjamin (as the dragon), Danny DeVito
Runtime: 45 mins
Do your children a favor and throw out all their DVDs, and go buy Dragon Boy (but wait for it to come out on DVD first). Dragon Boy is a movie adaptation of E. Thompson Thayer's bestselling children's book.
War has broken out between the dragons and the humans. Dragons are flying around, setting all kinds of stuff on fire. A dragon (Jon Benjamin) is just about to destroy this guy's house, but this little kid (Highmore) comes out and says, “Hey, don't do that.”
The dragon is surprised that the boy can talk. “You can talk!” says the dragon.
“Of course I can talk,” the boy says, suddenly realizing that he is speaking to a dragon. “I didn’t know dragons could talk.” At that moment the dragon and the boy know they are going to be friends forever. Unfortunately, the dragon has already murdered the boy's family. “It’s okay, they were just my foster parents. I never knew my real mom and dad.”
“How old are you?” the boy asks the dragon. “I’m only 400 years old,” the dragon says shyly, embarrassed of how young he is. “But I’m really strong for my age!”
“400! That’s even older than Old Man Grover down at the feed store! I'm only 11.”
“11! I was still in my egg when I was eleven. You humans sure are strange.”
The boy was thinking the same thing, except about dragons.
The dragon takes the boy back to Dragon Mountain. “Blasphemy! You can’t bring a human here!” says the Dragon King.
“But he’s my friend!”
“Nonsense! We shall eat the human!”
All the dragons started cheering at the wise and fair judgment of the Dragon King. The dragon is torn between seeing his new best friend getting devoured by dragons, and rescuing him. The other dragons are about to eat the boy, but before they can, he swallows his friend all at once. But he really just hides the boy under his tongue. The dragons fall for it, and the boy is saved.
It turns out that dragons are really the good guys, and that the human kingdom was really evil the whole time. The dragons are trying to break into the castle, so that they can take down Morlock (DeVito), who is an evil wizard. He’s been controlling the human king this whole time with a mind control spell.
It also turns out that the boy and the dragon had the same dragon dad, and they are actually half-brothers.
In the end, they defeat Morlock, and teach everyone that dragons aren't as bad as everyone thought. The boy and the dragon fly off into the sunset in search of their dad. Does this mean there will be a sequel down the road? This reviewer hopes so.
4½ out of 5 stars.
Monday, February 16, 2009
Dir: Will Gluck
Starring: Nicholas D'Agosto, Sarah Roemer
Fired Up takes you on a wild school bus ride into the secret lives of these goddesses, these human paradigms, these cheerleaders.
What makes cheerleaders so amazing and great? Why are we so obsessed with cheerleaders? Why do we want to be around them all the time? What makes us want to kidnap them so badly? How is it legal that a judge can force me to stay at least 500 yards away from a public high school? It really doesn't seem fair, especially when my taxes help keep it running.
As movies have proven, it is every high school girl's fantasy to get on the cheerleading team, and it is every high school boy's fantasy to get with the cheerleaders, which sometimes requires that he pretend he's really into cheerleading so that they will let him go to Cheerleading Camp.
Fired Up shows us cheerleaders in all their glory, and yet paints them as human beings, as someone you could approach after school and offer her a ride home in your convertible.
4 out of 5 stars.