|Sept. 7-21, 2006
Little Miss Sunshine
This year if I even bother to make up a top ten list, Little Miss Sunshine will be on that list. There are a few reasons for this, the main one being that I’ve only seen 3 movies all year that I’ve really liked. Also, it’s about a crazy family, which I can identify with. Or maybe just because it’s a great film with great performances.
If you need a bottom line, Little Miss Sunshine is a cross between The Royal Tenenbaums and National Lampoon’s Vacation. It’s about a goofy-looking yet oh so cute little girl who can participate in a beauty pageant if she can get from Arizona to California in less than 24 hours. Her self-help cult dad, silently suffering mother, suicidal uncle, mute brother and demented grandfather all take her there. Admittedly in true Hollywood fashion, lessons are learned along the way, adversity makes a contractual appearance and so does heartbreak. And not even all those clichés can drag it down.
Thisis a hilarious movie that isn’t stuck in laugh-a-minute mode, and it’s better for it. No overacting, and contrary to the way it’s been promoted, this is not a Steve Carell movie. He’s in it, but it’s definitely not his movie. It’s clever, it’s witty, and no one seems to be competing for screen time. And Little Miss Sunshine accomplishes all this without being the slightest bit pretentious or stopping to feed you a line of indigestible crap along the way.
As a movie critic and a male, I’m going to do something that I don’t think I’ve ever done before. I’m going to use a certain adjective to describe Little Miss Sunshine. I don’t think what’s about to happen should be looked into in any great detail. This is a movie that any female may refer to as cute. And they probably will refer to it in such manner. And if I was into using the word cute to describe movies I would definitely use the word here. But I’m not going to use that word. I’m going to use the word touching. Little Miss Sunshine was a touching movie. I was touched by it. Thought it had a good message.
Jesus Christ, I’m turning into a soccer coach. I can’t recommend this movie enough and a few Golden Globe nominations should be in order if nothing else.
World Trade Center
When I first heard that Oliver Stone, the well-known and controversial conspiracy nut, master director and rabble rouser was making a movie about 9/11, I actually peed my pants a little bit. You know, just the right amount, something you could pass off as a slight water splash from hand-washing. Not like a Chippewa Street skank’s weekend ritual. The reason for this brief incontinence was that there was not only the very real possibility of a good movie on the horizon for once, but also because if there were any shady goings-on behind one of the cataclysmic events in the history of the United States, Stone would be the one to tear the roof off the bastard.
In case the Coldplay song in the trailer doesn’t give you the hint, it never quite happens. After checking his balls at the door, Stone does nothing more than vaguely summarize the events of 9/11 and sugarcoat it with sentimentality and a level of hamminess usually seen only on network television movies, ultimately giving us all a new reason for wishing the World Trade Center was never hit.
World Trade Center focuses on the last 2 survivors to be pulled from the remains of the twin towers. We see the Port Authority cops respond to the attacks and go on about their day, we see the responses of their wives, the efforts to save them and a bunch of other things you’ve seen a billion times before. It was a beaut. A real beaut.
This isn’t to say that World Trade Center doesn’t do its job. It makes you sad—mostly by making you think about what a cheap and crappy movie it is. But it also takes the easy path and gets by on making you think about where you were that morning and what you thought about when you watched the same half dozen pieces of footage over and over again.
Nicolas Cage is one of the trapped cops. He and all the other actors and actresses all do their jobs well enough, but what bugged me more than the high budget gloss was how trite the whole thing was. World Trade Center was just so compact and preservative-packed. I kept hoping for the story of 9/11, instead of the story of the two people present who saw the least of it.
World Trade Center also reiterates the pure evil that happened that day (as opposed to other days) and might even try to tell us how lucky we are to be alive. I think. I basically got the same thing from watching a dozen clips of the attacks on youtube.com. Very much like this Spring’s United 93, World Trade Center suffers from bad timing. These movies are either trying to shore up patriotism in the middle of one of the biggest shit storms of all time or just tell a story. Everyone knows it’s a lot easier to look back and tell yourself how glad you are it’s all over when it’s actually all over. Making these movies right now is a lot like being in a boxing match and talking about it at the same time. You talk about it after the ref counted to ten and you’re still standing. Not when you’re going into the 3rd round. Last time I checked our arm wasn’t in the air yet.
What? Why am I supposed to care about this movie? Why? Is it because idiotic college students are generally, but not always funny? Do I want to see someone just a few ticks below 30 play a high school student? Oh wait, he’s in those Mac commercials. You know, because if you use a Mac you’ll be young and cool forever and if you use windows you’ll end up as a tie-wearing dweeb whose computer is only capable of rebooting. I need this guy telling me if I don’t blow two grand I’ll be a douchebag forever? Oh thanks for the advice. You were in Dodgeball and I’m supposed to roll over like some kind of show dog?
Maybe I’m supposed to go for Accepted because it’s the story of a misfit who can’t get into college. He bands with a bunch of other ragtag loners and they form their own college that doesn’t exist to keep tuition money and make friends? Lewis Black shows up briefly to offer some street cred and make you think Accepted isn’t the mindless and vapid piece of crap that it is.
Ben, my in at the theater, managed to watch the whole thing with me. He said it made him weepy at points because he doesn’t know what he wants with his life and he never found the right school to go to. This 21 year-old kid is crying to me about the rest of his life. He can just now legally drink and his life is over. I smacked him upside the head and told him to go work at McDonald’s and he’d figure it out really quick. I also told him to go rent Taxi Driver, Fight Club and Seven if he still couldn’t figure it out. I also told him to buy a pair of pants that fit and take up bowling.
Snakes On a Muthafuckin Plane
When I was at the DMV last week filling out some form to renew my driver’s license, I was asked what my most frequent thought/reaction is when generally watching movie trailers. Normally when I fill these things out I fill in any random box, very much like I did on my SAT exam on that Saturday morning many years ago. But unfortunately this question was a fill in the blank and if I remember correctly, my answer was are they serious?
At least that was my reaction when I saw the trailer for Snakes On a Muthafuckin Plane. Part of me thought of it as a delightful throwback to 70’s drive-in movies that were generally so bad that you could justify hiding your friend and his girl in the trunk and leaving them there after you got in. After all, you felt the rocking coming from the back of the car and an unspoken agreement you have when you become friends with someone is that you don’t intrude on them having sex. Even if they are doing a number on your rear shocks and accelerating that slow leak coming from your rear passenger side tire.
Another thought I had when I originally caught the trailer for Snakes On a Muthafuckin Plane asked how the hell this movie got made. There literally is nothing going on in the movie that isn’t explained in its title. Snakes. On. A. Muthafuckin. Plane. That’s it. That’s literally it.
But when I actually watched Snakes On a Muthafuckin Plane something happened to me. I actually enjoyed it. Not because it was a great movie or anything. It was actually a drive-in movie with a bigger budget. It’s Samuel L. Jackson overacting taking time to spout any random derivative of the word motherfuck, a lot of snakes and a pretty nice shot of some boobs. The title is appropriate to the point of painful because its title tells you exactly what you’re getting: Snakes and a Muthafuckin Plane.
Snakes On a Muthafuckin Plane doesn’t pretend to be anything other than what it is. It doesn’t tap the breaks and take time to make some ratty and heavy-handed commentary on the state of the world today. It doesn’t try to win awards and it sure as hell doesn’t care if you like it or not. Snakes On a Muthafuckin Plane knows it’s bad and doesn’t care. It ignores the brakes altogether and lays on the gas and until it gains enough speed to smash through a brick wall. It may give you a case of the vapors from time to time, but that’s why you see it at a drive-in, drunk , high on exhaust and screaming at the screen.
I know that Material Girls is nothing more than a vehicle for Hillary and Haylie Duff to make more money and give teenage girls something to do before school starts up again. But there are other motives here:
1) To remind the audience that their last name is not Duff, and even if it is, that the audience is nowhere near as hot as Hillary or Haylie Duff. They never will be either.
As for the “plot” of Material Girls, the Duffs play a pair of (wait for it) spoiled heiresses whose cosmetics company tanks. Things get Hiltonesque when they’re forced to star in low production value porn in order to survive before realizing that keeping their father’s name in good standing is more important than working as low-level fluffers for $20 (plus tips) a day. Yeah yeah, a riches to rags story that will leave anyone in middle school riveted. Haylie looks like a cross between a drag queen Sarah Jessica Parker impersonator and Janet from Three’s Company. The only thing she’s got going for her is the fact that she doesn’t have Hillary’s linebacker shoulders. This movie is as edgy as a slime mold. You’ll remember horehound candy before you remember this movie one year from now. That’s what we’re dealing with here.
I still actually believe that someone should be entertained when they pay Cash American to see a movie. 1 out of 5 times someone will see a movie that they deem good and when they see one that sucks I inexplicably feel responsible. I don’t know why. I didn’t appear in the movie. I didn’t make the goddamned thing and I sure as shit wouldn’t recommend the thing. But I still feel that people should be entertained when they go to the movies. So I’m telling you now: this will not happen for you if you see this movie. It’s slightly better than testicular cancer, but you wouldn’t pay for that, now would you?
Everyone ready for the newest horror film formula? You take an old ghost tale and you wrap it around a current craze or gimmick. Something like autoerotic asphyxiation, video games or getting gangbanged by people dressed like marshmallow peanuts. You wrap it in special effects, make sure at least one cast member is from a second string network and you’re got a recipe for not only modest financial success, but a way to give cancer through a screen. And without an R rating…!
Or you could just rip off the Japanese and remake of their movies again.
“But when you do remake that movie just remember—‘interesting’ doesn’t put asses in seats. And when you film it, you make sure that movie looks exactly like the first Ring movie. You’re not making a statement, you’re making money.”
--More than likely, a quote from Harvey and Bob Weinstein to Pulse’s producers and director.
Blah, blah, blah. A bunch of dumb teenagers lose the will to live after getting a ghost/virus in their e-mail and it’s spreading throughout the rest of the world. About 20 minutes into Pulse I was making calls to see if someone could forward me this e-mail. The movie itself was draining my will to live, but not fast enough. Pulse’s director used to do commercials and music videos, and it shows. This movie reeks of a Tool video the way your average frat boy reeks of Axe body spray. It was just bad news all around.
I’m not going to write about the new Tim Allen movie Zoom today as I originally planned. Why? Because it’s terrible. I mean, I got less depressed watching Born Into Brothels. It’s bad enough that I had to sit through Zoom, an unforgiving monster of a movie, but now I’ve got to write about it? What? You want to see me get kicked when I’m down? Is that it? You’re a real prick, you know that? A real mutt!
I’m not going to write about Zoom because if I do, I’m going to go on about how it’s a Lego version of the X-Men movies. I’m going to talk about how it’s packed with fart and booger jokes, ostensibly because it’s geared towards kids, but probably because Tim Allen still thinks they’re funny. If I were actually going to review this movie, I would also mention how it’s kind of like a bad live-action version of The Incredibles. I would also mention that Zoom is not funny and that it will make you want to kill yourself. Because it’s that bad.
More things I would mention about Zoom but am not going to:
-Tim Allen’s goatee makes him look like he’s doing coke again.
But I’m not going to write about any of that. What I really want to talk about is the 1981 version of The Postman Always Rings Twice with Jack Nicholson and Jessica Lange. Now the reason why I want to talk about it is because when I was a kid my mother wouldn’t let me watch it because it was “too dirty.” I’d discussed this with other people my age and it was almost alarming how many other people had to go through the same thing. So I actually saw it recently, years after seeing the original 1946 version with Lana Turner and John Garfield. The newer one blows actually. And if it was such a big deal to me I would’ve seen it years ago. So who really cares at this point? I know I don’t. If you think you don’t care at all now, you will realize you were wrong after seeing Zoom, when you sinks to new depths of apathy.Somehow it just makes life that much less livable.
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