Hey, did you hear they’re going to do a remake of Groundhog Day?

July 17, 2012

The Amazing Spider-Man shows up again “rebooted” barely a decade after the last round. “Rebooted” is movie-company BS for “seriously, we’re not just doing the same thing all over again again because you’re too risk-averse to go see anything you haven’t already seen before you thumb-sucking moron.”

I swore I was not going to GHD (Ground Hog Day) myself and I would boycott this retread, but the reviews were really good and I love big 3D IMAX spectacles. Besides, me and the missus had a couple of IMAX passes, so it was free. And I’m trying to perfect my rationalization skills.

Of course, in this movie, they are doing the same thing over again over again. I can’t say I blame them. There’s a lot of money at stake making a movie and you’ve got to provide a lot more in a commercial theater than people can do for themselves in a home theater to overcome the home theater advantages of being able to pause, rewind, pee, snack, adjust volume, temperature, lighting and fall asleep on the couch.

I can’t replicate IMAX at home yet, but ordinary movies look and sound better at home than they do in ordinary theaters. And it completely makes sense that if you’re going to bet $230 million (yep, that’s the Spider-man budget), you want to increase your odds as much as you can, so go for the the built-in audience by repeating what you know audiences already like.

We now really are getting to the absurd with this though. Tim Burton is remaking his own 1984 movie Frankenweenie in 3D.

So, how was the movie, you ask?

I’d have liked it a lot more if I hadn’t seen the first Raimi movie with Toby Maguire. It’s that exact same movie with a few differences, some bad, mostly good. It’s the kind of movie that deserves a bullet-point review:

  • I think the acrobatic sequences are mostly better, but I could be wrong since I haven’t watched the previous version again. A lot of it is very Cirque du Soleil, too much of it is roller coaster speed, and a bunch of it is extreme skateboarding (including very literally leveraging his skateboarding skills). A-minus. I remember the Raimi version as capturing the dream-like joy of flying too high and going uh-oh….who hasn’t had those dreams? Even though I think he actually says uh-oh a time or two, the flying sequences are treated much more like an extreme sport than a thing of wonder.
  • The script has a lot of WTF? moments. Spider-man gets the living shit kicked out of him and shows up at his new girlfriend’s bedroom window to get his boo-boo’s band-aided. Previous context in the movie, he should have been trying to shield her from how much risk he was taking, but hey, any excuse to do close-ups on Emma Stone getting all moist.
  • There are a lot of good moments. The movie never really gels, but it has quite a few good ideas in it. The post-radioactive-spider-bite scenes as Parker figures out his new powers are much more interesting, and funny, than in the Raimi version.
  • Sally Field sucks as Aunt May. I’m kinda blaming the director for this. Or maybe she refused to dye her hair. Her physicality is all wrong for the part. Martin Sheen is very, very good as Uncle Ben. (In the manosphere, this movie will get an A. Denis Leary and Martin Sheen both pitch-perfectly play old school gruff masculine role models and protectors.)
  • I loves me some Emma Stone, but everybody quit hating on Kirsten Dunst. I really don’t understand why Dunst has become such a punchline the last several years. I guess it’s one of those piling-on things that just gains momentum with the stupid.
  • The Lizard as villain completely works.
  • The evolution and use of the Spider-Man costume is a lot of fun throughout the movie. The costume starts out pretty much as just a ski mask, and stays that way for a surprisingly long time. The web-shooter and webbing is front and center in the movie, not just a way of getting from here to there. It’s given properties and limitations, and then they are used pretty effectively.

Anyhow, if you liked the last ones, go see this one. You’ll like this too, but it’s not a new movie.



David Fincher: The soul of the American liberal

April 2, 2012

I just finished watching Fincher’s remake of the Swedish book/movie, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. The movie works well for the first two hours and then devolves into a tedious Occupy Wall Street revenge fantasy. The subtext of the movie is that powerful capitalists are all corrupt; all men are monsters or feckless; women are more or less heroic victims of male monstrousness and/or fecklessness.

Lately, I’ve been thinking that the defining characteristic of the American liberal worldview is that the powerful and successful in free capitalist societies are actually secret monsters who maintain their privilege by dirty dealings and entertain themselves with perversion and horrific secret crimes. It’s pretty close to a blood libel against businessmen.

Dean Koontz, the horror thriller writer, wrote a terrific book called Twilight Eyes. A race of alien werewolves lives among human beings, looking just like the rest of us, except to a few humans who can see the beast underneath. The werewolves delight in causing human misery and tragedy: they make boilers explode in grade schools, cause train wrecks and so on. The typical liberal thinks he sees through the thin veneer of humanity painted on the capitalist monster. He can tell that capitalism is really about exploitation, not free trade between free adults. He knows that all the wealth created is really just a ruse to replace real human values. It’s Soylent Green all the way down.

What I haven’t been able to figure out is why liberals come to see the world this way.

I was raised by crackpots. My father was a political crackpot–a John Bircher conspiracy theory Christian fundamentalist. My mother was a medical crackpot–not just homeopathy and laetrile and anti-flouride and the medical establishment is out to drug us to death, but really crazy stuff like color therapy (wrap mylar film of various colors around bottles of water, leave them out in the sun for a day and the water would be transformed into medicine).

It’s too easy to say that liberals just have the crackpot gene. But the liberal conviction of the fundamental evil of every free market outcome is pretty crack-potty.

My daughter (yes, I am skipping around a lot in this post–I’m thinking by typing) was raised without religion. I was indoctrinated in Christian Reconstructionism, but had made a break for it by the time she was verbal. When she was 7 or 8, a couple of her little Christian friends, egged on without doubt by their parents, made my little heathen a pet project and started taking her to church. This lasted a few months before they gave up. Near the end, she came home and said something like, “Dad, they pretend they’re drinking the blood of Jesus. WTF?” She was shocked and revolted. Like only an 8 year old girl can be revolted by something unexpected and gross.

I started out immersed in Christian metaphorical ritual cannibalism. Seemed perfectly normal, perfectly healthy, to me. Even after I decided it was BS, I didn’t fully grok how fucked up and weird it was till I saw it through an innocent 8 year old’s eyes.

So here’s my theory the first, and it is the first theory that is mine, and it is the theory I am saying right now–

Liberalism is as crack-potty as the Eucharist. Liberal tropes have become so embedded in our culture that we don’t notice now weird they are. Lots of people who aren’t crackpots at heart just breathe this stupidity in.

Liberalism spreads too because it’s useful. It’s an excuse. Not just as an excuse for failure, but an excuse for hating. “The Man” is keeping you down. Really? In America? You can’t overcome Richard Nixon or George Bush or Monsanto? If “The Man” were Robert Mugabe or Vladimir Putin, I could sympathize with your plight. Liberals hate like teens hate their parents. Liberalism is Will Smith singing “Parents Just Don’t Understand” writ large. Liberal hate is even more petty and laughable than liberal life excuses.

Case in point: the Trayvon Martin/George Zimmerman case. Barack Obama behaved like a douchebag. Obama is to politics what Michael Jackson was to plastic surgery. He can’t be taught. You’d think after the Beer Summit debacle Barack would shut his stupid mouth about law enforcement issues before the facts are known. You’d be wrong. I have yet to hear liberals walking back the Trayvon Jesus Christ Who Died For Our Sins narrative. Like the sulky teens they are, liberals don’t apologize.

And they live in a dark world where their privilege and pampering is really just manipulation by people who do stuff they can’t understand. Like a Fincher movie.

I do feel sorry for liberals. Like other crackpots, they live 24 x 7 with a sense of impending doom.



A Lonely Place to Die

April 1, 2012

People are saying this movie is the Brit/Indie Cliffhanger.

I don’t know what I think about this movie. I don’t know that I’d recommend it without being really careful. I’ll probably watch it again tomorrow.

If you’ve seen Cliffhanger, you remember the scene at the start. There are about half a dozen scenes like that in this movie. Do not watch this movie if the beginning of Cliffhanger fucked your shit up.

I said to my wife, half way through, “Your mom would be catatonic by now.”

The movie is beautiful. But, please, movie guys, knock it off on the subsonics when this goes to disc. It made me want to turn off my subwoofer for the first time ever.

This might be a great movie. It’s incredibly violent. If you were OK with Reservoir Dogs, you’ll be fine. Watch it.

UPDATE 2016: This brutal, deep movie bears multiple watchings. I can’t say it’s a favorite, but it’s a movie I show to appropriate audiences.




Columbus Circle

March 25, 2012

This is a nicely done little thriller movie. It’s kinda dumb and kinda smart.

An agoraphobic rich woman, on the run for 17 years from her abusive rich family, lives in a New York City penthouse apartment overlooking Columbus Circle. She starts seeing bad stuff happening through her peephole in the apartment next door. Why her rich family couldn’t track her down, well, that’s the dumb part. One of the dumb parts. The smart stuff is the performances, uniformly excellent, the agoraphobia high concept and the winking sense of humor. I laughed out loud several times at deliberately telegraphed plot twists.

Selma Blair, Amy Smart, Giovanni Ribisi and Jason Lee (Earl from My Name Is Earl). Slight, but skillful. 3 stars, watch it with a room full of friends–it’s a lot of fun. PG13.

Time Is Money

February 15, 2012

In Time stars Justin Timberlake as a good guy from a poor neighborhood. Time really has become money in this high-concept science fiction movie.

Everyone has a green forearm LED tattoo that shows how much time/money you have left. You swipe your arm to board a bus (a bus rides costs an hour or two). You get paid at your job in units of time. Most people live paycheck to paycheck, or timecheck to timecheck. Instead of getting evicted if you run out of money, you get instantly dead if your time balance goes to zero.  Everyone checks their arms all the time to see how much time they have left.

People live in different “time zone” neighborhoods based on their average income/time balances, and have to pay with time to get into better neighborhoods. Arm wrestling is the new cockfighting, as wrestlers lock arms and try to drain each others’ time balances.

I loved this movie. Mitt Romney needs to watch this movie. Seriously, it could give him the edge he needs to win the election, to close that empathy gap.

In Time is not a good movie, technically. Everything in it, from plots to sets to hairstyles is a ripped-0ff pastiche of other movies. But it does one thing right: It accurately amplifies the sense of dread that people feel when living paycheck to paycheck.

I’ve been there. I’ve gotten an adrenaline rush hearing a dreadful noise in my crappy used car that I need to work if I’m going to get to work. I’ve gotten up early and swiped coupons out of other peoples’ Sunday papers. I’ve learned all kinds of blue-collar skills I never would have learned except I couldn’t afford to get my oil changed by someone else or to pay an electrician or drywaller.

I’ve never been seriously poor. I’ve lived in poor neighborhoods, in America. Nobody’s seriously poor in America, unless they just sit there and let life kill them. In which case, they’re exactly as bad off as Whitney Houston and what happens to them isn’t about being poor. Nobody dies early just from being poor in America. You have to add your own special sauce.

In Time is a movie made by and starring millionaires about how bad off the poor are and how good we millionaires should feel about ourselves making a movie about how bad off the poor are because of other millionaires who aren’t the right kind of caring millionaires like we are.

The movie’s politics and economics are the purest distillation of Occupy-ism and Obamanism I’ve ever seen. Its solution is to rain down money/time on the poor. Really, they have a soup kitchen scene where everyone gets time instead of soup, and everyone is spontaneously orderly instead of a riot happening. The nobility of the poor and the venality of the (wrong) rich and the nobility of the (correct) rich are unquestioned premises in this movie. Hot rich girls with Fifth Element haircuts trying to get back at daddy by dating hot poor boys are the (correct) rich in this movie.

This is what we’re up against. This movie displays the worldview and the self-image of the Hollywood left and their clients with naked clarity. And it starts out intelligently. I was entranced with the first 20 minutes. After that, it was just cheap fun.

Bottom line, rent this movie.  It got 37% on Rotten Tomatoes. I hope that’s what Obama gets in 2012.




Attack the Block

November 12, 2011

This is supposed to be an indie Brit version of Super 8.

It’s not.

First, it just sucks and is stupid except for about 3 funny lines.

Second, it starts with a bunch (I won’t dignify them by calling them a gang) of teenage shits mugging a nurse who throws in with them at the end to go all kumbayah againt the weakest evil aliens ever in a movie. Werewolves with dachsund viciousness and with glowsticks in their mouths so you can see them coming from the rave down the street half a mile away.

The aliens spend half the movie trying to get some dumbass out of a dumpster who won’t quit answering his cell phone and attracting them. The aliens never figure out how to lift the lid. They just crash into the dumpster over and over. Seriously, this movie is exactly that fucking stupid. It’s what happens when socialism meets Steven Spielberg.

What I liked about this movie was the taken for granted Clockwork Orange everyday lives part. Bloodthirsty aliens taking over London was an improvement, as everyone in the movie said 3 or 4 times. Trenchant. Social. Commentary. And this was the first time I’d ever heard a British accent make people sound even more dumb. Quite an accomplishment, that.

So, if you like a movie where special effects are like the Night Stalker TV show, and you can’t understand most of the dialogue and it just kind of meanders off at the end, awesome movie.

Movie Review: The Fighter

April 24, 2011

This isn’t a great movie, but it’s one of the best movies I’ve seen in a while.

If you’re a fan of over-the-top boxing movies where every punch activates the subwoofer, you’ll still like this, but you won’t get that. This movie frequently cuts away from critical action in the ring to pan the audience because they obviously couldn’t afford to film all the boxing scenes like a Rocky movie would. Good for them–money was obviously spent on script and extra small takes instead.

Christian Bale and Mark Wahlberg are brothers and boxers. Bale got close enough to the bigtime to have a bout with Sugar Ray Leonard, but then faded. He now trains younger brother Wahlberg to regain family glory. I know, sounds boring, but it’s not. I’d have to reveal spoilers to make it less boring.

Mark Wahlberg is in full-on movie star mode throughout, but in a good way. Christian Bale is in full-on character actor mode, and in an even better way. Not a hint of brooding Batman in his performance. Who knew? Christian Bale can act.

Amy Adams plays the love interest, also in character actor mode. There’s a scene where she sashays across a bedroom in sheer black lacy bra and panties and then crawls across the bed where…well, I’m just saying, she didn’t make the movie more boring.

This is a movie about family and class. It’s reminiscent of Million Dollar Baby, except this movie is nuanced, well-written, avoids melodrama and cheap villainization, and doesn’t have anybody die for no good reason but as pathos. C’mon people, let’s admit it–Million Dollar Baby was a horrible stupid movie. It’s only raison d’etre was to let ACTORS! chew scenery. That’s why it got the Academy Award. Like The Departed, another overrated, self-congratulatory piece of …esss…that Hollywood hugged to its withered botoxed bosom.

(This trying not to swear thing is really hard for me. I hope I have your sympathy as I go through this difficult adjustment.)

If I have one criticism of this movie…actually, starting this sentence, I realized, I don’t have a criticism. It’s a very good piece of work. I can’t think of a single decision the makers made that I can second-guess.

I’ll end by saying one of the things that drew me into this movie was it started by showing clearly and unflinchingly how much poor people in America suck. They’re not unfortunate, they’re vile, often evil. At bottom, the theme of this movie is about being born into that suck-sand and what it takes to rise out of it. And what it takes to try to pull other people out who aren’t trying all that hard to hold on to the rope. And how those people will try to topple you off the bank every time you throw them a rope. And how not to get toppled.

On second thought, this just might be a great movie. Classy, understated, subtlely written, with recurring broad humor and a tangle of relationships and character arcs.

I think I’ll be watching it again tomorrow.