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ISSUE #113
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Features

ArrowThe 50 Most Loathsome Americans 2006
Our annual ode to awfulness.

ArrowPower Surge
Bush blows a fuse!
Matt Taibbi

ArrowChattin' with Chomsky
We e-mailed him & he wrote back!

ArrowTaking One for the Tribe
The Times lies & we're having fun.
A. Monkey

ArrowThe Top 5 Talking Points of 2006
A Thoroughly Vetted Countdown with Casey Kasem!

ArrowHussein Clown Posse
Saddam: Well-Hung?
Matt Taibbi

Departments

ArrowKino Korner Movie Trailer Reviews

ArrowBEAST-O-Scopes

Arrow[sic] - Letters

 

KINO KORNER TRAILER REVIEWS
by Michael Gildea

[Editor’s note: BEAST film critic Michael Gildea has seen so many terrible Hollywood movies that he doesn’t have to watch them anymore to review them. In order to limit his exposure to vile, market-focused entertainment and thereby avoid killing innocent people, he is now reviewing promotional movie trailers. We agree with him that this approach fully accords the film industry the respect it deserves.]

300

If you were one of the many who were hoping for more iron-abundant violence than misguided grandeur and blatant sodomy out of Oliver Stone’s Alexander, you weren’t alone. Admittedly, Stone was on the right track with the film until he got a case of dramatic Tourette’s and babbled like a spastic chimp in a tuxedo t-shirt for the last hour and a half of it. And I don’t mind seeing Rosario Dawson naked, but at the price of seeing Colin Farrell’s ass and sack in the same shot was too high a price to pay.

So the elements have had enough time to weather away those bored and painful memories and pave the way for the big screen adaptation of Frank Miller’s graphic novel 300. While the recounting of Spartan king Leonidas and his army of 300 fighting odds against an army that outnumbers them 100 to 1 may not exactly sound like a thrill a minute, remember that Frank Miller also wrote and co-directed Sin City. Then again, he also wrote Robocop 2.

The trailer looks like a sepia-toned Sin City in a wrestling match with Gladiator (with Troy as Gladiator’s manager). It’s also got an abundance of heavy-handed dialogue, speeches that a steroid-addicted bouncer cum little league coach might give and enough computer effects to crash a corporate server. But it also looks cool as shit. And while you’re yawning during the trailer or thinking how dumb it looks, take the time to remind yourself this movie is the reason you can now post 300 pictures of yourself in front of your bathroom mirror with glib comments on your myspace profile.


Stomp the Yard

If you’ve ever been filled with unbridled rage the morning after you’ve had a house party and woke up to the place eviscerated, you will know how I felt when I saw the trailer for Stomp the Yard. It’s the story of a straight-up thug played by an attractive black actor who gets sent away to a college where synchronized dancing, or “stepping,” is the big thing on the campus, which incidentally is filled with attractive black students. Tragedy befalls the main character’s brother, and it’s right there you realize this story was crafted on a production line at a soul-killing factory, a tuna casserole made from a recipe book of boring food for suburbanites, predigested and passed through an accountant’s colon. I recently had two grandparents pass away in the span of 3 days, and that was more enjoyable than the 2-minute running time of Stomp the Yard’s trailer.


Freedom Writers

About ten seconds after the New Year ball drops, so does a movie about misunderstood teenage delinquents/gang members and their idealistic first-time teacher determined to Make A Difference. And this annual turd is always “based on a true story,” always filled with inane subplots recycled from afterschool specials, always filled with kissy-huggy armchair psychology bullshit and always always always has a scene where everyone who hated each other’s fucking guts at the beginning of the movie are all dancing around like a bunch of jagoffs. And you know why? Because it turns out they’re not that different from each other after all.

Cry me a fucking river! The only purpose these movies where movies where miscreant students that society wrote off and left behind is to somehow give empty hope to some poor first-year honkie who thinks she can Change Things. Oh, and in the trailer you’ll notice the MTV films logo, which imputes as much street cred as a Color Me Badd T-shirt in Harlem. And as I noticed Hillary Swank’s masculine features in this formulaic feel-good regurgitation, I pictured Clint Eastwood sitting in a leather recliner in front of his TV muttering, “I shoulda killed her when I had the chance.”


Code Name: The Cleaner

After seeing the trailer for Code Name: The Cleaner, I came to the realization that putting the words “The Entertainer” after Cedric’s name is like putting the words “The Teabagged Gutterslut” after Mother Theresa’s name. I’m just saying that Cedric the Entertainer isn’t very entertaining. And for the life of me I can’t figure out why. I mean, maybe if he brought weed with him everywhere he’d be entertaining, but I’m guessing the studio would have a problem with clearances. He’s an obvious the last resort after Chris Rock, Martin Lawrence, Dave Chappelle and every other Eddie Murphy stand-in the studio could think of declined this role playing a dipshit schlub in a yet another mistaken identity/fish out of water comedy.

So he’s playing a janitor who after a case of amnesia or something thinks he’s a CIA agent. Lucy Liu continues her descent to the bottom of the celebrity port-a-potty as Cedric’s handler or contact. I can’t tell which one because I was trying not to look at her crossed eyes. A coworker of mine turned to stone after looking at her eyes for too long when he saw Domino and his statue corpse is still sitting in the theater seat. Also making a completely unnecessary appearance is science experiment gone wrong Nicolette Sheridan. What, they couldn’t afford a girl who looks good through a clean camera lens? Either way it looks like shit and makes me glad I’m reviewing movie trailers now.


The Hitcher

If I see another only marginally decent horror movie from the ‘70s or ‘80s remade for a post-9/11 world I think I’m seriously going to freak out. And it’s not as if the original version of the movie is that great to begin with. Take the 1986 version of The Hitcher. All it really had going for it was Jennifer Jason Leigh, a not yet over-the-hill Rutger Hauer, and nothing else, especially not its scared-straight premise: “Oooh, a psychopathic hitchhiker who kills people in grisly, yet imaginative ways. I promise I’ll never hitchhike again, Officer! I swear!”

So to sell a remake, we’ve got to have it about a couple on their way to spring break getting terrorized by a crazy bastard instead of some poor sole dick getting the business. I don’t see tribute here, which is what a remake should be all about. I see some overweight Hollywood douchebag with no ideas, a coke problem and his new angle to affording it.

But the question remains—why is The Hitcher being remade? Does someone really need the money? Is it because the fear-deluged viewing audience can’t be scared anymore? Is it because the Hollywood execs know that you can stick any random horror movie in front of an audience and those with the lowest IQs and the most money will eat it up?

I don’t care. That’s why I’m reviewing the trailer instead of wasting more than two hours of my life. I can’t bitch about two minutes and sixteen seconds as much as I can bitch about 2 hours and 16 minutes! The Hitcher looks seriously gay (and not in the homosexual way either) and as much as I’d like to, I wouldn’t be caught dead throwing my own feces at the screen. Actually, I haven’t tried that yet, so I take that last comment back.


The Good German

Holy Jesus! A trailer that actually looks promising! George Clooney and director/production partner Stephen Soderbergh team up for their 5th collaboration as star and director with The Good German. It looks like a grimy, no-nonsense version of Casablanca as Clooney plays a military journalist sent to Berlin to cover the peace conference at the end of World War II. Cate Blanchett plays his shady ex and Toby Maguire plays a cross between a weasel with Down syndrome and some kind of military personnel.

The Good German looks like it’s filled with all kinds of espionage, and Clooney looks like he’s going to get the shit kicked out of him throughout most of the movie, seeing as how I counted two scenes where his face wasn’t bandaged up. I’m a little disappointed to say it looks like those wounds are at the hands of Maguire. I know he played Spider-Man, but come on; Clooney would fuck that nerd up! Blanchett looks like she’s gearing up for another Oscar nomination and Soderbergh’s direction leads me to believe he was watching a hell of a lot of Francois Trauffaut movies before he started filming.

The Good German is one of those movies that opened in a NYC over a month ago, which means it’ll show up at an art house theater around here for exactly three (3) screenings before heading to video over the summer. Keep an eye out for it.


Curse of the Golden Flower

Since Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon gave enough Americans noticeable wood, we’ve gotten another Asian Dynasty movie. Visually, they often offer imagery that is nothing short of beautiful, include sexy Asian women that will bring you to tears as well as wire fight scenes that, despite their blatant fakeness, kick serious ass.

We’ve seen these films and know that they’re about frighteningly skilled warriors, doomed love affairs and other classic themes. Live-action anime. Great to look at but the stories range in quality anywhere from “weak” to “okay.” And every once in a while you’ll run into one that’s “not bad. If it’s really good, you won’t even need subtitles to follow the story.

Not to take anything away from these flicks. The hours and manpower that go into them must be staggering, and it’s to be commended and recognized. But bring a book, or some moisturizing cream.


Alpha Dog

Oooooooooh! Another movie about suburban white boys gone bad! Excuse me if I squeal with delight! Set in ’99, Alpha Dog is about bad-ass white kid drug dealers who listen to too much gangsta rap and watch Scarface stoned every day. They hang out with hoes and ain’t afraid to do shit propa. So one dude owes another one money, some guns get pulled and the little brother of the one that owes the money gets grabbed off the street. Things get hairy and it looks like they’ve got to waste the little punk even though he’s mad cool. What to do? The End.

Alpha Dog is basically Thirteen’s really dumb boyfriend. He’s angry, he clearly has issues, his parents didn’t love him enough and nobody’s going to tell him what to do! It stars a bunch of hot new actors with fresh new faces that happen to be greasy. Justin Timberlake also stars, part of his strategic de-fagification PR campaign. And I’d just forgiven him after that “Dick in a Box” video he did on SNL. Because the son of the late, great John Cassavettes is directing, I may catch it on cable someday. All I know is it’s going to take more than Bruce Willis in another bad wig to suck me into the theater.


Catch and Release

Well, it’s that time of year again. Valentine’s Day is right around the corner and the ritual chick flick for that perfunctory date is upon us: Catch and Release, starring Jennifer Garner. From what I could… salvage from the trailer, she’s supposed to get married but the lucky bastard dies. Or maybe he’s just using that as an excuse, as Groucho Marx would say. So she decides to stay on and hang out with his or her friends—can’t say I know or really care—and learn to live again or get a new lease on life or some shit.

To make matters a world worse, Jennifer Garner is the main character. So we’ve got to make visual contact with her face that looks like it was on fire and put out with a wet anvil. Then we’ve got the cast of supporting characters so by the book you’d swear you’re watching a show about a forensic crime team. We’ve got The Ex’s Attractive Yet Difficult Best Friend. Then there’s the Ditzy Blonde Hippy Friend. What the hell, let’s give her a Kid. And what would this war crime on an impossibly pretty set be without The Smart-Assed Overweight Guy complete with a beard or, even worse, a soul patch! 

She hooks up with the best friend and it’s happily ever after. Because how the hell are you going to sell Valentine’s Day without a movie that’s sure to send you into a diabetic coma or a life-long celibacy vow? Either way it co-stars Juliette Lewis and Kevin Smith (?) and makes me glad I’m not single. That’s got to mean something.


Actual Movie Review:

Rocky Balboa

Ever since I could remember, the original Rocky has been one of my favorite movies. It’s got an everyman underdog you can root for, a great fight, lowlife comedy, a love story, and if it catches you in the right mood it can even make you a little misty. Instead of watching football on Sunday afternoons with an overenthusiastic father, I’d watch either Rocky or Saturday Night Fever every Sunday throughout my formative years. One or the other every Sunday. We might break it up with Grease every once in a while, but those two were the staples. Rocky will always be one of my favorite movies.

Naturally, with a character so likable, we see a series of sequels that get worse and worse to the point that not even an ass-kicking at the hands of Mr. T can reclaim the genuine glory of the original Rocky. And it’s not as if there haven’t been numerous attempts. We’ve seen Rocky win the belt, lose the belt, get back the Eye of the Tiger, take down the Soviet steroid case from Rocky IV (on his home turf, no less…!) and do whatever the hell he was trying to do in Rocky V. I can’t say because even though I’ve tried to watch V on more than a few occasions, I can’t really tell you what it was about. Sorry. The point is, even though the character of Rocky got the Eye of the Tiger back in the movies, it never quite happened for the movies themselves.

And with the sixth installment, Rocky Balboa, it still doesn’t. Even though it tries its damndest and comes pretty close at a few points, it still doesn’t. The only way I can think to describe it is through an analogy that all of us who were into ‘80s hardcore will get.

Who remembers the first Suicidal Tendencies album? The self-titled one that had “Institutionalized,” “War Inside My Head,” and “I Saw Your Mommy” on it. Great, great shit. You mention that album to any former skate punk who was into the hardcore scene back in the day and I guarantee you they will talk about how fucking great that album is. But what they’re not going to talk about is the sorry-ass attempt made by the band to recreate that album with a re-recording of it from 1993 called Still Cyco After All These Years. They’ll get pissed to a level that only a trip to Home Depot or Ikea will snap them out of.

And that’s kind of what Rocky Balboa is. Still Rocky After All These Years. It relies heavily on the first movie as Rocky is perpetually depressed that Talia Shire opted to do Geico commercials instead of play Adrian and tell him he can’t win. He hangs around the old neighborhood and lives in the past when he’s not running an Italian restaurant where Hispanics do all the cooking. A sports network runs a computer simulation where Rocky fights and kicks the ass of the current champ. So even though Stallone looks like a lump of shit that plummeted to Earth he decides to fight the champ.

When I heard that Stallone was doing another Rocky movie, I thought of the scene in the first one where his trainer/manager Mickey told him to “Stay down, Rock!” and I laughed my ass off. I knew it was going to be twelve different shades of awful. I expected the dopey, whimsical monologues, the ultra-trite training montage, and of course the complete suspension of disbelief required to believe an old, white boxer could defeat a young black one. I expected Rocky Balboa to be the worst thing since, well, whatever horror movie came out last week. But I’ve got to tell you—it wasn’t that bad.

Oh sure, there were dull, dragging scenes and the fight seemed to pop out of nowhere. And of course I was wondering if Stallone could’ve done the fight with a shirt on somehow. Absolutely, the celebrity cameos were as forced as an Italian grandmother’s pasta. But as Apollo Creed said in the first Rocky, “it sounds like a damn monster movie.” And with a monster movie, you don’t really give a rat’s ass about a bunch of scientists reading off the results of some radiation report, you just want to see Tokyo get demolished.

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