Archive for July, 2013

Summer Movie Awards, Pt. 2

Monday, July 29th, 2013

 

(Beware spoilers if you haven’t seen the movie)

Best Imitation of The Exorcist on Red Bull

Once you’ve seen The Exorcist, no movie featuring an exorcism will ever be that original again. The last half hour of this film about a family moving into a ghost house and demon spirits eventually possessing one of the family members tries to take the wacky shit that happens when the priest is reading the bible to a crackhead demon spirit on meth level. Frankly, someone waving a bible and railing gospel quotes at me would probably trigger the same effect. I feel your pain. But I have to give the director credit for trying to amp down the gore and creep an audience out for most of the movie with simple sounds and movements, such as creaking doors, rustling sheets, clapping hands and jiggling closets. When you find out that the director was responsible for that pinnacle of torture porn, Saw, you just have to give him some props, even if they aren’t the ones that slice your own limbs from your body. Someone no doubt exorcised a few of his demons.

Best Donation to Celebrities’ Private Party

This Is the End, if you like guy humor, can be pretty damn funny. But at some point during this movie about a group of celebrity friends (Seth Rogan, Jonah Hill, James Franco, Danny McBride, and Jay Baruchel) playing themselves hanging out with each other as the rapture and the apocalypse sucks up and destroys everything around them… you realize you just paid for them to hang out, drink, smoke dope and party together at your expense. This realization is only slightly dampened by the fact they portray themselves as self-entitled, narcissistic, clueless douchebags, which may or may not be true (but if that’s where they’re getting their improvisation humor from, it probably must have more than a kernel of truth) who are only left behind from the rapture because they are so uselessly sinful and unworthy. Still, they manage to deliver some of the best laughs of the summer, so maybe we shouldn’t feel so bad about donating at the door to their beer, bong and munchies run.

Best Donation to Celebrities’ Retirement Fund

Red 2 might work as a scenic stock shot travelogue of Moscow, Paris, London, and a promotional tool for wasting ammo as much expensive ammo as possible, but you won’t find any real thrills or suspense here other than wondering just how long these aging actors can keep going to the well and collecting a paycheck for the gimmick of seeing over-the-bankable actors play action heroes. Sure, it was a kick watching first class thespians such as Helen Mirren play a cold-blooded, two-handed hit woman, or John Malkovich look as dopey as possible in nerd hats, but at the end of the day and the machine gun clip, this barely qualifies as a pre-diabetic sugar rush. Anthony Hopkins has gone from such academy award-nominated performances as in The Remains of the Day, to the Remainders Bin, which is no doubt where this DVD will end up one week after release.

Best Movie of the Summer

The Way, Way Back is like a cool, friendly hug in a summer of movies trying to heat up theatres with mountains of money spent on CGI, noise, and meaningless action to bully you into submission. Great characters. Real emotions. Original dialogue. Heart in the right place. What the hell?! is this doing playing during the summer? (Other than the fact it’s about a pivotal summer vacation in the life of a 14 year-old kid trying survive his mother’s new boyfriend). Steve Carrel gives great asshole as the boyfriend. Toni Collete acts more with less than anyone with ten times as much dialogue. Alison Janey as the booze-injected gossipy neighbor in the beach resort town nearly steals the movie. But Sam Rockwell as the world wise water park employee the hero gets all his life lessons from is simply awesome, as usual. Even my 16 year-old son said he wished this movie, like summer itself, would never end.

– A. Wayne Carter

Summer Movie Awards, Pt. 1

Tuesday, July 16th, 2013

 

(Beware spoilers if you haven’t seen the movie)

Most Boring and Never-Ending Finale

Man of Steel’s hour-long meaningless battle between indestructible Superman and indestructible General Zod, as they demolish an entire city. Whoever coined the term ‘demolition porn,’ got it right. CGI has ‘rendered’ the audience’s investment in onscreen destruction a big ‘meh.’ It might as well be a cartoon at this point, for all we care if we’re not invested in the story or characters. And Superman does something he’s never done in 70+ years before – he kills. He snaps Zod’s neck (you’d think throwing him through seven skyscrapers would have done the same trick) to protect a family from being fried by Zod’s laser beam eyes. Nevermind the countless thousands of people who must have died while they were knocking down skyscrapers pummeling each other forever and ever throughout the city. Yawn.

Best Impersonation of a Transformers Movie

Pacific Rim has a stylistic production look, sense of humor, and a nostalgic tradition going back to Godzilla movies and anime cartoons, but it’s still just two hours-plus of oversized CGI robots battling oversized CGI monsters. As I sit going deaf watching more loud and meaningless demolition, my mind drifts to trivial thoughts like, “I’m glad Idris Elba from The Wire is finally getting a big paycheck;” or “How do those little helicopters carry 700-ft robots out to sea on those itty bitty wires?” and, “I really miss the guys in the rubber monster suits stomping around on one of those awesome model cities. You knew something was at stake, then… hundreds of hours of painstaking work by a master model-maker.” Kinda cool sci-fi movie, though.

Best Third Act Rescue

No, it wasn’t a character within a film; it was the re-shot third act of World War Z itself. Apparently the first version of this world wide apocalyptic zombie romp tried to go even bigger than the first two acts and, in doing so, probably played like that third act of Man of Steel and bored test audiences into a near zombie catatonic state. So they brought in a writer from the TV series Lost, and scaled the last act down to Brad Pitt alone in a haunted house – er, I mean a World Health Organization lab – trying to retrieve a possible vaccine amid loitering, teeth-clacking zombies. I hope more films get the message that less can be more when you reduce finales back to human scale, where one person surviving or succeeding just resonates louder than countless CGI humans, buildings or worlds blowing up.

Worst First Two Acts

Despicable Me 2. Is it a James Bond spoof, a dating movie, a Gremlins rip-off, or a little princesses movie? No, it’s just a total mess of three-second visual gags in search of a comprehensible story. Fortunately, most of the 5 year-old girls at the matinee I went to didn’t care and were there to just laugh at the minions. Next time, just skip the plot, characters or story and give us two hours of minions or Scrit. Oh… that’s what they’re actually going to do: The Minions Movie is coming next summer.

Best Expensive Version of 24

White House Down is a $200 million dollar version of the TV series 24, but at least with a sense of humor and minimal torture. Channing Tatum’s character saving the president, his daughter (but not from a cougar) and the world makes Jack Bauer look like a pussy. The director previously destroyed the White House in Independence Day, one of the founding father films of demolition porn, but with a sly wink to the audience, he teases you to the brink here, but ultimately that’s about the only building in Washington he doesn’t demolish. Jaime Fox also has a blast playing Obama as a Nicorette-chewing pacifist who gets his badass on.

Who Was That Masked Man Award

I guess we’ll never know. No one showed up at the theaters.

 

Okay, where are the movies for grown-ups, already? And no, anything with Adam Sandler doesn’t count.

– A. Wayne Carter

Above the Dumb

Monday, July 8th, 2013

“What the hell!?”

A ‘literate’ Paramount Pictures executive I was developing a screenplay for once told me that if she ever encountered a character in a script using that phrase, she would immediately stop reading and toss that submission. She explained that it was lazy, cliché, imaginatively bankrupt, and that it reflected those same qualities on any writer who would stoop to provide characters such trite, overused dialogue.

Characters in “Under the Dome,” the summer series on CBS use that phrase 11 times in the first two episodes. They use in it reaction to the dome that has suddenly entrapped their city of Chester Mills; and they also use it any time they are excitedly demanding an answer from someone else. And EVERY character uses it as if they all took the same brimstone Rosetta language course.

If that were the show’s only crime, it would merely be irritating, but the rest of the dialogue, plotting, staging and even the production choices are so dumb they are painfully laughable.

A stranger in town to collect a debt struggles with the man who owes the money and pulls a gun, and ends up killing him, and then secretly buries him. You’d think he’d want to avoid attention, but he befriends the dead man’s girlfriend who is a reporter, and stays at her house, gets in another fight with the (snarling villain) used car salesman’s creepy son, is spotted by a police squad car wandering near the woods and then, when they are suddenly called away to a house fire, turns up at the same house fire on foot helping put out the blaze. Way to keep a low profile, manslaughter man.

The house on fire is one of those cheesy temporary constructions Hollywood is so notorious for, with obvious gas jets spewing flames conveniently out all windows. But that doesn’t mean the preacher who has been trapped in there has already been asphyxiated and can’t be easily rescued by the woman town deputy. Oh, and the preacher is in some secret scheme with the used car salesman involving propane tanks, which is why he was in the police chief’s house trying to steal evidence after the police chief’s pacemaker exploded and killed him when he touched the dome wall.

What the hell?!

Stephen King’s novels have been adapted into some pretty classy screen fiction; including “The Shawshank Redemption,” “Stand By Me,” “Carrie,” and “The Dead Zone.” But there have been plenty of misses, as well. Count this corny adaptation as a complete whiff.

I get it; we’re not watching HBO. But if the scriptwriters adapting George Martin’s Game of Thrones can deliver viewers the rich experience of more than 30 characters with complex arcs, different speech patterns, complicated agendas, relationships and motivations, why can’t CBS do the same for the mere five or six characters who seem to be the only people that turn up at every incident in this small town? It’s lazy, unrealistic, unimaginative and just plain silly.

I’d call it a Maberry comedy, but even Barney Fife, who only ever had one bullet, never was desperate enough to resort to “What the hell?!”

– A. Wayne Carter

 

P. S. Here’s some alternatives for the “What the hell!” challenged.

“Jesus!”           (Lapsed religious version)
“Heh-suus!”   (Still religious Spanish version)
“Holy Shit!”    (R-rated version)
“Crikey!”          (Australian version)
“Golll-eeeee”  (Gomer version)
“Verrryyy Interesting” (Arte Johnson version)
“Whoah”        (Keanu Reeves version)
“Bloody Hell!” (British version)
“Fuucckkkk me!”    (NC-17 version)
“Gazooks!”     (Scooby Do version)
“Fascinating” (Spock version)