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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

The Rating System

Kex Liked It:
It Sucked:
It Really Sucked:
It Sucked as bad as Eyes Wide Shut:

It Sucked badly enough to bring the world to the brink of apocalypse:



Godziller 2000:

Now this is filmmaking. At least our old friends, the Japanese, still know how to make a Godziller picture. This movie has positively everything you could want in a Godziller movie: Bad acting, translations by first year language students (obviously a language other than Japanese), buildings getting demolished, a guy in a rubber suit spewing radioactive fire as fast as George Bush Sr. puking sushi at a Japanese state dinner. It doesn't have anything you don't want in a Godziller movie: Matthew Broderick, computer animated Godzillas, Matthew Broderick, constant rain to mask the computer animations, Matthew Broderick, a sense of importance, or Matthew Broderick.

Did I mention that this movie didn't have Matthew Broderick in it? That is pretty important in a Godziller movie.

The movie opens with the required under appreciated Japanese scientist and his genious daughter, who are head of the Godzilla Prediction Network. They are escorting a beautiful young reporter on a Godzilla chasing expedition so that she can get some good pictures. Now, right away, we begin to understand life a little better.

You see, it all starts to become clear why Bill Gates has left the Japanese in the dust in software design, even though they seemed to have a significant head start. This is a nation that apparently has to spend a lot of money and effort keeping track of the whereabouts of an 80 foot tall lizard. Somehow with satellite technology and all, that would seem to be a fairly simple problem these days. Hell, I think keeping track of the whereabouts of an 80 foot tall dinosaur would have been a relatively straight forward proposition in 1914.

The second curiousity here is the fact that there is an apparent dearth of quality photos of an 80 foot tall lizard that pops into Tokyo and stomps it flat once a month. I mean, this is a country where cameras apparently outnumber the large population about 10 to 1. Either the good folks in Tokyo always seem to be out of film everytime Godzilla makes his monthly visit, or I have just figured out why my Japanese camera sucks. They all do. I guess its back to Kodak for my next purchase.

Godzilla is about to pop ashore and stomp a nuclear power plant flat. This is obligatory, because I have it on good faith that the people at Sony Studios are avid K.A.W. readers: They give Kex what he wants, because they don't want their movies getting bagged; and believe you me, if Godzilla hadn't torn up a power plant in this movie, I'd have demanded my money back and bagged this film into next month...well, I didn't pay to see it, but I would have bagged it.

Just as Godzilla is battling the Japanese army, an ancient asteriod on the seafloor that the Japanese are investigating comes to life and flies off to do battle with Godzilla. The Japanese were interested in the asteroid because it appeared to be some sort of energy source that could power the nation for years. Just how a 200 foot long rock could eminate that much energy without being a severe hazzard to anyone within a 100 miles of it was an unresolved question.

The rock casing crumbles off the asteroid soon after it wins round one with Godzilla, revealing itself to be a giant bicycle seat from outer space. Godzilla has faced some pretty formidable opposition in the previous 1999 Godzilla movies, this being Godzilla 2000, but never before has he had to do battle with something as trecherous as a bicycle seat. We all have our childhood horror stories.

The bicycle seat is apparently interested in Godzilla because he has some sort of unique regenerative power, and the living entity within the seat apparently has no form of its own. So it wants to learn Godzilla's secret in order to become a flesh and blood being.

After licking his wounds, Godzilla returns to face the seat with a pretty bad attitude. He is of a mind to open a can of whoop ass, and mess up Tokyo a little as an added bonus. The bicycle seat drops a building on Godzilla, and while he is unconscious, learns his regenerative secrets. Thus the seat is able to morph into a living monster, which looks an awful lot like the Godzilla in the 1998 crappy American movie with Matthew Broderick. Fortunately, the folks at Sony were still savy enough to avoid any temptations to pull the fatal bad review here, thus there was no Broderick cameo.

Naturally, Godzilla kicks some alien morphed Godzilla ass, and knocks down a couple of buildings in the process. That leaves only one unfinished bit of business, as Godzilla must now deal with the bad-guy Secretary of the Interior who has been wanting to kill him. Godzilla walks over to the top of the building where he is standing, and the bad guy shouts out "GODZILLA!" Curiously he didn't wrap himself in a bun just prior, but he gets his just deserts, and Godzilla walks off into the Tokyo night, kicking around a few Japanese cars as he departs. That's entertainment.

As the film closes, a Japanese scientist wonders aloud why Godzilla keeps protecting humanity in spite of continued efforts to destroy him. The underappreciated Genious hero scientist answers, "Maybe there is a little Godzilla in all of us." Well, maybe, but I'm thinking it has more to do with the fact there there is a little of us inside Godzilla. After all, a guy has to keep eating.

Previously: Happy Accidents:

The only new studio release this week was the Mariah Carrey film, Glitter, and this project carries more red flags than the marchers in a May Day parade in Peking. Anyone with any reviewing experience whatsoever had to be leery of expending valuable life moments on this film, and the reasons are truly legion.

First of all, the movie is released in a traditional late summer doldrum, right after all the major summer releases, and a few weeks prior to the major fall releases, which typically appear around mid-October. Second, this movie was not previewed for critics, which generally means the studios are pretty nervous that critical exposure will strangle it in the cradle box-office wise before it even opens. Finally, it stars Mariah Carrey, who has gained fame in artistic pursuits other than film. Put it all together and it spells "blows like a hurricane."

This gave me the opportunity to check out an art-house film this week, something I really haven't been able to do in over a year. Thus I made the journey to downtown Denver and the old Mayan theater. The Mayan is a surviving monument to the magnificent movie palaces of a bygone era. It has the red and blue lights on the walls supported by carvings, murals on the walls, art deco stuff above and around the screen, even a balconey. It is the kind of place movies were meant to be displayed within.

What contrast it stands to sterile, modern movie venues. Our typical movie houses now are little more than down-sloping hallways with seats. Generally speaking, they have all the personality of hospital operating theaters. Of course, the principal difference is that operating theaters usually don't look like 50 people just had the all-time mother of a food fight, and the program is frequently more interesting.

The film I saw this week was Brad Anderson's new movie Happy Accidents. Anderson is one of the more promising of the flock of young, independent filmmakers, and like his previous projects, he filmed this one with a comparatively small budget. One can only wonder what he might accomplish with $30 million dollars behind him, and here is hoping we get the opportunity to find out in the future.

In Happy Accidents Marissa Tormei stars as a rather beat up, man-shy, but still romantic woman,Ruby Weaver. She has had the typical run of stereotypical boyfriends; the junky, the bad drummer, the frenchman, the fetishist, you name it. So disgusted has she and her girlfriends become with the available crop that they keep handy a box called "the ex-files," where they retire pictures of the objects of their past failed relationships.

One day on a park bench, Weaver meets an interesting new man, Sam Deed (Vincent D'Onofrio). He seems peculiar in his own fashion, yet somehow sweet and different. He is apparently fluent in a dozen languages, yet struggles to come up with the english word for wine. He is terrified of small dogs, and occassionally seems distant and completely withdrawn. Yet he is charming, romantic, and apparently in love with her.

The development of their relationship gives her significant fodder for discussions with her therapist and friends, yet she is drawn to him in a way she has never been in another relationship. Finally she confronts him with his eccentricities and demands an explanation. He tells her that he is really a "back traveler" from the year 2460.

The remainder of the film keeps us guessing, and charms us with the development of their relationship. Is Sam Deed really from the future, or just a slightly deranged guy born in Dubuque, Iowa, in 1961. If he is from the future is this the ultimate "older man-younger woman relationship, or she she robbing the craddle dating a man not yet born. And how bad are things in the future if Sam must travel back in time to date a sort of whiny, beat up bitch? Ah...the paradoxes of time travel.

It doesn't matter, because the story is fun and captivating, right up until it finally reveals its hand in the closing minutes. The truth really doesn't matter in the end, because we have come to care about both the characters. This is the first movie I've seen in a long time that allows us to get acquainted with people we will actually end up carring about. In other words, surprise!...a well written script.

In another bittersweet way, this film transported me in time as well. Not very far, but it was filmed in New York City, in 1999. For two brief hours, I went back to New York City as it was before that day. Again, there was New York, massive, magical, sometimes oppressive, and always vibrant. It was New York as it will never quite be again.

For all of us, our lives have now been divided by a clear line of demarkation. There is the world as it was when I first woke up Tuesday morning, September 11, and the world as it became a couple of hours later. Then we all entered that nightmare we have been fighting to awaken from ever since, but somehow it all seems bleak and more dangerous, and different. We struggle now to adjust and learn the new rules...and we all want to go back.

Happy Accidents is not a science fiction movie, for those who might be run off by that thought. This is a romantic comedy, and interesting character study which is one of only 3 films that have ever been awarded a double smiley at K.A.W. Some effort will be needed to see it, although those in large markets can catch it at the art house theaters. Those in smaller towns will probably either have to travel or wait for the video, but either way, its well worth it.

Last Week: Simone:

So I just flew in from L.A. and boy are my arms tired...but seriously folks, I am home now, I hope for a lengthy stay, and its wonderful to be back.

There is nothing I enjoy more in this whole world than shelling out some of my hard earned cash and having one of the primary receipiants of the fruits of my labor spend two hours giving me a good swift kick right in the balls. The guilty party of record this week is writer/director Andrew Nichol, who, in his new film Simone shows about as much respect for his audience as Martha Stewart displays for financial integrity.

The primary message of Simone is really simple. Nichol is essentially telling us all, "Hey filmgoers, you are all a bunch of celebrity obsessed rubes utterly incapable of distinguishing fiction from reality." I have a message for Mr. Nichol: To a degree sir, you are correct.

But guess what? Its the general public's love of celebrity, and desire to escape a generally harsh reality once in awhile that puts the food on your table, the Mercedes in your driveway, and the loot in your bank account to be able to afford a respectable 30 room shanty somewhere near Hollywood and that little beach bungaloo you escape to on the weekend to get away from your private "stresses."

You see Mr. Nichol, most of the average rubes out there work pretty damned hard.They try to put a few scraps in their children's mouths every day. With a little luck, they can keep enough gas in the tank of the deteriorating clunker they patch together frequently just to get back on forth from largely tedious jobs that they aren't usually fond of, but have to do to survive.

They often choose to live vicariously through celebrities because no matter how much the famous complain and whine, their lives are enormously more glamorous and blessed than the lives MOST people live. You shouldn't be hammering on the starry-eyed average folk, Mr. Nichol. You ought to be hitting your knees and kissing their overworked asses every time one of the "rubes" walks by.

While I'm at it this week, the same applies to the major league baseball players. Behind this keyboard sits one of the planet's most enthusiastic baseball fans. But if August 30 rolls around and you miserable, overpayed, overpampered louts stop working, I have news for you. This baseball fan is changing the long standard rule: ONE strike and you are out now. If you go out August 30, don't bother coming back, because here sits one big fan who won't.

In any event, Simone stars Al Pacino, who portrays Viktor Taransky, a down and out director of independent films who has apparently spent his career making a series of movies at least as bad as this one. The head of the studio, who happens to be his ex-wife (Catherine Keener) is ready to fire him. His current film project is falling apart because its egoistic star (Winona Ryder, who took time away from shoplifting to make a brief appearance in this film) wants to walk and is threatening to sue if the film is released.

So thanks to a program created by a dying computer geek, Taransky is able to create a computer generated actress who becomes the biggest star in America. Taransky goes to elaborate effort to make the computer generated actress seem to be a real person. But the effort backfires comically when the artifical actress takes on a bizzare life of her own, and Taransky is unable to maintain control of his creation.

He makes numerous efforts to destroy her popularity and career. All of his attempts end in failure, however, as Simone becomes even more popular with the public. Meanwhile, Taransky is fading more and more into professional oblivion. He created Simone in the first place to enhance his own work, but discovers that the public prefers style to substance.

Even Taransky's own daughter (Pruitt Taylor Vince) pities the plight of her father and the way Simone is overshadowing the substance of his films. Apparently his daughter was a fan of crappy movies.

One other note to Mr. Nichol. Let's take a brief look at your last two films. You did The Truman Show which would have sucked even if Jim Carrey hadn't been in it. But the point I want to make is that it was a movie that explored the narrow distinctions between fantasy and reality. You also did a decent sci-fi flick called Gattica which explored the distinction between fantasy and reality. Is there an echo in here, or does Mr. Nichol just need to move on to something else? Maybe something other than movie making.

Last Week: A rental review: Head of State:

This was very, not strong enough. This was very, that isn't going to cover it either. Okay, I'll just slam it out: This was the absolute worst movie I have reviewed at this site. I gave some thought to introducing a new icon. Head of State plumbed depths that would define the cellar of an Adam Sandler movie.

Chris Rock directed this movie. I think that provides a pretty good reason why he should never again be allowed in a director's chair. Chris Rock co-wrote this movie. That provides absolute justification for taking away the man's pencil, banning him from buying paper, confiscating his word processor, and putting locks on his computer. We just can't risk any possibility that he could assault the world similiarly in the future.

Of course, the coup de grace is that Rock also stars in this movie, which gave me reservations about renting it. I guess I had some hopes based on previews I had seen of it in theaters several months ago. Even the proverbial blind squirrel finds an acorn now an again, so perhaps it wasn't entirely impossible to believe that Rock might come up with a movie with a least a few entertaining moments.

The curious point here was that there weren't any. I don't even recall that any of the mildly amusing moments I remember from the trailer appearing in the film anywhere. That is bait and switch Hollywood style, and too common with comedies these days. Either they show us everything funny in the trailers, and the rest of the film blows, or they put a few amusing gags by the comedian in character on film and use those instead. But since they don't fit into the context of the film, you don't see them in the final product.

Rock stars as Mays Gilliam, a struggling wardman in a ghetto section of Washington D.C. When he helps an old lady and her cat escape a building that is about to be blown up, he makes headlines as a hero. The same day, the candidates for president and vice-president for one of the major parties die when their planes collide head on. We didn't get to see that, which is sort of a shame. It would have provided a dead-on visual symbol for the rest of the film.

The muckies of the party need a new candidate, and rather than choose somebody capable, they decide to toss Gilliam out as a sacrificial lamb. Apparently they consider the other party's candidate to be unbeatable, so they want to set themselves up for an opportunity 4 years hence. The mode of thinking is, by running a minority candidate, they'll look good with voters in the future. Thus, Gilliam is chosen as their man.

Off we go following Gilliam on the campaign trail, which offers Rock astonishingly few opportunities to display his comic gifts. One would think that this all provides a perfect set-up for Rock to deliver some biting satire on the American condition. Alas, Rock takes the low road, and neither takes aim or fires. He focuses instead on low-brow.

As his running mate, Gilliam choses his older brother, portrayed by Bernie Mac. Mac is a sufficiently talented comedian that he might have been able to salvage some entertainment value from this mess had he been given something worthwhile to do. Alas, he is mostly wasted on reaction shots, leading us to believe that Rock only cast him to payoff a favor. His efforts in this film are as wasted as the celluloid the project was printed on.

In the end, we watch a presidental campaign movie with two candidates so bad, we can almost feel better about the choice we will have next year. ALMOST. I guess to some degree life does imitate art, or visa versa. The only election this film will have of winning is "worst film of 2003," and for that I'd expect it to be a strong candidate.

Oh, speaking of crappy candidates, did you guys hear about this one? Our President was recently in Minnesota raising money for his campaign. Apparently the kickbacks he is getting from corporations like Haliburton, which is profiting in the billions from Iraq contracts, won't cover the bill for his reelection campaign. Anyway, Minnesota Republicans handed him $1.4 million for a 24 minute speech. The average American household with two working adults would pull in a similar sum in 40 years.

Anyway, as the event was breaking up, the head of the Minnesota Republican party, Ron Eibensteiner, walked outside where he was met by a large crowd of average Americans, most of whom were not all that pleased with the job Shrub has been doing. As a warm and conciliatory gesture to the gathered protesters, Eibensteiner leaned over the railing and yelled, "GET A JOB!"

Now, there is some real Republican compassion. Of course, quite a few of the protesters already have jobs, and just think Bush sucks. But there were a large number of them who are out of work. They are among the 700,000 Americans who have lost their jobs this year during the course of Dubya's ongoing selective inattention to domestic problems. Some of them may have been out of work a little longer, since 2 and a half million jobs have simply disappeared under Bush's stewardship.

Yet here we have the compassionate Republicans, who instead of investing their money to help people get jobs, are just throwing it at the President so he can keep his. Instead of showing some interest to the average folks out there, they taunt them with nasty catch phrases. Yes, this is a party worth supporting. Afterall, they have created a lot of good jobs and travel opportunites for young people overseas. And a fair number of them have also been given very permanent homes as a perk for accepting those jobs.

Last Week: A K.A.W. Rental Review: Welcome To Mooseport:

I guess the one redeeming quality of this film is that it is capable of making a real political battle look interesting. This tale of a small town mayoral election is so desperately intent not to offend anyone that it sacrifices any opportunity to entertain anyone in the same breath.

Monroe Cole (Gene Hackman) has been a popular two term president, whose term in office is now expiring. Just why this guy was so popular is never made even remotely obvious. He doesn't seem to stand for anything in particular, nor has he accomplished anything in office that would seem to have won the hearts of the American people almost by acclaimation.

Well, he does apparently have one redeeming accomplishment to his credit. He was the only President in history to be divorced in office. Normally that might not particularly endear a President to the public, but considering that the former first lady was a runaway bitch on wheels, dumping her probably gave him at least a 20 point bump in his approval ratings.

Cole is a resident of Baltimore, but he has had to sacrifice his house and most of his personal wealth in the divorce proceedings, so instead, he mysteriously decides to settle down in the small berg of Mooseport, Maine.

Just why a former President would be attracted to Mooseport is every bit as mysterious as Cole's amazingly high popularity ratings. This is a town where the hardware store owner, "Handy" Harrison (Ray Ramono), is the most popular resident, and an old man runs through the town stark naked every morning.

This is the second time this month that I've had to endure the sight of a naked old person on the screen. I really don't think that the film going public has ever asked for that, and I'm certain that we don't really need it. When was the last time you actually bought tickets to a film for the sole reason that it promised a nice view of geriatric butt?

As one of those monumental coincidences that occur regularly in movies, but almost never in real life, Cole's arrival in Mooseport is attendant to the passing of their long time mayor, and the town is in search of a new one. Several of the town's leading citizens ask Cole to toss his hat in the ring and run for the office; as if a former President would even consider becoming mayor of some podunk town in Maine.

Unaware that Cole is being asked to take the job, Handy has already filed, To make matters worse, Handy's long time girlfriend, Sally (Maura Tierney), meets Cole, and he immediately falls for her and asks her out. Handy is kind of a non-commital lout who has apparently been stringing Sally along for several years, so she is mysteriously receptive to the advances of a man about 2 decades her senior.

Of course, since her alternative is a clueless hardware store owner who doesn't shower after repairing a septic tank, we aren't wildy impressed with her options in Mooseport. In real life, Sally would probably clear out of Mooseport faster than Tom Arnold can tank the ratings of a sitcom. Instead, she insists on sticking around and accepting her limited options. The race between Handy and Monroe draws national attention, but nothing happens that would keep the attentions of the network, or the audience, focused. Welcome To Mooseport plods along trying to find a soft place to land, while most of the actors appear to be trying to escape with minimal damage to their careers.

Hackman is reasonably safe, since his reputation is long since made, and he is probably near the end of his career anyway. The public will likely forgive him for this effort. Tierney was as close to invisible as an actress can be with a leading role in a feature film. The big loser in this effort is bound to be Ramono, who demonstrated quite aptly that he is several times as tedious in a lead role in a feature film as he is in a 30 minute sitcom.

Last Week: The Corpse Bride:

There are four principle methods of animation that a movie goer is apt to encounter when watching an animated film. The first method actually predates the art of cinema, but effectively came of age with the birth of the motion picture industry. That, of course, is what one might call single frame animation.

Prior to the invention of moving pictures, some artists used to draw a sequence of pictures, each in a slightly different pose, and flip through them rapidly. This gave an illusion of motion. The same technique was used to create "cartoons" once the motion picture industry was born. Each drawing became a single frame of film, and masterful execution of the technique made Walt Disney fabulously wealthy. However, it isn't used much anymore, because the creation of hand drawn animated films requires a small army of expensive human artists, and a lot of time, neither of which anyone can afford anymore.

The second form of animation is also older than movies, but not employed all that often. It is puppetry. Effectively there are three kinds of puppetry: The first utilizes marionettes, which are lifelike puppets manipulated by string by master puppeteers. This technique was somewhat popular for Saturday morning cartoons back in the early 1960's, but almost never has been used for full length feature films. The major problem is that the puppets are insanely expensive, and the illusion wears thin pretty quickly.

The second form of puppetry is essentially the hand-up-the-puppet's-ass technique, which can be something of an effective illusion as long as you don't photograph the puppets from the waist down very often. Then, you have a hybrid of the stop action drawing technique and normal puppetry, in which each puppet can be photographed in individual frames. We will call that one stop action puppetry.

The third form of animation was born in the 1950's, and is essentially a slight variation on stop action puppetry. Its generally referred to as "claymation." This technique was utilized to bring Gumby into popular culture, but otherwise has done little to benefit civilization. In fact, its generally pulled popular civilization closer and closer to the brink of total collapse. In essense, instead of preconstructed puppets, clay figures are photographed going about their business frame by frame.

Finally, there is the modern, favored technique of computer generated graphics. This technique is the fastest, least expensive, and lately most lifelike of the group, since the rapid advance of computer capability over the past two decades has permitted remarkably realistic animated films.

With the option of computer graphics available, once can only wonder what got into Tim Burton's head that inspired him to do a stop action puppetry film. Burton's slavish attention to detail made the creation of Corpse Bride a snail's paced project, in which only a few seconds of usable film could be shot per day. The result is a film which runs only 78 minutes, but seems even more slowly paced and exhausting than the actual production.

The project does seem to have one practical benefit, especially if you happen to be an acquaintance of Burton's. If you are, you probably had a voice over gig in this film. Johnny Depp, his apparent alter ego (has anyone ever seen them photographed together?) stars as the voice of the main character, Victor. Burton's wife, Helena Bonham Carter, voices the Corpse Bride, who otherwise has no name. Other Burton regulars, such as Deep Roy, Michael Gough and Christopher Lee also have voice parts. Even Danny Elfman, who once again manages to sell Buron the same soundtrack, managed to land a voiceover role.

The plot of the film is wafer thin. Boy meets girl. Boy wants to marry girl but is such an insufferable wimp that he can't. Boy accidentally marries corpse. Boy wants to escape the clutches of the corpse bride and return to his living intended. Eventually he gets to do so, and corspe bride turns into butterflies and flies away. The end.

The fundamental problem with this film isn't so much that there is anything enormously wrong with it. Its more a case of there not being anything enormously right with it. The puppetry isn't remarkable, the imagery seems worn out from Burton's earlier animated effort, The Nightmare Before Christmas, and the story just doesn't merit much thought or attention. The ending seemed a bit sudden and contrived, as if the writers just couldn't think of a better way out.

I'm not sure what the point of the whole exercise here was, except maybe a passionate appeal by Burton that the living can co-exist peacefully with the dead. Nonsense. For the most part, the living can't even coexist with the living. And personally, I don't want to coexist peacefully with the dead, at least until I have the misfortune of joining them.

Last Week: Bobby:

Okay, we get it. Emilio Estevez has a crap load of friends who are willing to work cheap on his behalf. The ensemble cast of this film is so star laden that it would almost be easier to compile a list of Hollywood notables that don't make at least a walk on appearance. In a sense you have to hand it to Estevez; it's impossible to imagine how he managed to collect a cast of this magnitude without bruising a lot of egos irrevocably given the limited face time available in a film with a running time considerable less than 86 hours.

There has been extremely mixed critical reaction to this film. One of the harshest is offered by Rolling Stone's resident (dumbass) reviewer, Peter Travers: "Estevez means well. But having your heart in the right place is no excuse for insipid ineptitude." Funny. I have exactly the same reaction pretty much every time I read a review by Travers.

It is quite evident that Travers' primarly objection to this film is that it isn't some sort of biopic. We don't need that. I can tune into The History Channel any given week of the year and see yet another biography of Bobby Kennedy, his brothers, his mom, his dad, his assorted cousins, Peter Lawford, the family dog and the guy who cleaned the pool.

Instead, this film focuses on a group of fictional characters who happened to be in a particular place, at a moment in time when the course of world history changed as the result of an act of senseless violence. Sirhan fired his shots, the Democratic Party lost it's only voice of reason, and our nation has suffered through 3 and a half decades of leadership vacuum featuring Tricky Dicky, that senile f**kwad Reagan and two Bushs as a consequence. Anyone out there still willing to argue about the inherent sanity of strong handgun control?

Here is another line from a review by Nick Schager of the Nick Schager Film Project: "...the film is a preachy, liberal-courting slog..." Okay. Most of you are probably asking the same question: "Who the hell is Nick Schager?" The question is legitimate. For one thing, he is virtually the ONLY professional reviewer listed on that actually praised The Pink Panther and Steve Martin's performance therein. He also gave a rave review to Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby and a creeky 1988 sci-fi B flick called They Live, a film which is notable only for starring former professional wrestler Rowdy Roddy Piper. It was a piece of crap.

So, just who all appears in Bobby? Start off with Harry Belafonte, who is mostly in the film to play foil to Anthony Hopkins. Neither of their roles were particularly critical to the film, but I guess Estevez just wanted to advertise the fact that Belafonte is still alive, and that Hopkins is evidently willing to take a small role just for kicks.

Move on to Estevez himself, who appears on camera as the husband of an aging, drunken nightclub singer portrayed by Demi Moore. We learn from this film that Moore can belt out a pretty credible song. Meanwhile, Estevez's character didn't have a whole lot to do except look forlorn about something, although we weren't privy to his inner demons.

William H. Macy is the hotel manager who is married to Sharon Stone, the hotel's resident beauty expert. Macy is conducting an affair with Heather Graham, although that particular subplot didn't accomplish much, apart from giving us an interestingly rewarding opportunity to watch Macy smack Christian Slater in the mouth. That was almost worth the price of admission.

Martin Sheen appeared in the film, mostly because he is Emilio's dad, and probably hasn't had a lot of steady work since The West Wing took its final bow last spring. He is a stockbroker married to the neurotic Helen Hunt. We really never found out just why either one of them happened to be at the hotel that night.

We also had Lindsay Lohan, who was marrying Elijah Wood so that he wouldn't have to go to Vietnam. The problem with seeing Wood in a movie is that it's nearly impossible to watch his performance without thinking, "Wow, that dude has some weird eyes." Ashton Kutcher is also along in the cast portraying a stereotypical hippie drug dealer, and several other less knowns are in the cast.

The most legitimate criticism that can be offered of this film is that it might have worked just as well with fewer characters and more depth to their stories. Still, for a film with a 120 minute running time and so many familiar faces, a compelling story was worked in. Along with it, a reminder of how much we lost, and how much we can lose, with so little reason.

Some believe there is nothing one man or one woman can do against the enormous array of the world's ills -- against misery, against ignorance, or injustice and violence. Yet many of the world's great movements, of thought and action, have flowed from the work of a single man. A young monk began the Protestant reformation, a young general extended an empire from Macedonia to the borders of the earth, and a young woman reclaimed the territory of France. It was a young Italian explorer who discovered the New World, and 32 year old Thomas Jefferson who proclaimed that all men are created equal. ‘Give me a place to stand,’ said Archimedes, ‘and I will move the world.’ These men moved the world, and so can we all.--Robert F. Kennedy

This Week: Kung Fu Panda:

When the Colorado Rockies score 7 or more runs in a game, all the local Taco Bell restaurants offer tacos at the reduced price of 4 for a dollar between the hours of 4 PM and 6PM. That is a good thing. Every once in a long while, we get a cheap dinner, and Taco Bell gets lots of people to come in and eat tacos. They probably don't lose much on the deal, and generate a lot of positive publicity in the deal.

So, here is what is wrong with America: Gas prices have soared over $4 per gallon and may hit $6 by the end of the year. Our present national leaders lied to us to get us involved in a totally unnecessary and pointless war, even by the admissions now of former members of that national leadership. We are in the midst of a worldwide climate crisis that thick headed members of the conservative political elements are still loathe to recognize. The midwest is flooding while the west is burning. Tornados are devastating the midwest in record numbers. The nation's infrastructure is falling apart.

None of that is what is wrong with America...those are just the facts of what is going on. Here is what is wrong with America: With all of the above and more for us to get worked up about, most people chose to sit on their butts and pretend things are okay. BUT, when we went into Taco Bell Sunday afternoon to get our cheap tacos. I witnessed a lady tearing a new asshole for some poor minimum wage counter girl because Taco Bell ran out of spoons; as if the poor girl had jack crap to do with the oversight.

Now, I guess there are a few things served at Taco Bell that necessitate spoons. You couldn't prove it by me. Everything I eat there you just pick up and eat. And quite honestly, everything tastes pretty much like everything else. Why not just order something else? Especially when you can get 4 tacos for a buck. I dunno. It just seems to me like at a time when our country if facing economic devastation at the hands of expensive petroleum while the oil companies generate record and in fact obscene profits, a spoon shortage at Taco Bell just isn't something to blow a cork about.

Oh. Yeah. The movie. Here comes a shock...I think probably just about everyone in the world who sees Kung Fu Panda is going to like it a lot more than I did. I've got nothing against pandas. I like them. I don't have much against animated movies, beyond a point I am going to get to in a minute. Marital arts, that is another subject, and a rather sore one with me. You can pass by some sort of "martial arts" studio in every strip mall in America these days, mostly dedicated to teaching our children "martial arts."

Note that I put "martial arts" into quotes, because what our children are learning has nothing to do with the complete mental disiplines of true martial arts. We are just teaching them cool ways of beating the crap out of each other.But since a sort of strategic stalemate has been achieved, they eventually graduate to firearms, which usually trumps the best kung fu move.

Ever meet any of the guys who teach in those "martial arts" studios? Treat yourself to a moment of horror sometime and go talk to one of them. You won't enroll YOUR kids, I guarantee you.

Again, I've drifted a bit off topic. The biggest problem I had with this movie was the simple fact that this is truly the end game achievement of almost every great looking piece of animation produced over the last few years: Effectively, this is a great looking movie with absolutely no plot. Well, that isn't quite true. But what little plot this movie did have was so formulated and over used that most of the six year olds in the audience probably could have recited every line of dialogue from the movie 20 minutes before they even saw it.

There was nothing original here. There was nothing funny here. All there was reminded us how much we are looking forward to Wall-E and I can only hope that I am spared a similar degree of disappointment.

Here is the entire plot of this film: A panda bear who's father is a stork (?!) wants to be a great martial artist instead of a noodle maker. By an improbable plot twist, he gets the opportunity, but he sucks at it. But his master helps him overcome his lack of skill and he becomes a great kung fu master who saves his village. The end.

That story took the filmmakers 90 minutes to tell. I summarized it in two sentences. It's all kind of like saying, "Taco Bell tacos kinda suck, but at 4 for a dollar, they are worth eating." The only problem is that Kung Fu Panda is going for nine bucks a ticket, and that isn't a bargain.

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