Saturday, June 16, 2012

Move review: the Avengers

Writing this late in the game---Avengers is now something like number three on the list of all time moneymaking flicks--but whatever.

When I saw it, the theater was packed and there was a definite excitement coming from the audience before the lights went down.  This energy carried throughout the first third of the movie or so, when the audience laughed at every goddamn thing that was said by any character on the screen, as if they were watching a comedy.  It's very annoying when I am more aware of the audience than I am of the events on the screen.  I guess that should have been a good indicator of the flick's financial destiny.  The Avengers really speaks to the American hive mind.

Being irritated in this way sucks me out of a story and prevents me from developing a clear opinion of a movie.  I'm not altogether sure how much I liked the Avengers.  There are parts I found entertaining--it has two really good performances, Iron Man and the Hulk, respectively played by Bob Downey and Mark Ruffalo, the guy who had sex with Julianne Moore in that lesbian movie from a couple years ago.  Bob Downey is a fast talking smartass and Ruffalo gives, uhh, a nuanced performance as Bruce Banner (the Hulk when he's just a guy).  Then you got Thor and Capt America, both of whom are played by modern beefcake actors who, in some other movies, have acquitted themselves pretty well.  In the Avengers, they just need to flex some biceps and glutes and that's all that is required.  Then there are the mortals played by Hurt Locker and hot piece of ass Scarlette Johanson.  Sorry to be sexualist, but that's pretty much why she's there.  Check out the scene where, in full 3-D, there is an extended shot of her ass right in the foreground, full focus.  They give her some sort of bullshit back story, but nobody cares--there's her ass in 3-D.  Her THREE DEE.  Honest, someone made that comment to me a couple weeks ago.

The ensemble of actors does well enough together.  Their evolving relationships are the real heart of the movie, which I will ascribe to nerd auteur extraordinaire Joss Whedon, who I believe wrote the thing.  Too bad the movie is overloaded with extended action sequences, though.  Here's the deal--movies didn't used to feature action scenes that lasted 20 minutes at a stretch.  The last 40 minutes of this one consist of one long, long part where aliens fuck shit up in NYC while the Avengers whoop ass on an endless stream of generic alien bad guys.  Evidently Hollywood has learned from the extreme success of those Transformer movies that excessive mayhem is what audiences want.  Hey, maybe it is, but that doesn't stop the action from becoming totally meaningless.  It loses narrative context and causes me to cease giving a shit.  This kind of makes me a hypocrite because one thing I've always wanted to do was create a lengthy DVD by harvesting all the best action/explosion/destruction scenes from various movies without the "story" parts, calling it "Explosion Porn."  Movies like Avengers, though, try to have the cake and eat it too.

Still, that giddy, fidgeting, giggling audience prevented me from getting a real feel for it.  It was a couple years ago that I saw the movie, Kick Ass, and the audience consisted of fanboys slavering over it, laughing at almost nothing, just high on the fact their movie got made.  I didn't think much of the movie, but understood I had some antipathy for it just because of the audience.  I watched it again on Netflix and liked it even less.  I'll give the Avengers another chance too.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Movies: 21 Jump St & Jeff Who Lives at Home

21 Jump St was announced to the nauseated jeering of everyone who remembers the existence of the original TV show starring some heartthrob guys.  I never gave a shit about the show but joined in the jeering because--because fuck Hollywood for its lack of vision, for its unwillingness to take risks on actual creativity, for recycling crap we'd all be better off leaving in the garbage dump of culture.  21 Jump St was a bad show.  Why make a movie?

Then you have Jonah Hill, the toad-like fat guy who strangely gets uglier as he gets skinnier, who is always unpleasant on the screen.  Channing Tatum I knew little about, other than him appearing in movies requiring beefcake onscreen for gay men to swoon over.  (Oh, and I'd like to punch out his first name.  Parents who give their kids a last name for a first name should be jailed.)  Channing Tatum just seemed like another faceless "good looking" actor.  Dime a dozen.

Goddamn if the movie isn't really funny though.  Skinny-fat-ass plays the guy who in high school got the good grades but failed with the gals and the cool kids.  Beefcake was a big jock, of course.  They become cops who team up because their skills complement each other, blah blah.  They go to high school to bust some kind of drug thing and their social roles become reversed to comic effect.   Jonah Hill gets a romantic interest which creeped me out because dude is so visually unappealing.  The cute chick is defiled when he kisses her.  I digress.

The real winners here are Beefcake and James Franco's little brother, who has a breakout role as a high school cool-kid.  I don't know his name.  Beefcake has some real comic skill.  Though you sense his intelligence, he pulls off the role of total dipshit pretty effectively.  Will Ferrell, by comparison, fails miserably at comedy because his characters are all aware they are funny.  You know, all that wink-wink nudge-nudge bullshit.  Anyway, I look forward to seeing Channing Tatum (pisses me off just to type that name) in some more comedies.  Properly deployed, he's good.

Jeff Who Lives at Home is a movie about as ambitious as its title character, a shiftless dopesmoker living in his mom's basement.  He lives according to random stuff that he perceives as signals from "the universe."  Sent out to buy some glue to fix a cabinet, Jeff (Jason Seagull) gets sidetracked by the universe and winds up having some random adventures.  He meets up with his brother, a total asshole played by Ed Helms from the flick Cedar Rapids, and they bitch at each other and run around in circles.  Susan Sarandon is their mom, in a mostly superfluous role that gives the movie the opportunity to have Susan Sarandon in it, but I'm not sure what else.

It's a likable enough movie with a handful of laughs, but it isn't really about anything.  The only character arc I could detect was the Ed Helms character, who learns he's an asshole and is sorta redeemed at the end.  Jeff and his mom are nice people but uninteresting.  They don't learn anything, they don't change, there is no conflict other than dude being lazy and his mom getting on his case, but only a little bit.  What is there to recommend here?  Not much.  It isn't bad, just kind of pointless.

This flick was made by the Duplass bros who recently made Cyrus, which, by god, starred skinny-fat-ass himself, but in much fatter shape.  That one was a lot funnier and edgier than Jeff Who Lives at Home.  Jeff seems to have been made so, uhh, they could make something, uhh, dramatic.  Or something.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Movie: The Ballad of Genesis and Lady Jaye

This is a documentary/swooning love letter to hideous transsexual, Genesis P-Orridge, who is best known as the founder of Throbbing Gristle (TG), the notorious industrial music pioneers.  The titular Lady Jaye is P-Orridge's supposed soul mate--a good looking chick, about 20 years his junior.  In articles and interviews about the movie, a lot of noise is made about theirs being some kind of magnificent love affair, but you won't get any sense of that upon seeing it.

What you get is a whole lot of Genesis P-Orridge (GP-O hereafter) mugging, posing, preening for the camera.  Pursing his lips for the camera.  Baring his gross fake boobs for the camera...  The uninitiated viewer will get a brief overview of GP-O's career in transgressive art, but mostly the film shows us an aging narcissist, though I doubt that is the filmmaker's intention.  No matter how much lip-service is paid to Lady Jaye's supposed brilliance and importance, the film gives me the sense she was more fodder for GP-O's narcissism--like a fashion accessory--or, worse, art material.  Check this out:

They decided to get a series of plastic surgeries to look more like one another as an "art project" to announce the arrival of a new hermaphroditic gender or some shit like that.  Here's this gnarly old weirdo who has become a legend of sorts for doing wild and nasty stuff, then you have this perfectly good looking young woman in his orbit.  Whose idea do you think it was to start doing the face-cutting?  Surely not the guy who used to chew on used tampons!  Can you say, "Svengali?"

I know it sounds like I have an ax to grind here, but I just want the material to be honest with us--the movie is not about the chick.  GP-O is a larger than life subject, who carries the documentary easily enough.  Don't tell us we're watching a love story.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

STORY IDEA #3 this one's creepy

This is inspired by the movie Chronicle, in which some kids gain telekinetic powers.

You have this guy who is sort of a sleazeball who develops a latent talent of telekinesis as an adult.  Naturally he uses it to commit crimes--stealing from banks, vandalizing shit, etc, but he doesn't have it in him to, say, commit rape or kill someone using his powers.

Because he can't hide the fact he is an asshole though, he can't get anyone to have sex with him except for prostitutes and women who only value him for his apparent wealth, and he wants to have children with what he sees as a classier sort of woman.  He begins impregnating women anonymously, some of whom figure it's their husbands or significant others who have fathered the child, but some of the women are mystified as to how they got pregnant, some even claiming it to be the work of gods or something.

After a couple years, the children begin to show telekinetic powers, solidifying the belief of some that they were indeed impregnated by god.  None of the kids look like their supposed fathers, and many are kind of homely perhaps sharing a pronounced facial feature of their creepy unknown actual father.

Hijinx ensue and, after a time lapse, we learn they have taken over the world, using their inherited skills to conquer and oppress.  After all, they're all descended from a total asshole sleazeball who uses his power for personal gain and wickedness.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012


There's a big boxing match and the arena is filled with people eager to watch two guys beat the daylights out of each other.  The announcer does his thing, the referee tells the fighters not to punch each other in the balls, etc.  The bell rings fighter goes to one knee and lowers his head to the other, declaring "Oh my Lord, I pledge eternal fealty to thee."  Something like that.  The other boxer tells him "rise and take your place at my side. blah blah"    Other boxers come from the dressing rooms and audience and enter the ring, drawn by a call unheard by non-boxers.  They all pledge allegiance to the main boxer who gives a speech then sets them all loose on the audience.  The boxers start beating the shit out of audience members and there's a general stampede for the exits.  Cops draw out their batons and battle with the deranged fighters.  Not sure where this is going.


The filth encrusted sidewalks of San Francisco become mysteriously spotless one morning.  The city did not clean them, obviously.  God did it.  Satan awakens simultaneously in the minds of a hundred bums and junkies, who are delighted at this blank canvas and the renewed opportunity to show their contempt for the world and the way it has screwed him over.  They assemble in a military-like formation and march to the sidewalk in front of the Wells Fargo near 9th and Market.  In unison, they drop their pants and unleash the contents of their bowels onto the sidewalk.  Immediately, at the moment their effluvia touches the pavement, all begin shuddering violently as if seized by a powerful electrical shock, then drop unconscious to the pavement, which has become spotless again.  See, God decided he'd had enough and would no longer allow Satan to befoul the streets through his human agents--this is a means of exorcising Satan from their souls.


Hugo is a pretty dull movie with fantastic set design and 3-D effects.  It has some kid who lives in a bustling train station back in olden tyme Paris or some place like that.  Like all movie kids, this one is plucky, resourceful, blah blah blah.  He fixes clocks around the place, steals shit, and runs from Borat, who wants to throw him in child prison.  There's a mean old guy and this robot that mostly doesn't do anything.  The old guy has a terrible secret which the movie endlessly delays revealing, giving him numerous opportunities to express his anguish, as the story creeps toward it's less than fantastical conclusion.  Everybody is redeemed at the end and we are meant to be enchanted.  Snore.

In terms of technology though, this flick is outstanding.  It's worth sneaking into the theater for 20 minutes or so to check out the movie's use of 3-D, which is unlike what I'd seen before.  It uses it for depth and texture, rather than as a gimmick to make you dodge your head to the side.  Wet cobblestones look realistic, for example, as does moisture glimmering on a wooden railroad tie.  Pretty cool, but ultimately it does not redeem this lugubrious movie, made all the worse in that it's marketed as a family movie.  Take your kids if you want to give them a nap.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012


Woody Allen's 502nd movie, 12am in Paris, takes place in the present by day, and olden tymes by night.  Owen Wilson, who shall hereafter be referred to as "Dicknose," plays Woody's surrogate (Wilson has this misshapen nose that looks like a man's ding dong, in case you don't know what he looks like).  Apparently the director finally deems himself too old to appear in his movies with hot young actresses as love interests.   Dicknose plays a romantic or something whose fantasy to live in 1930's Paris comes true each night, when he hobnobs with lotso historical artists, writers and painters.  They talk a lot of art and philosophy and stuff, which is cool for a fairly mainstream offering like this.  Woody makes Dali come off as a buffoon, which I didn't care for, since his screenplay gives cinematic head to all the other historical guys.  I've always thought of Allen as a jerk anyway, so why act offended, right?  It's an ok movie though, very cute.  Lots of old ladies in the theater.

Tree of Life is this boring movie I was hoping would be a lot more sci-fi, since in the ads you saw gas giant planets, nebulas, dinosaurs and other neat things, but the bulk of it is slice-o-life rural Texas.  There's this family with three boys, a cute mom, and a total asshole dad.  He doesn't rape or beat the kids--nothing like that.  He's just this stern father, and you get many opportunities to observe him being stern and dislike-able. It seems like you often see these dramatic flicks with dysfunctional people, but you never get a sense of, say, why the cute mom would have wanted to fuck this dour asshole in the first place, much less marry him.

Another good example of this is the movie called Take Shelter, which is about some psycho who hallucinates the world's coming to an end.  Come to think of it, it's the same actress from Tree of Life who is married to the nut case in Take Shelter.  He's this  unsmiling, mumbling blue collar dude who dutifully performs his role as husband and father and all that, but doesn't exhibit anything resembling a likable human personality--you get no idea how he could have landed a hot piece of ass like the chick from Tree of Life.  These movies expect you to just accept that these people love each other so they can get on with showing you all the bleak shit the filmmakers love so much.  

This isn't to say ToL or Take Shelter are "bad" movies, per se.  They're just both kind of a drag unless you really commit to engaging them on their own terms.  


This is my pick for best picture out of the nominated movies.  It has George Clooney as this guy whose wife is a vegetable in the hospital after a boating accident.  He's got some other heavy shit going on too, as well as two teenage daughters who give him a hard time. 

The key thing in this flick is a lack of flashiness in terms of direction and the actors' performances.  This is material that could have easily resulted in some big time Oscar showboating bullshit, but George Clooney keeps it together as a level headed guy keeping it together in the face of tragedy and familial disharmony.  The teenybopper chick is solid as the older, bitchy daughter who gets schooled watching her father carry a heavy weight.  Even a dopey surfer dude has a nice character arc.

This said, it's a really, really sad movie that will totally bum out lightweight film-goers who think the purpose of all entertainment is to soothe, or to help one "escape reality."   You know the kind--they're so far removed from reality in a movie theater, they jabber throughout a movie as if they're in their own living room, oblivious to others trying to watch at the same time.  Fortunately, these bozos can often sense when something might not be the feel-good-movie-of-the-year and stay away accordingly.  Clooney may be a big star and dreamboat, but he has a well-established history of doing challenging stuff, which might also keep them away.  shrug

Tuesday, February 14, 2012


The Artist is this flick over which all the movie critics are crapping their drawers.  It's about this famous actor with a big long nose who performs in silent movies back in the stone age.  He meets this cute chick and gives her a start in the movie biz.  As "talkies" become popular, her career eclipses his because he's stupid and refuses to make talking movies, whereas she's savvy and goes with the flow.  A bunch of shit happens, then there's a happy ending.  Oh, and there's a funny dog in it too.

Maybe a more appropriate thing to say about the critics is that they are cooing over the movie like it's a little baby in a crib.  It's cute--cute as can be, and harmless, but there isn't much in the way of substance or gravity.  Worse still, it's not even very funny.  It's a nice little entertainment, but nowhere near the "best movie of the year" status it has garnered recently.