|KEX'S AMAZING WORLD|
|Nine times out of ten, in the arts as in life, there is actually no truth to be discovered; there is only an error to be exposed. -- H.L. Menken|
Last Week: Pokemon 2000:
I know the minds of the Kexkateers so well. Most of your are awash in 3 critical questions: Where have you been the last couple of weeks Kex? Why did you see Pokemon 2000? Did you really like it? I will answer all of these questions for the gentle readers, but lets take them in reverse order.
First, did I really like this movie? Lets put it this way: Old Kex was born at night, but it wasn't last night. If I gave this movie any kind of implied sucky rating I'd wake up to a mob of thousands of 10 and under yard apes marching toward my humble abode most likely armed with torches and pitchforks just like in one of those old Frankenstein movies. I can get that kind of welcome in Salt Lake City as it is, so I don't want to spread the infection closer to home. That is of course, assuming that I even arose to see daylight again. You see, in recent weeks, my home has been infiltrated by a sort of Pokemania (?) and I could be severly endangering my life by saying anything nasty about Ash or Mewtwo.
That brings me to the answers to questions one and two. The rumors of my demise were wildly exaggerated, but I have undergone a certain lifestyle transition. Since this week's Friday at the movies turned into something of a "family"outing, somehow Pokemon was a bit more appropriate to the occasion than Urban Legend II. Please note that I am not even remotely disappointed in missing out on yet another brain-diseased Hollywood director's fantasies about graphically butchering half-naked coeds. Besides, you can't even get a review of Pokemon on Cranky's page. I'll be the first to admit that 5 weeks ago I would have claimed to be about as likely to see this film as I was to sprout rosebuds. Amazing what a difference a month can make.
I'll admit that I am still pretty much of a tender green novice when it comes to all this Pokemon stuff, and the average 5 year-old can talk rings around me. However, I have made a few pertinent observations. First: The guy that writes lines for that Pikachu is no Tom Wolfe. In fact, he may be the only guy on the planet with an easier gig than Rush Limbaugh's fact checker. Here, as far as I can determine so far, is Pikachu's entire dialog:
That is what he says. There are certain different inflections and tonal variations that apparently comprise a sophisticated Picachu language, but it becomes immediately obvious why the Pikachu species is comparatively rare. Pity the lovelorn male Pikachu who goes to woo his intended with a bad headcold. The poor creature could think he is issuing forth a string of flowery love sonnets, while his girlfriend is stewing in the female anger of hearing what a flaming bitch she is.
In the movie Pokemon 2000, an evil collector with purple eyes is apparently attempting to capture the titan Pokemons that rule fire, lightening and ice, as well as the pokemon titan of the water. Please don't ask me to recount their names, because they all sound to me like things I'd avoid ordering in a Mandarin restaurant. He drives around in a flying machine that vaguely resembles a half finished version of the spaceships that nearly conquered earth in Independence Day.
I'm probably getting sidetracked here, but that was an unpleasant association, because I really despised that movie. For a million years, humans have looked to the heavens and wondered if other eyes looked back. In ID4, the other eyes show up, bent on conquering earth, creating chaos and savagely exploiting all the resouces. Terrific; Extraterrestrial Republicans. Fortunately earth is saved from a technology millions of years advanced thanks to a cable repairman that teaches them about the necessities of encryption and a drunk cropduster. Yeah, that could happen.
When the collector captures two of the Pokemon titans, earth's enviroment becomes disrupted by a weird undersea current and its up to Ash, Pikachu and company to save the world. Ash and his group are accidentally taken aboard the collectors ship, where the combined powers of several Pokemon manage to free the titans by blowing up the force field cages they are trapped in. Somehow, I missed the part where anyone took a look around for an "on, off" switch, but I guess that would have been less dramatic.
The freed titans go to war with each other and the third free titan, threatening to destroy the planet unless Ash can find and align the three island "treasures," which were small glass orbs. Leave it to the Japanese to imagine the fate of the planet being saved by a collection of Ben-wa balls. Gotta love that one.
Ash, with the help of the usually evil Team Rocket saves the day, and all ends happily which shocked me. Usually Japanese movies either end with Godzilla saving the planet, or some dishonored male hero gashing himself in half with a kibuki sword. Its always nice to see something new in the cinema. However, there is one other observation I have about that Jesse chick in Team Rocket. This lady wears the shortest skirts this side of my private midnight fantasies about Michelle Pfeiffer, and yet nothing shows in these movies that compromise their "G" rating. That is some talented animation.
Yep, Kex is becoming a closet Pokemon addict. It may be awhile before I catch up with the 5 year-olds, but the degree of emersion I am currently experiencing qualifies as a crash course. So when Pokemon 2001 hits the theaters, its a pretty good bet we'll scoop Cranky again, and this time not several weeks late.
Last Week: Joyride:
Joyride is one of those movies that is destined to hasten the inevitable future in which collective society begins hunting down filmmakers with dogs. We heap great social admiration upon film directors, but society has had some misguided notions in its love affairs with celebrity before. We once revered The Three Stooges too.
Consider some of the people we look up to as directors. The guy who made Jeepers Creepers is a convicted child molester. That would effectively preclude him from landing a minimum wage job stocking shelves at Toys R Us, but we let him direct movies. Kevin (Silent Bob) Smith couldn't find an audience amongst the semi-literate and mostly braindead writing comic books, so he found a large audience amongst the completely illiterate and mostly braindead making movies. Need I even envoke the name of Roman Polanski?
In Joyride we meet Lewis (Paul Walker) who is looking forward to flying home from college in California to his New Jersey home. He is talking to his friend Venna (Lee Lee Sobieski) whom he learns has just broken up with her boyfriend. That is good news, since he wants to get into her pants. She goes to college in Boulder, so Lewis offers to drive to Colorado and pick her up on the way back to Jersey.
He sells his plane ticket and buys a car to make the journey. This is a bit mysterious since we later learn that he has a credit card with apparently about a jillion dollar limit, so we wonder why he doesn't already have one. But before we can ponder the question further, his odyssey begins. We see him driving out of the bay area, although the terrain looks more like interior southern California.
Along the way he phones home to notify his parents that he is driving instead of flying. But he is notified that his brother Fuller (Steve Zahn) has been tossed in jail again apparently in a nearby town. So Lewis makes a detour to bail him out.
With Fuller now along for the ride, Lewis proceeds eastward toward Boulder. Along the way, Fuller buys him an old C.B. radio, and they raise a trucker named Rusty Nail. During a stopover, Fuller runs into an obnoxious businessman at a motel, and they decide to play a trick an him and Rusty Nail. Lewis gets on the C.B. and, mocking a woman's voice, invites RN to the businessman's motel room for a night of pleasure. The joke backfires when RN ends up ripping off the unsuspecting businessman's lower jaw.
Lewis and Fuller hightail it eastward, but RN begins harrassing them over the CB searching for Candycane, the women Lewis impersonated over the radio. When they admit that there is no Candycane, RN stalks the duo, nearly killing them after a gas stop. With their car pinned against a tree by RN's truck, Lewis and Fuller apologize, admitting to the prank and apologizing. They think the matter is over when RN drives away.
The two arrive in Colorado and pick up Venna. The architecture at the U. of Colorado is uniform and distinct, and does not employ white marble, although the buildings in this movie do. Generally, it looks like a lot of small colleges I have seen in Southern California. At this point in the film, the real attraction of the movie is revealed: Sobieski's breasts. We never see them in the flesh, so to speak, but they are prominent in tight, low cut blouses for the remainder of the movie. I think Sobieski kept and icecube stragetically place in her cleavage for maximum effect. Nonetheless, the three now proceed eastward, with Lewis and Fuller omitting their run-in with Rusty Nail in conversations with Venna.
Somewhere in Nebraska, which looks like Southern Californa also, they stop for the night and secure two motel rooms. They then visit a bar. Fuller decides he would also like to introduce Venna to his one-eyed pants snake before Lewis gets his shot. So when they return to the motel and Lewis passes out, he visits her room. Even drunk she rejects his advances, so he offers to make her more drunk, probably figuring she won't be too objectionable comatose.
Meanwhile, Lewis gets a phone call from Rusty Nail, who is apparently psychic. He always knows where the boys are. Now, at this point even a 7 year-old might reasonably ask, if he is so smart, why he fell for such a stupid practical joke in the first place. But questions like that would have made the movie seem silly....oh.
The three learn that RN has kidnapped Venna's girlfriend. The rest of the movie is a rather pathetic cat and mouse game as they attempt to rescue her from the apparently omnipotent Rusty Nail. Mostly it just sets up for the wildly anticipated Joyride 2.
Wow, I'm REALLY looking forward to next fall now. I forsee, within a few weeks of each other next Halloween, the appearances of Joyride 2 and Jeepers Creepers 2. One might reasonably look at seeing that duet as the film critic's 12th circle of hell. Its enough to make one consider taking up canasta as a more enticing hobby.
Last Week: My Big Fat Greek Wedding:
I thought last week's movie was scary, but this one might have given me a fear induced heart attack had I not been laughing so hard that tears were running down my cheeks. It has been said that the heart of humor lies in familiarity, and the point couldn't be better proven. Let's just say that this one struck pretty close to home.
This is a movie about a farm girl from a large family, who is a little different from the rest of the clan...no wait, that isn't quite right. It's actually about a girl from a large Greek family, who is a little different from the rest of the clan. Her family wants her to grow up and get married to a nice Greek boy, but she wants a little more out of life.
Eventually the farm girl meets a handsome, kind of cerebral city guy, who is easy going and very open-minded, and the two fall in love. Wait, that isn't quite right either. The Greek girl meets a non-Greek guy, who is handsome, kind of cerebral and very open minded. He is also from a small, close-knit family, as opposed to her huge, close-knit family. So he has a huge adjustment to make in learning to survive in the midst of her tribe.
Initially its kind of a culture shock when he first meets her enormous group of farming community relatives. Immediately he is swarmed upon by the entire group, which tests his easy-going nature, fortunately he passes the test with flying colors...wait, I didn't mean to say farming community family there. I meant Greek family of course....don't know why I keep getting side-tracked. Anyway, he adapts well to the situation. Not that its easy by any means, since he is used to being in the midst of small family gatherings, while she has 31 first cousins. Wait again. Did I say 31? I meant 27. I really can't figure out why all of this is so confusing.
Inevitably, the two decide to get married, joining the two families. There is a humorous scene in the church, where her family is packed into one side of the church, barely large enough to contain the group, whereas his family fits comfortably into a couple of rows on the other side. Somehow the comparable vision that comes to my mind is a jam-packed Coors Field containing one group of relatives, while the other group lounges in a dugout. Maybe I'm just being distracted by the Rockies-Dodgers game tonight.
There aren't a lot of familiar faces in this movie, which does feature a lot of credited actors with Greek names. The most recognizable face was that of Michael Constantine, who doesn't look all that much different than he did back when he was playing the principal on the TV series Room 222. I don't think he is Greek, but unless memory fails me, he got a lot of roles playing Native Americans in westerns back in the 60's. I think he has popped up in more than one gangster flick as a crime boss too, so he just has one of those appearances that can pass for numerous ethnicities.
This movie has been out for several weeks, and has won significant critical acclaim. It got started on the independent circuit, where it was drawing strong numbers, so it was picked up for general release. It hasn't been drawing gaudy numbers like some of the big summer blockbusters, but it played before a large crowd at the theater we were at tonight. While its overall box-office take hasn't been huge, it has demonstrated more staying power than most of the major studio summer releases. Quite frankly, I think its the best release of the summer season.
The chorus has had a few weeks off, but I think its time to get them in:
CHORUS: "Hey Kex, what are you pissed off about this week?"
I'm a little upset about frivolous studies. On CNN last week, it was announced that some group or another had released the findings of a study that they had apparently put a great deal of time and money into. The result of their work? The found that as teenage girls grow older, they drink less milk and more sugary sodas. Wow, thanks for letting us know.
I'm going to release the results of a study of my own right now. Sometimes, when various government funded groups get near the end of their fiscal period, and they discover that they have surplus funds, they tend to commission all sorts of useless studies in order to dispose of excess cash so that they can protect their budget for the next period. If any group out there has some spare cash they need to get rid of, I'd be more than happy to sell that finding to you for, let's say $25 million. But that is negotiable. Email me, and let's see if we can do business.
One thing I might back off of a little bit, but just a little bit, is the use of cell phones while people drive. The other day I was driving along about to enter a very nasty rain storm, but that didn't have much to do with anything. What was revelant was the brain dead occupants of the SUV that went flying past me on the right shoulder because I had the audacity of driving the speed limit in the midst of deteriorating weather conditions. Of course, justice got served up the road just a ways, when the highway patrol was explaining the necessities of good driving habits to the occupants of the vehicle. I suspect a lot of cell phone calls went in over that incident. So in some cases, using cell phones while driving can be justified.
Incidentally, just in case anyone is wondering why I reviewed My Big Fat Greek Wedding this week, instead of a new release consider the choices. The two new releases were Stealing Harvard or whatever the title was and Barbershop. If there are really any readers who seriously believed that I might invest 90 minutes of my life that I can never get back on either of those "comedies," I can only say, "Welcome to K.A.W. I hope you are enjoying your first visit.
Last Week: Second Hand Lions:
Every once in awhile, an apparently throw away movie comes along that is nothing short of delightful. Such is the case with Second Hand Lions. I fully expected to blast this movie. My expectation was that I wouldn't even be able to stay awake long enough to say much about it. If you want to really get your movie blasted here, all you have to do is put me to sleep.
Second Hand Lions managed to keep my attention though. Well, almost. I missed a couple of minutes early in the film studying the back of my eyelids. It was hot in the theater, and we had spent the afternoon at an emotionally exhausting college football game. So the fact that I was able to stay awake through this film provides one of the highest compliments I can award it.
To be honest, this is a damned difficult film to review. I can't really say too much about the plot without giving too much away. If I hadn't liked it, that wouldn't bother me. But when I see a film I actually recommend, I don't want to do that. Thus, I find it difficult to put together a comprehensive review.
Robert Duvall and Michael Caine star in this film as a pair of aging bachelors. This is another of those rather painful reminders we are seeing in the movies these days that the baby boom generation is getting grey. How sad to see so many of our Hollywood icons no longer portraying dashing young characters, but rather broken down old men. Damn I'm glad that isn't happening to me too.
The duo has a huge amount of cash stashed away, although nobody really knows how they got it. They apparently aren't too sure what to do with their fortune either, as they wile away their days shooting at salesmen from the porch of a deteriorating house.
Their lives are changed dramatically when their niece unloads her son (Haley Joel Osment on them for the summer. She is something of a floozy, and is leaving on the premise that she is going to attend a court reporting school. But her son is convinced that she is lying to him. He has reason. Its pretty obvious that what she really needs in her life is someone to beat some sense into her. Unfortunately, we know she is going to end up hooking up with someone who is just going to beat her period.
The young boy doesn't know what to make of these two eccentric bachelors at first. But he begins to become intrigued by them as they tell him exciting stories of their younger lives. He isn't sure whether to believe them or not either. Their stories are just so fantastic. He also hears contrary stories from others in the community. Still, the old guys are kind of fun in their bizzare eccentricities, and at least his life isn't boring.
Michael Caine is spectacular in his role in this film. Duvall is a bit wooden at times and has less to do. While a few other actors come to mind that might have been better in the role, Duvall always manages to be at least credible. Osment is emerging as a very capable child-actor. His protrayal as the wide-eyed, thoroughly confused boy was exceptional.
The storyline was just quirky and incredible enough to keep us guessing. It wasn't in the line of those not surprising surprise endings we deplore here at K.A.W. Rather, you just didn't really know what to think until the very end. That made the journey quite worthwhile, not that it wasn't plenty of fun getting there.
As a general rule, films released in the month of September are generally worth missing. The big summer blockbusters are already fading into oblivion, and the heavyweight late year contenders are still several weeks away. But Second Hand Lions is a rare gem in the late fall early summer release slot. This is a film not only worth seeing, but probably worthy of some Oscar consideration as well.
Last Week: Team America: World Police:
I could pull a better cartoon than that out of my ass.--Krusty the Clown, noted cartoon character.
Krusty wasn't referring to South Park when to barked out that line, but he well could have been. We will discuss that cartoon marginally in the course of this review, but the primary focus is, of course, Team America.
I have just two words for my fellow Coloradoans, Trey Parker and Matt Stone: GROW UP!
Hmmm, maybe I should phrase it in a fashion easier for you guys to understand. How about this: GROW THE F**K UP!
That kind of defeats the point, however. Or at least one of them. You see, my dear Matt and Trey, there are somewhat in excess of 40,000 words in the english language. Roughly 10,000 of them can be used acceptably as adjectives. Do you think it might be possible to learn a few of them that do NOT begin with the letter "f" (and end in uck)? It might make your work at least marginally palatable.
Back in World War II, the allies adopted a bombing strategy that essentially involved dropping as many bombs on an enemy city as possible. The general theory was that by reigning down as much destructive death as possible, you would at least hit a few worthwhile targets. They called it "carpet bombing."
That might work well in warfare, or at least it did to some extent before someone decided to try to make the pursuit of war less vulgar by deeming to make it "civilized," as if that is remotely possible. But it doesn't work in satire.
When you start trying to hit too many targets, you usually just end up missing everything, and demonstrating your own incapacity to remotely comprehend what the hell is going on in the world around you. Any moron can burn down a barn. Hell, Mrs. O'Leary's cow accomplished that and took out Chicago in the bargain. But even cows are intellectually above producing crap like South Park.
In Team America, Parker and Stone draw a bead on everything they can think of; conservatives, liberals, actors, Nebraskans, France, Arabs, Kim Il Jong, you name it. In the end, all they accomplish is the creation of a mess of a movie which might find an audience among adolescent boys who find a 5 minute scene of a puking puppet amusing. Otherwise, the satire here it cheaper and tackier than, well, the animation in South Park.
I'd truly rather spend another 90 minutes in my life spending an evening discussing politics with the most ardent conservatives in the country than watching this movie again. I might well find pretty much everything the conservatives say to be logically lacking and irresponsible, but at least its heart felt and mostly well intentioned. In otherwords, its more interesting to talk to people who sincerely believe in something, than to see a movie made by a couple of intellectually deficient bozos who can't aim at anything without blowing off their own toes while taking their shots.
Wow, attacking entertainers because of their beliefs, and willingness to share them. Hey, wait a minute. Aren't you guys pretty much Hollywood entertainers now, blowing off about your own disgust? Isn't it the same thing? Isn't their a word for that?...let's all spell it out together Kexkateers...h*y*p*o*c*r*i*c*y. Very good.
Sure, we folk from Colorado always enjoy a good cheap shot at Nebraska too, but, and look folks, this is coming from ME!...maybe its time to lay off. Okay, after Texas Tech scored their 10th touchdown last week against the once mighty Huskers, I was rooting just as hard as everyone else in the state for the Red Raiders to go for two. But in retrospect, it really was unnecessary.
So, look Troy and Matt....you guys are my age, and I got a senior dicount to get into your movie. When you send me the check for my admissions, I won't expect the full sum. But geez, start acting like adults. Learn a few more adjectives, lose the puppet puke jokes, and the puppet sex joke got stale after 10 seconds.
I hear that it was supposed to run a full 5 minutes, but you guys ended up editing it down for ratings purposes. Or was it that you learned that if you rub two sticks of wood together that long, there are potentially disasterous results?
Also, show enough class and guts to believe in something, and then take your shots. You can still poke fun at your own team now and then when they need it, but randomly shooting from the hip isn't amusing. There are too many deserving targets out there to simply try to bring down everyone. And in the end, they only losers were sitting in the audience.
Oh, buy the way. If you are going to make a movie in which you spend about $50 million on puppets, couldn't you at least hire a dozen or so voice actors so that not all of the puppets end up sounding like, yup, Trey and Matt? It would have made the movie a lot funnier if the puppets who were based on real people at least sounded a little like them.
By the way, South Park blows too, and above all, never forget that there is hell to pay for disappointing Kex.
Last Week: Goodnight and Goodluck:
We cannot defend freedom abroad by deserting it at home.--Edward R. Murrow
I can hear the conservatives whining and bitching now. "Oh those terrible pinkos in Hollywood! Dredging up the spirit of Joseph McCarthy to whip on us. Boo hoo." Joseph McCarthy, for those who were absent the day they taught American History back in high school, was a 50's demagogue who personally waged a one man campaign to rid America of communism. He was also the de facto father of the modern Republican party and the conservative movement, whether those so bent want to fess up to it or not.
His campaign against domestic communism admittedly exposed some real card carrying communists, but it also destroyed the reputations and lives of a lot of people who simply didn't have it coming. The prize gained in steamroller vendettas may be the achievement of the aim, but too often, too many innocent people get flattened along the road. Its a lesson we'd be wise not to forget these days. Alas, we already have.
McCarthy's fanatical cruisade did not go unopposed. Back in those days, as opposed to the present, there was actually an opposition party in the country with some balls, and a few courageous journalists who were equally willing to stick their necks out to bare the truth. How different things are today.
There are those that accuse the modern media of playing to a liberal bias. There are nearly an equal number who paint it with a conservative face. The reality is that the modern media has an overwhelming money making bias, which is why we see so damned much fluff and so little real news on our sets every evening at 6. Sure, there is the rare exception to the rule, that rolls down the pipe with alarming infrequency.
The most recent positive example came during the tragedy of Hurricane Katrina, when a few reporters asked the right question: Why was the appropriate federal response so slow in coming? Ultimately, a President who rewards loyalty far more than competence was forced to remove a FEMA director. He landed one of the country's most critical jobs by sporting the credentials of being incapable of competently running horse shows and the luck of the draw of having been a college roomie of a Presidential chum. That is how things work in George Bush's America.
In Good Night and Good Luck, the story is told of the historic confrontation between Murrow (David Strathairn, who looks so much like Murrow and captures his mannerisms so well its spooky) and Joseph McCarthy (playing himself through the miracle of newsreel footage.) George Clooney, who also directed this film and had a hand in the writing of the screen play plays CBS news producer Fred Friendly. Credit has to be given to Clooney for resisting the temptation of grabbing the lead role for himself. Strathairn was perfect for the part, and Clooney was excellent in the supporting role.
The one point in ths film that bugged me a bit was the casting of Frank Langella as William Paley, the head of the Columbia Broadcast system. If you want to portray as character in any film as a heavy, Frank Langella is your man. Has he ever played anything other than a vampire or some sour bad guy?
I think the position Paley found himself in at the time could have been handled with a little more sympathy. The man was the head of the most powerful and respected company in American, or for that matter, international journalism at the time. And, the actions of Murrow and Friendly might very well have destroyed CBS. So, its natural that as head of the network, Paley was probably rightfully concerned. Using the relatively cheap gimmick of casting career heavy Langella was a bit heavy handed.
Some other surprisingly good supporting performances should be noted: Robert Downey Jr. evidently stayed out of jail/rehab long enough to turn in a very credible portrayal of Joe Wershba. Jeff Daniels was also excellent in a surprisingly small but effective role as Sig Mickelson. Patricia Clarkson was also stellar as Shirley Wershba. One of the more entertaining subplots in this film involves the secret marriage of Joe and Shirley, who endeavor to hide their nuptials, since CBS did not permit married people to work in the company.
At present, this film is playing only art house theaters, but the response has been so overwhelming in its first two weeks of release that it is difficult to believe that a major distribution is not forthcoming. This is the first film I've had to stand in line to see in a very long time. Its well worth it though, and if its playing in a theater near the readers of this page, I strongly suggest that you see it.
The film carries a PG rating, but really isn't family fare. Its not that there is anything particularly offensive in the offering, but there is nothing in the subject matter that will entertain younger children. High school age youngsters probably SHOULD see it, but few are apt to be inclined. Maybe this is one of those films where gentle parental guidance might produce positive educational benefits.
Last Week: We Are Marshall:
Evidently it is necessary, yet again this week, to explain why it is a complete waste of time to read any review that is posted anywhere other than K.A.W. The simple fact is that almost all of those people who get paid for doing this are hacks in the pockets of various studios and performers.
Allow me to present a contrast of the critical reaction to two similar films that opened this week. The first one is Sylvester Stallone's latest revival of his now ancient pugalist, Rocky Balboa. The film is cleverly entitled, Rocky Balboa. This film has garnered a 77% positive rating at rottentomatoes.com, a website that is sort of a clearing house for reading movie reviews.
We Are Marshall, by contrast is receiving about a 49% positive rating. There is a rather curious trend in the Rocky reviews that says something I think is pretty important about either the nature of film reviews in general, or the way Rotten Tomatoes goes about keeping score. A close examination shows that one or the other, or both are truly tomatoes rotten to the core.
When one reads the positive reviews for Rocky Balboa, something very interesting becomes evident. Most of the positive reviews seem to be saying, "Wow, this movie isn't nearly as lousy as I thought it would be." Or similarly, "This movie is actually better than I expected."
What they don't mention is that it would be nearly impossible for any movie to be as awful as everyone expected Rocky Balboa to be, or for that matter, the expectations were so low that it wasn't all that hard for it to exceed them. As a consequence, Stallone's laughable revival of his geriatric character is getting "positive" ratings, even though a close reading of the reviews indicate that the reviewer in question really wasn't all that enthusiastic.
By contrast, We Are Marshall is getting bagged for some of the same reasons that the latest manifestation of Rocky is getting praised: typically, similarity to a lot of other recent sports flicks. In essence, the comparison is neither fair, nor particularly accurate.
There are legitimate criticisms that can be leveled at this film, and the charges of being somewhat formulaic are not misdirected. There are perhaps a hundred ways this story could have been told, but at the end of the day, pretty much all of them are going to come off as Hollywood structured pap. Nonetheless, the film is reasonably accurate to the events as they went down.
One might also wonder aloud just how this film might have panned out in the hands of a director who's resume isn't highlighted by Charlie's Angels movies. Its not the strongest base from which to build a tale of tragedy, perseverance and the importance a diversion like college football can have on a struggling town.
While we are on the subject of the director, just why can't this guy use a name that doesn't suggest that he is in the witness protection program? McG? Is that a name, or something I might order at McDonalds that will cause me to die horribly if I eat it every day for a month?
Matthew McConaughey stars in this film as Coach Jack Lengyel, who helped the Marshall football program continue on after a tragic plane crash that killed all of its coaches, players and several important boosters in November of 1970. I would note here that while McConaughey turned in a pretty credible performance, neither his general appearance or mannerisms suggest a football coach. I've known several of them in my life, and he just doesn't quite fit the mold.
One of the kexkateers who saw this movie before I did emailed me to offer that there is a scene in the movie in which two of the characters are talking, and two buildings that weren't built on the campus until the 90's could be seen in the background. That is a fun fact, but one I didn't notice, and probably most of the readers here won't either. Some of you guys out there might be getting a little carried away.
So, despite some reservations, I recommend this film. I guess its a pretty good way to close out the year, fully realizing that we are about to enter the black hole period of movie releases once again, and it may be awhile before another film that earns a smiley comes along.
Previously: A Kex Rental Review: 10,000 B.C.
The first half hour of this movie was so loaded with ritualisitc non-sense, superstitious claptrap and testosterone charged idiocy that I thought for a moment I was watching a preview of the Republican National Convention. The elephants only added to the confusion. Actually, they weren't elephants. They were wooly mammoths.
They were the coolest thing in the movie, at least at first glance. For CGI effects, they looked pretty real until the story line required them to run. Then they just looked silly. Rather than proceed along with an elephant like run, which the animators obviously didn't study, they ran with a weird sort of bunny hop that must have produced gales of laughter in the theaters. I know I was just about rolling on the floor.
Unfortunately, that was the high point of the movie, entertainment wise. This was Battlefield Earth set in the stone age. At the very least, they utilized some of the same costumes and hair styles. The worst aspect of the experience was that I suspect the audience quickly figured out something the writers never realized: We all should have been pulling for the bad guys, not the heroes in this mess of a story.
The very worst thing in this movie was another CGI effect. At one point, the hero caveman is trapped in some sort of pit during a flood. Also trapped in the pit is a sabre-toothed tiger who is pinned under a log and about to drown. In some sort of fit of altruism, the caveman decides to rescue the predator, which likely should have ended with him nourishing the tiger as well. That would have ended this movie an hour earlier, so the tiger's decision not to eat the guy was a dreadful disappointment.
Unlike the mammoths, the tiger didn't even look cool. He looked like a stuffed toy with worse motion than some Harry Harryhausen stop action effect. Naturally, the tiger returns the caveman's favor later in the film by saving him from a group of ooga booga natives.
The film essentially follows the adventures of a young caveman who lives sort of a disgraced life. Evidently, his father ran off several years earlier. Everyone regarded him as a coward who ran away, but in reality, he was searching for some way to find reliable food to save the tribe. It didn't occur to him or anyone else in the tribe to move away from a place that obviously had the crappiest weather around.
The young caveman becomes a hero when he manages to single-handedly slay a mammoth. This entitles him to claim the woman of his choice and carry the white spear. Assuming for a moment that the only path toward getting laid by tribal law is to pull off the solo slaying of a mammoth, it's not immediately clear how this tribe has survived in the first place, but there are so many conflicting and illogical plot points in this film one eventually gives up thinking much about them.
Shortly after winning his girl, the tribe is invaded by another tribe that lives a few hundred miles away. They are intent on taking slaves to help them build their magnificent monuments. There are several closer tribes they could raid which leaves us again to wonder why they made the effort, but the film had to have some sort of plot.
Naturally, the girl is one of the tribal members taken, and the young caveman sets out to rescue her and the others kidnapped. Along the away he meets nasty carniverous birds and rival tribes who have to band together to defeat the more powerful and advanced tribe. This is the point where we realize that we've probably been saddled with the wrong rooting interest.
The powerful tribe does have the vice of kidnapping slaves, but they are actually advancing the cause of civilization by inventing architecture, domestication of animals and agriculture. They have metal weapons, bows and arrows and horse soldiers. The caveman's tribe is scratching along with sticks and stones. When the caveman's group somehow overcomes the more advanced tribe, we are almost disappointed. Were it not for the fact that we realized the movie was FINALLY over and we could go do something interesting, it would have been a real bummer of an ending.
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