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Thank You for Smoking

There’s a small list of things mentioned about a movie for film that will make me go see it regardless of who’s starring in, writing or directing it. If a movie is described as “non-PC,” I’m all over it. It could be based on a play about a cooking school full of Victorian nuns who discuss love, life and food while watching paint dry in a ghost town and I’m there. But when conservatives who just love to impose their will get slapped around I’m there opening night.

Thank You for Smoking is the story of a lobbyist for Big Tobacco, played by Aaron Eckhart, who can piss on a newspaper and convince anyone it’s a Picasso. If the man had more ambition than to pay the mortgage (his rationalization for his job) and be a role model to his son, he could do some real damage. But it’s entertaining all the same just to watch him work his magic.

Rounding out the cast are William H. Macy, Maria Bello, Sam Elliot, Rob Lowe and Robert Duvall who all turn out solid if not enjoyable performances. Unfortunately, it seems that no cast is perfect these days: Katie Holmes makes her best but still short effort to appear likable. She just seems to have some kind of genetic handicap since hooking up with Tom Cruise and it’s really showing up in her work, despite the fact that Thank You for Smoking was probably filmed before they hooked up. Fortunately, she didn’t bring the whole thing down.

What was so fun about Thank You for Smoking for me was that no one was safe from its wrath. It picked on uptight lawmakers, Hollywood nutbags, shady journalists, stepdads and unscrupulous executives—all without so much as lighting a cigarette.

Another unexpected but incredibly smart choice on the part of Thank You for Smoking was that it took no sides. It’s by no means a pro-smoking film or even an anti-smoking film for that matter. It showed the extremely ridiculous behavior of both camps—the almost desperate strategies of the cancer merchants to push their product as well as the nonsensical lawmakers with their preposterous responses.

There’s a scene where Eckhart’s character is asked if he’ll let his son smoke once he turns eighteen. Eckhart argues that if his son educates himself with the facts and still wants to smoke that he’ll buy his son his first pack. That part of the movie beautifully sums up the gist of Thank You for Smoking as it fans away the smoke of incredibly fun madness that the rest of the movie blows in your face. Smart and funny don’t see much of each other these days, but when they do it’s always a fun ride.

Lucky Number Slevin

When watching Lucky Number Slevin I was reminded of the good old days when I was in The Single Jungle. Every once in a while I’d talk to a girl if I either needed amusement, got up the nerve to talk to her or was just plain looking to score. Then there was The Dance that would take place presuming we were even slightly interested in one another. We’d try to make our crappy lives and jobs sound way more interesting than they actually were (I knew I was and there’s no way in hell a secretary, I mean an administrative assistant could be truly jazzed about her job), try to hide that fact that neither of us were interesting enough to waste a phone call on three days later and eventually one if not both of us would lose interest.

That’s pretty much what I got when watching Lucky Number Slevin. The problem was that I couldn’t say I was enduring this hellish nightmare so a friend could get a number, as I was sitting in the theater alone.

I’d seen it and heard it all before. False-clever dialogue, as if its audience wasn’t coming for the usual tough guys and supporting characters that leave you wondering if they were on the level. The Kafkaesque case of mistaken identity in the middle of a tale of hardship so heartbreaking that you’re supposed to root root root for the protagonist. The respected actors playing their complacent roles as hitmen, mob bosses or shlubs so hackneyed that you forget you haven’t seen this particular movie yet.

Lucky Number Slevin seemed to offer no luck to anyone, not even itself. It was like a bad cover/remake of The Usual Suspects that gave all its secrets away in the first few minutes. At the same time, I can’t say it was all bad. Josh Harnett got the piss beat out of him half a dozen times and that almost made the whole thing worthwhile for me. Seeing Lucy Liu not play a maniacal bitch would’ve been enjoyable for me if she wasn’t so cross-eyed and I actually enjoyed her work. But since I don’t, that was something of a foul ball for me.

Unfortunately, Lucky Number Slevin falls into that category of movie that tries to be a modern film noir, but just doesn’t make the nut. And don’t get me wrong, I still recommend this movie under a certain set of circumstances—see it with next to no effort put forth, soul-crushing boredom must be stuck in there somewhere and you most definitely should’ve eaten a very large meal with no nutritional value whatsoever. I know this all sounds insane, but there’s a theory behind these actions—both an emotional and physical state are created where you feel next to nothing. Sure, you probably won’t enjoy it so much but at the same time you’ll be too lethargic to be upset that you wasted your time and possibly money in watching it. Who knows? Maybe it’ll even wake you up and inspire you to do something with the rest of your day.

(By the way---if you actually do try this, please contact me at Michael@buffalobeast.com. I want to know if it actually works…)

The Benchwarmers

There are days when I absolutely DO NOT want to do this job anymore. Don’t get me wrong, it mostly consists of good days, but when I have to watch the combined Retard Power of Rob Schneider and David Spade all I can think is I don’t know if I’ll make it out of this one okay. Between these turkeys, I can’t think of a decent movie either one of them has turned out. Schneider’s just generally smarmy in the same way there’s that neighborhood dog whose only reason for existing is to take a crap on your front lawn while hoping you later step in it. As for Spade, he’s obnoxious and unenjoyably glib in a way that makes you want to seek reparations from the jocks he went to high school with for not finishing him off years ago.

I’ve always felt that I’ve had the resistance required to hold off their particular brand of what I’m assuming is supposed to be comedy. Watching “Saturday Night Live” in the early ‘90s served the same purpose as warriors or alcoholics who purposefully dose themselves with small amounts of poison so they can one day withstand a full-on toxic assault.

But I’ve got a bigger problem now. Jon Heder was added to the mix. Despite numerous viewings of Napoleon Dynamite, I’m not entirely sure I can handle him by himself, let alone combined with Spade and Schneider. To make matters worse, they’re coming at me in a vehicle that should have been called Revenge of the Nerdy Bad News Bears. And to make matters worse, they’re playing a bunch of losers trying to reclaim the glory they never had, a la Meatballs, Dodgeball and all the other balls in between.

One of my only defenses against this nightmare disguised as a comedy was the fact that I’ve seen all this before. The three bottles of MD 20/20 I downed behind the theater’s dumpster would delay the pain I’d undoubtedly feel, but also delay reaction time, unfortunately. I’ve heard rumors that a single voice could cause earthquakes and even tsunamis or torment against those who aren’t sustained by completely brainless comedy. I could still run. I could still not go and say I did. Yes sir, The Benchwarmers is worth its weight in laughter. Bring the kids! Bah! I’d be a fool to back down from these clowns! I haven’t backed down from an assignment yet and I’d be damned if I was going to give Joe Dirt, Deuce Bigelow and Napoleon Dynamite the satisfaction of my defeat that wasn’t on my own terms.

So I went and I made an even more obnoxious ass than I normally do when I see a movie I don’t want to see. I fired a potato gun at the screen. I shrieked as I threw javelin darts at the screen. I started a fire in the middle of the theater and…get this, yelled fire.  Strangely enough, everyone bought it and I shortly had the place to myself. Ben the usher, who is actually a fan of my work and kept the theater from pressing charges, said I was carrying on like Martin Sheen at the beginning of Apocalypse Now. Ben said he watched for a while, examining my creative process. He admitted that he’d thought all I did was spin fabrications, but then apologized for ever doubting me. To make up for it, he took me to the roof where we hit golf balls into traffic.

As we did considerable damage (the kid had a hell of a swing) on the populace below, Ben said he could see why he was the way he was. He explained that he had to see the same parts of movies over and over when looking for teenagers engaged in heavy petting. Even if a movie was good, he burned out pretty quickly. Apparently he used to love the movies, but this job was the worst thing that ever happened to him as far as that was concerned. The only thrills he now felt were from beating up sleeping homeless guys who snuck in and filling convertibles with floorcorn and not-quite-empty nacho cheese cups in the summertime. I said that sounded great and asked for an application, but Ben refused. He said my work was too important to jeopardize. I told him that he was completely insane and had no idea what the hell he was talking about. He  bowed and asked to be knighted with the golf club. I did it just to humor the kid. He quickly rose and jumped off the building into the dumpster below. Friggin kids…

Basic Instinct 2: Risk Addiction

I remember my senior year of high school back in 1992 when the original Basic Instinct came out. My fellow classmates were cutting class repeatedly to go catch afternoon screenings of Basic Instinct, the movie that at the time was on everybody’s lips. All I remember hearing about was the now-famous beaver shot and there were lesbians in it. I didn’t see it until 3 years after it came out and when the credits rolled, all I could thing was who gives a shit? By that time, I’d seen my fair share of porn with, believe it or not, better looking women whose fine china you could see for more than a split second. Maybe everyone who was talking it up was extremely sheltered or it was possible that I was just a big old Filthy McNasty. I’m not sure and I don’t care enough to wonder anymore. All I know is it was completely overrated and a brief flash of whisker biscuit made Sharon Stone a star. But thankfully it went away. The hype at least.

Until now that is. 14 years later, Sharon Stone has returned to slink back into that role that, hand in hand with a glimpse of her labia, made her famous. As I sat in the theater with a look of constipation on my face, I couldn’t make up my mind what was more preposterous—the idea of this movie or the movie itself. We’ve got a hollow character that was vaguely interesting for nearly 15 minutes 15 years ago. She didn’t wear underwear, she had sex with other women and she killed people. If you haven’t met a woman in the last 15 years who doesn’t fall into at least two of those categories, you’re doing something seriously wrong and you may as well continue with your sorry pattern and see Basic Instinct 2. If you decide to stick your head in the fire, you’ll see Sharon Stone up to her same silly hijinks as she has sex with multiple partners, kills them, messes with their mind—all while wearing bad wigs and trying to act deep and icy in the process. The coldness was there but the depth wasn’t. Neither was the coochie.

What you get for your time and money is a story so implausible that it borders on entertaining in the saddest of ways. It’s like a bad soap opera teleported to some BBC drama and all the characters are really confused. It takes place in England, which despite being beautiful country exudes a rainy Monday afternoon feeling that leaves you wondering if you should wash down one, two or three bottles of sleeping pills with your bottle of gin. Admittedly, Basic Instinct 2 has its moments that, I’m sure, were amusing in a completely unintentional way. However, in the end there’s good silly and bad silly. Basic Instinct 2 is not the former.

Actors or actresses only reprise a role when that role is either still hot or when they’re in need of some quick cash. In case you haven’t been keeping up on the awards show circuit, Sharon Stone hasn’t been to many of them lately. If, when you heard about Basic Instinct 2 coming out, you asked yourself why? you now have your answer.

Ice Age: The Meltdown

It’s fairly obvious that no one in Adult Land could give a rat’s rump about the environment. The after effects of 2004’s cautionary tale/special effects extravaganza The Day After Tomorrow were not those of warning and awareness that the filmmakers possibly intended, but if I’m not mistaken, the most popular comment was either something to the effect of how cute Jake Gyllenhaal is or, “dude—did you see those tornadoes take out Hollywood? That was rad—totally rad!” (or, if you came within shouting distance of my editor at the time, all you heard was, “If it’s so damn cold, how come you can’t see anyone’s breath?”)

Comely “It Boys” and computer generated disasters aside, the environmentally conscious side of Hollywood has apparently decided to push their agenda to an audience that may actually listen to advice about what lies around the corner concerning the consequences of our misdeeds—the kids. So we’ve got another computer generated kids movie—actually a sequel to another computer generated kids movie—where animals with celebrity voices face polar ice caps melting and the end of the ice age. But there’s supposedly a log they can all use to float to safety and if they can all make it there before they all drown to death all will be well. Despite the fact that some of them are carnivores and no one packed a lunch.

The characters are more sedate and lamer than they were in the first Ice Age. If you never saw the first one, this isn’t the best place to start. Actually, unless you’re under the age of 11 or are autistic you shouldn’t be bothering at all. At least with something like A Shark’s Tale or The Incredibles there was something for the adults to make them forget they were watching a kids’ movie. There were homages to adult-geared things like the mafia or superheroes that adults grew up with. But with Ice Age 2 the only tool you have for possible enjoyment is closing your eyes and imagining a live action movie in your head. And that was way more interesting if not disturbing.

Otherwise it’s all flashy images designed to coddle the ADHD engrained into the modern child with an abundance of shrieking and things that would otherwise cause spasms and seizures. My suggestion to remedy this, if there are no children present, is excessive drinking in the parking lot on little to no sleep. Worked for me, and even though I was able to see through the whole entertainment industry plot, I didn’t mind. At least not that much.


The thought of seeing Slither, what was seemingly another knock-off horror movie where slimy creatures kill the residents of some Podunk town who must somehow outwit them. I was expecting the same nightmare I normally get when I go see a horror movie made in the last few years. A soundtrack of new metal bands, a group of idiotic teenagers/twentysomethings who each have something they can bring to the group as far as survival is concerned, and an unhealthy dose of utter nonsense.

Slither met one of the three criteria with the nonsense. It reeked of idiocy, but the best possible idiocy. White trash stupidity where every kid in the town has a complexion you wouldn’t wish on your worst enemy, the local police department makes the Mayberry PD look like Mensa and the townsfolk make you wonder if you’re actually watching a movie about a prison colony. For a few moments, I got really weirded out because I’ve never seen a Troma movie on a big screen. At least not around here.

Slither makes no mistakes about itself—it knows it’s not a cinematic masterpiece and it’s not even trying to be. It’s got a few serious bones in its proverbial body, but they get broken pretty quick. As much as I hate to admit this, I really got a kick out of this movie. It kind of reminded me when I saw Batman and Robin when it first came out. Before I go on, Slither isn’t nearly as bad as Batman and Robin, it’s just the circumstances that were similar for me.

Just seeing the preview for Batman and Robin and knowing damn well that they’d run out of good villains, I knew it was going to suck. Schwarzenegger as Mr. Freeze? Come on! That was the worst casting decision since casting Keanu Reeves as a guy with too much information in his head in Johnny Mnemonic. Oh yeah, and when I think of Batgirl, the first thing I think of is a big fat face. And why the hell didn’t her costume have any nipples? So point here is I was expecting the worst movie ever. It was one of those movies that the rational part of your brain is screaming at you not to waste your money on this horrid marketing tool/borderline war crime and that no good can come of seeing this movie. Then there’s the other part of your mind that’s often known for slowing down when passing auto accidents or crying drunk girls on Chippewa. Yeah, blame this one for the two hours of your life you’ll never get back.

I expected to vomit once George Clooney spoke, making no effort to disguise his voice. Every hammy one-liner that Schwarzenegger made should’ve taken a decade off my life. Uma Thurman’s sorry-ass James Frey-on-Oprah Mae West imitation was admittedly tolerable with her obvious talent for distraction. Under normal circumstances I would’ve crushed the theater manager’s skull with my bare hands. But when the movie wasn’t as bad (still godawful, but not as bad) as I expected, I had avoided disappointment that day.



Idiot Box by Matt Bors
Big Fat Whale by Brian McFadden
Perry Bible Fellowship by Nicholas Gurewitch
Bob the Angry Flower by Stephen Notely
Deep Fried by Jason Yungbluth

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