Science news, movie reviews and everything you need on the worldwide web. 
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:



This Week: U-571:

If there were any honesty left in Hollywood, this movie might have carried a more expressive title, such as: U-(just got suckered out of)750. Most of the people with a sincere interest in seeing this film are likely to do so regardless of my comments, but I would like to at least make the effort to save you a few bucks. You could considerably reduce the price you will pay, and double your entertainment time by going out and renting Das Boot and The Hunt For Red October. This movie so blatantly ripped off both of those respectable films that we wondered how such a transparent effort ever made it past the preproduction meetings.

I spent at least 2 or 3 minutes on the way home trying to figure out exactly where this movie went so tragically south, and then I was able to put my finger on it. I suspect that director Jonathan Mostow is about my age or a little older, and the fuse was lit on this accident about 30 years ago when Mostow was awarded membership in his junior high A.V. Club. You all remember the A.V. club. Those were the people who got a free period to wheel projectors around the school and show films, since 13 year-old boys were imminently more capable of running projectors than their teachers.

What with showing lots of films all day, Mostow probably had to sit through a lot of those dreadful "Butch and Grandpa" movies about World War I. Those in my age group are probably shuddering and laughing at the memory, but the younger readers of this page are probably puzzled as to what the "Butch and Grandpa" movies were, so I'll take a moment to explain.

They were basically sort of propogandist films about the American involvement in WWI. Butch is having an all-American boy having a conversation with his grandfather, although I suspect that the real reason he was having the discussion was that he was hiding out in his house. Poor Butch had obviously just returned from being subjected to the worst crew cut in the recorded history of the universe. Thus, about all he had to do was listen to his grandfather's stories about WWI, or go out and get the crap beat out of him by every bully within 100 miles.

The movies were highlighted by clever dialog like this:

Butch: Gee Gramps, why do you always call World War I The Great War?

Gramps: Well Butch, at the time we didn't know that there would be a second world war, so we couldn't call it WWI. AAHAHAHAHAHAHA

These movies primarily featured accounts of the war by Gramps, in which he accounted tales of the war dragging through years of stalemate until the mighty American doughboys arrived. After watching a couple of these films, most students ended up with the impression that Gramps and about a dozen of his buddies managed to single handedly kick the Kaiser's butt all the way back to Berlin, while the other American troops busied themselves serving tea and crumpets to the battle weary French and British troops.

I know that Mostow was influenced by those movies, because U-571 had exactly the same atmosphere. The Americans were crack shots with torpedos and whatever other guns they fired, while the Germans couldn't have hit a hot pink elephant if they were standing next to it. That kind of puzzling logic is pretty common in movies of this nature. If the Germans had really been as inept as they are portrayed movies like U-571, WWII would have been about 20 minutes shorter than this movie.

Matthew McConaughey plays Lt. Andrew Tyler, an American submarine X.O. who has just been passed over for promotion and his own command by his Captain, Mike Dahlgren (Bill Paxton). We mention this not because it really has a damned thing to do with the movie, but since it was the only effort at character development, it is worth tossing in.

Tyler and Dahlgren and their crew are chosen for a top secret mission. Their sub is disquised as a German U-Boat, and it has to intercept a crippled German sub, the U-571, before a rescue ship arrives. Under the command of a battle hardened Marine (David Keith), it is their mission to board the sub, steal a coding device and scuttle the U-Boat. The mission appears to be on the verge of success until the German rescue boat manages to sneak up on the operation and torpedo the American sub. Tyler and the remaining members of the American crew must repair the damaged U-Boat and try to escape with their tails.

This movie has a running time of 110 minutes, out of which about 100 minutes are spent watching the characters get tossed around the U Boat as depth charges are exploding around them. I guess this provided the people at THX with an opportunity to show off the capabilites of their sound system, but mostly the net effect was to give me a pounding headache. I don't think my poor ears would have been ringing any more loudly by the end of this film if I had sat on a speaker at a Black Sabbath concert.

Also appearing in U-571 were Jake Weber, as the sniveling bureacrat who is now obligatory in every movie, Matthew Settle, T.C. Carson, Will Estes, Jack Noseworthy, and Derk Cheetwood. They mostly had about the same function as the guys who appeared wearing red shirts in the opening sequence of the old Star Trek series. We were supposed to feel some sort of sympathy for their plight as courageous Americans on a dangerous mission to save the world, but its hard to work up a lot of emotional sympathy for paper dolls.

U-571 also features a lengthy appearance by rock idol Jon Bon Jovi, who was mostly in the movie to prove, yet again, that rock musicians make sucky actors. I'm looking forward to a future production featuring the members of Dead Presidents and Bare Naked Ladies in a remake of Citizen Kane.

In truth, U-571 wasn't the worst movie I've seen in awhile, but their were a lot of things in this movie that made you go "hmmm". There was the fact that during the most dangerous moments of the mission, apparently nobody aboard the American sub was in the radio room keeping alert for the approaching German sub. There was the bizzare scene in which Captain Dahlgren was drowning, and he waves for Tyler to try to escape instead of saving himself. I guess that is supposed to be American heroism, but I figure that even a brave man is going to be out there yelling, "hey! One of you m***** f****** toss be a rope!" There was the curious fact that we never found out what happens to David Keith's character. He is in the movie, and then he isn't. Finally, there is the curious fact that most of the characters in this film spend most of their time drenched in cold North Atlantic seawater, but nobody appears to ever be blue lipped and miserable. I guess seeing McConaughey with chattering teeth and blue lips isn't the sexy image American women want to see, but there IS something called reality...except in movies.

Last Week: 3000 Miles To Graceland:

There is one primary reason I will almost certainly never get elected President of the United States. Okay, maybe there are lots, but there is one primary one. I would put all my resources into one project once in office. My plan would be to send a large group of astronauts back to the moon, and it would be their task to build one huge memorial. The task would almost certainly bankrupt the U.S. and subsequently destroy the world economy and civilization, but the whole thing would be a real hoot.

You see, the task that they would be charged with accomplishing would be to carve a lunar mountain into a gigantic statue of Jim Henson. Yes, the project would destroy contemporary civilization with its overwhelming cost, but that is really part of the master plan. About 5000 years from now, human civilization will have crawled back up to its present state of prominence, and once again people will go to the moon. Once there, they will rediscover the majestic statue, and gaze up in abject wonder.

Imagine the plight of future archeologists as they ponder and attempt to answer the question of why the greatest previous civilization the earth had ever known intentionally bankrupted and destroyed itself merely to erect a nearly permanent memorial to a man who spent a considerable portion of his adult life with his hand shoved up a sock puppet frog's ass. It will confound the greatest minds on the planet, but it will not be the first time that really excessive amounts of money have been wasted on silliness in the name of artistic expression. I'll get back to that in a minute.

Now that I have related that anecdote, I'd like to talk a little about what I learned way back in my education career when I was force fed a few creative writing classes. It seems that most stories follow a rather basic formula: You start out with a character or group of characters whom the story will follow as they attempt to accomplish something. The individuals involved are known as the protagonists. Then you have a character, or characters or forces or obstacles that stand in the way of or protagonists accomplishing what they wish. This or these are known as the antagonists. The effective battle between the two is the antagonistic conflict, and the efforts of the protaganists to accomplish their goal and the efforts of the characters or obstacles in their way collectively define the plot.

Now, it helps a great deal in the development of the plot if the audience actually develops a feeling of empathy for the protagonists, and a sense that the antagonists just might be able to stop them. The audience begins rooting for the heros and become involved in the story.

I've written the previous several paragraphs to make some important points about the film 3000 Miles To Graceland. First of all, this film was one of the silliest wastes of money in the name of artistic expression I've ever seen. Maybe it doesn't rival building a gigantic statue of Jim Henson on the moon, but the difference is only in form, not kind. In other words, it just wasn't as expensive, but no less ridiculous.

This movie also fell apart completely because we are introduced to a group of protagonists that we don't want to see succeed. I was hoping they'd all get shot within the first 5 minutes and we could pop another movie into the DVD.

The basic plotline of this movie is that a group of 5 Elvis impersonators played by Kevin Costner, Kurt Russell, David Arquette, Bokeem Woodbine and Christian Slater rob a Vegas hotel during some sort of Elvis impersonator convention. Essentially, they kill almost everyone in the hotel, presumably several dozens of people and make off with the cash. Meanwhile, Kurt Russell has fallen in love with a single mom (Courtney Cox) who runs a nearby sleazy motel. She and her precocious son discover that Russell and company are the robbers, and attempt to steal the money on their own.

Rather quickly, we begin thinning out the cast. Woodbine is killed during the robbery attempt. Slater and Arquette are killed soon after the robbery when the gang begins quarreling. That leaves a weird triangle as Russell, Costner and Cox jockey to acquire and make off with the money.

The films director, Damien Lichenstein, has mostly earned his stripes filming music videos, and in truth this movie plays like a 90 minute rock video. Scenes jump around and its often difficult to figure out what is going on. There were a lot of needless scenes, and the presence of Courtney Cox seems mostly unnecessary. She is mostly in the film to get tortured by Costner, who attempts to be the heavy, but couldn't have come off much less menacing if he had played through the entire film carrying a 5 foot teddy bear. The sight of Costner dressed in Elvis garb is distracting enough, but the man will just never make a convincing tough guy.

This is one of those films that must have had some interesting preproduction meetings. I can only assume that the original sales pitch to the studio execs involved a lot of drugs, alcohol and naked women. How else could you imagine that anyone could sell Hollywood movie moguls on the idea of dressing up Kevin Costner as Elvis and making him an armed robber. Hell, haven't they caught on yet that Costner isn't exactly on a roll these days as it is? And whose idea was it to pay Christian Slater a couple of million bucks to appear in a film for 20 minutes? Those must have been some great drugs and fine women.

Last Week: The Bourne Identity:

Considering how little sense this movie made, I think I may be able to offer a sort of coherent summary. As close as I can really figure, this is a movie about a guy who gets fished out of the Mediterranean Sea, then finds himself aboard a fishing boat. He can't remember who he is, he isn't sure where he is, and he doesn't even remember what he does, but he manages to figure out that he is some sort of government operative. I think George W. Bush faces about the same problem every morning when he wakes up.

The movie stars Matt Damon, and close as I can figure, he must have decided he needed to star in a summer action thriller portraying a CIA agent since Ben Affleck had already signed on to play a similar role in Sum Of All Fears. The whole concept of Damon as a vicious tough guy operative is probably the film's most absurd departure from reality. Hey, quick show of hands out there of everyone who really believes a guy like Damon could overpower the entire Marine security contingent of the American Embassy in Paris. I thought so; a notable lack of response. Okay, how about this one: How many out there think Damon could have even held his own against Buckwheat from the Little Rascals? Hmmm....about the same number of hands raised.

This movie is based on a best-selling book of the same title by Robert Ludlam, but as I recall, the book was rather lengthy. I guess they must have left a lot out, including every possible reason why we should give a flying crap about any of the characters. If you really want me to get emotionally involved with the hero, give me a guy who gets in trouble rescuing orphans from a burning building or saving baby chimps from poachers. I'm not going to toss in with a CIA hired gun who makes a living offing foreign leaders who our government doesn't particularly like this week.

Maybe we were supposed to feel some sort of empathy for the film's leading lady, who sort of gets dragged into Damon's identity search accidentally. He stumbles upon her after escaping near capture in the embassy, and offers her a ridiculous sum of money to drive him back to Paris. You see, all American foreign covert operatives have Swiss bank accounts with large sums of money and passports providing them with a dozen aliases. They also have a laser chip implanted in them in case they lose their memory, like Damon's character, and have the presence of mind to return to Zurich and collect the items stored in their secret numbered account.

Unfortunately, she isn't worthy of our affections either. Nor does she ever find herself in any sort of peril that might merit our concerns for her welfare. She more or less just goes along for the ride as Damon's chauffeur, and doesn't really get signficantly involved in the film. Given the apparently significant number of things that were cut out of the literary effort, it's almost astonishing that her character made it into the film.

Before we went into the theater today, we went out to lunch at a place that had 3 TV's showing different sporting events. One channel had soccer. Another had a tennis match, followed by golf. ESPM was showing a women's 9 ball pool championship, but we never found out who won because they cut away to the World Lumberjack Championships. I'll tell you, that was on-the-edge- of-your-seat rivoting. Now I ask you, is that ridiculous? I mean SOCCER! Hell, who cares about soccer?

I know...out of several thousand people who now read this page weekly, I just might actually get ONE email from someone whining about how soccer is the most popular sport in the world and that the U.S. is the only major nation that doesn't enthusisastically support it and la de dah de dah. The author will probably include some lame-ass prediction that soccer will eventually catch on here too because of all the six year-olds who are playing it now.

You know why six year-olds play soccer? Because they can. I played tag when I was six, but I don't have any illusions that it will ever be a major world wide spectator sport. You know why Americans hate soccer? (Apart from the fact its insanely boring, and the reason there are so many soccer riots is because fans are bored stiff and need something to do.) Because we are AHEAD of the rest of the world in EVERYTHING, including our refusal to embrace a lame sport that was designed for six year-olds.

So, Brazil won the World Cup. Big freaking deal. Has a Brazilian walked on the moon? Seen any Brazilian spacecraft photos from Jupiter lately? Bought any good Brazilian software this year? For the record, Germany finished second. Germany is pretty used to that by now. They tend to come in second every time they enter a major competition.

Hey, just in case you haven't figured it out, I don't care much for soccer (and yes, I have played it...I was even good at it) and I didn't care much for this week's movie and I ran out of things to say about it 4 paragraphs ago. I guess the vacation left me a little rusty. I promise that next week, I won't say a single word about soccer, or even think about soccer, which means that I will be just like the other 280 million people that live in America. For the 6 of you out there that actually like it, you are in a tiny with it.

Last Week: Pirates of the Caribbean:

You can curse the night sky for being black. You can curse the ocean for being wet and salty. You could even curse this movie for being overblown and vapid, but what would be the point? We aren't discussing an adaptation of some Dickens' novel here. No, this is a movie based on a ride at Disneyland.

As far as I am able to determine, this is the first in a series of films that are going to be based on Disneyland rides. The Haunted Mansion is due out in November, and God help us, somewhere, Its A Small World is probably already in production. You'll all forgive me if I pass that one over for whatever Adam Sandler project comes that that week. And since this movie had a subtitle, one might fathom (pardon the pun) that a sequel is not out of the question.

I'm trying to remember a single film in Hollywood history, or at least within the past decade, which had a subtitled name that didn't end up with sequels. Especially if its a summer release. We are dealing with Disney studios here as well, and they spin out sequels like lies out of the Bush White House. Oh, yeah, that was the CIA's fault. I forgot. I also digress.

Here is the punchline. Once every couple of summers, a movie gets released that has a Kexian bullseye painted amidship that gunnersmate Stevie Wonder could hit with a peashooter and Yul Brenner's lungs...lately. But the old Kexster is just full of surprises, and occasionally even I can enjoy parking my brains and just having fun. And this film is a hoot.

Every once in awhile, even Hollywood can do something astonishingly right. Even a stopped clock is right twice a day, so lets not expect trends. But casting Johnny Depp in the role of Captain Jack Sparrow was a stroke of brilliance, if not just a spate of dumb luck. Then again, its actually pretty hard to miss with Depp.

Right off hand, I can't really think of a single actor in the movie business who has taken on a more astonishing range of diverse roles, and done it all better than Depp. He attacked this role with an over-the-top performance that hasn't been seen on the silver screen since Jack Nicholson donned white face and cackle, and took on Michael Keaton in the dark corners of Gotham City. But Depp's masterpiece of scene chewing worked to perfection, and made this movie not only worth watching, but downright fun.

In fact, I'd go so far as to say that this film could well have been a monumental disaster had some lesser star in the firmament of tinseltown taken it on. About all the film had to offer outside of Depp's marvelous performance was a nearly equally luscious performance by Geoffrey Rush in the guise of Captain Barbossa. Rush hasn't done a lot to distinguish himself in the last couple of years, but he can still make a pretty good bad guy. In fact, he might qualify as one of the better heavies in the business these days. Too bad he doesn't stick to what he does so well.

Being a summer Disney project, there is going to be a temptation to view this as a family film. On the one hand, it could be recommended as such. Despite the almost inevitable necessity of violent scenes, the film is not excessively graphic. But two aspects make it a touchy proposition for pre-teen audiences.

First of all, the film is pretty lengthy. It has a running time that isn't far short of 140 minutes which might make it a bit of an excessive marathon for younger children. Second, the film contains a lot of computer imagery that could be frightening for preteen audiences. Consequently, parents should be strongly warned that this isn't a film suitable for young children.

The plot gets a bit tedious at times as well, and with two leading men, it often seems as if the scriptwriters were struggling a bit to decide exactly which direction to go. But in the end, its a summer action movie, and a pretty good one at that. Film's of this nature usually bore me when I tire of sword play and rope swinging. But this was entertaining enought to hold my interest for most of the two hour plus running time.

So with Disney studios now engaging in an orgy of self-indulgence grand enough that they are raiding their own hard properties for ideas, they at least deserve a measure of credit for doing it well. As some of you may well be aware, Pirates of the Caribbean is one of the more popular rides at the Disney theme park. There is a persistent urban legend that this particular ride conceals the corpsecicle of old Walt himself. Haunted Mansion will star Eddy Murphy, which is bound to generate interest as well. But I STILL won't even consider the horrors of Its A Small World: The Motion Picture.

Last Week: Catwoman:

Legend has it that cats have nine lives. The studio that produced Catwoman is probably already planning on nine sequels. If there is justice in the world, this movie will hit the bargain theaters in about 9 days, then die a lonely and dusty death on the shelves at Hollywood Video. We can only hope that it sinks lower than George Bush's popularity rating in the Tenderloin.

This is the worst movie ever made about a comic book character. Its probably the worst movie ever made that stars an actress with an Oscar gathering dust on some fireplace mantel. I guess Haley Berry has decided that one Oscar is plenty enough. After this film, she isn't in any real jeopardy of being seriously considered for another any time in the future; particularly if she was either brain dead enough, or sufficiently drugged to sign a contract locking her into several sequels.

Clearly, Berry is going to have to shoulder the load of the blame for this cinematic equivalent to My Mother the Car. She is the only notable or marketable Hollywood entity associated with the production. The director is a pretentious bag of gas who goes by the single name Pitof (as in Pit of kitty litter). This is his first, and most likely last opportunity behind the camera, at least under that name. At least he can probably adopt the standard convention the rest of us use, and adopt a second name and a second chance.

The films leading man, Benjamin Bratt can always plead insanity, or at least hunger. The latter might fly, because its not like he is all that far above bussing tables, career wise. You can't really blame the guy for trying to get some face time in what was aggressively billed as a mid-summer blockbuster. But Blockbuster is the key word, as that is precisely where this film is heading inside of a month.

Everyone who has ever picked up a Batman or Catwoman comic can tell you that Catwoman's alter ego is Selena Kyle. Except in this film. For whatever reason the writers came upon, Selena Kyle became Precious Phillips. The guess here is that purchase of movie rights to the character were acquired from Bob Kane without specific permission to sink the character into oblivion, thus the change was necessary to avoid a lawsuit that would have sent studio executives from mansions to cardboard boxes.

Precious Phillips (Haley Berry) is a struggling young artist working in promotions for a major cosmetics firm. They are about to launch a new product that promises to keep women looking ever young by eliminating wrinkles and signs of aging. But Precious accidentally discovers that the new product is highly toxic, and will cause skin to burn badly unless it is constantly used. When the CEO's of the company find out that she has discovered their secret, they decide to drown her by flushing her out of the drainage pipe in which she is hiding. By this point, which is only about 15 minutes into the film, it has already flushed itself down a drainage pipe.

Precious is brought back to life by some mystic Egyptian cat, who lives with a cat crazy lady who apparently used to be a college professor. Its one of about 100 cats she owns. Its not one of those houses you'd want to go in without nose plugs. Meanwhile, a new man comes into Precious' life. Naturally, he is a cop. While Precious begins struggling with the duality of her badgirl Catwoman identity, or her goodgirl Precious identity, her new man tries to get to know her better.

But he is mystified as to the identity of the mysterious Catwoman, who is slinking around the city by night, stealing jewels and apparently knocking off executives at the cosmetic company where Precious works.

Fortunately for Precious, he isn't exactly the sharpest knife in the drawer. He is searching the city for a woman with catlike capabilities, but doesn't really make the connection between the villaness he seeks and his new lady interest, even when she displays uncommon abilities to climb walls and jumping ability sufficient to dunk a basketball with ease, despite her average height. With the deductive powers this guy displays, we have serious doubts that this guy could find a Mormon in Provo.

He does ultimately figure it all out, but not until the evidence becomes so obvious that a low grade moron could put it together. Unfortunately for him, there wasn't one available prior to his own revelation. Meanwhile. Catwoman is being framed for murder by the wife of the CEO of the cosmetics company Precious works for. She (Sharon Stone) is the real brains behind the operation, and bumps him off mostly because he is a womanizing pig.

It all works out sufficiently well to set up a sequel, which we can only hope will never get made. Batman didn't put in an appearance in this film, and it only could have been better if he had...even if the Batman in question had been played by George Clooney. I'm actually getting pretty tired of movies based on comic book characters. But I live with the creeping horror that we haven't seen the worst yet.

Last Week: Broken Flowers:

I'm reasonably confident that with the exception of a few smartass Kexkateers that have emailed me this week, and maybe a few other newbies not particularly familiar with the site, that one one is coming aboard this week expecting to see a review of The Dukes of Hazzard. That would have been completely out of the question.

I was alive, and attending college when the old TV series was running in prime time. It wasn't even possible to go into the television room in the dorms on Friday nights without a rowboat to navigate over the river of Skoal saturated drool. Even if it were, the point escaped me of watching one group of pathetic rednecks outwitting another even more pathetic group of rednecks week after week. There wasn't any upside to the whole thing that I could determine.

Even worse, if you went near the television room on Saturday night, you encountered the same group of dental hygenically challenged mouth breathers hanging rapt on the weekly airing of B.J. and the Bear. If human civilization had collapsed in the late 70's, the collective, average I.Q. of the universe would have risen about a million points.

Suffice it to say that I would rather be stripped naked, doused with gasoline, set afire, and tossed off a 20 story building into the middle of a 10 acre patch of cactus than watch even five minutes of Dukes of Hazzard the movie. I don't even give a crap if Jessica Simpson waltzed through the entire film buck naked. Its not like America can't draw her naked body from memory.

But I'm not surprised that the movie got made. Heck, by 1980 the small number of really rich people who run the country figured out that the population had been sufficently dumbed down to sell them on the idea that if we permitted them to have more of the collective wealth of the nation, somehow we would all be better off. America bought it, and the middle and lower classes have spent the last quarter of a century getting screwed sideways.

But this week's review is Broken Flowers. At best, indie films are a crap shoot, and in this instance, heavy emphasis goes on the word crap. This is a really interesting movie because we get to spend an hour and forty-seven minutes watching Bill Murray play a birch tree.

Actually, that isn't quite true, it just seems like it. He plays a character named Don Johnston, who has amassed a small fortune in the computer industry, and has also enjoyed amazing success as a lady's man. Right away we see a significant problem with the casting. When you look at Bill Murray, I don't think a lot of people immediately think either "computer geek" or "babe magnet," especially for the last decade. This has to be the worst bit of casting since Howard Hughes dumped John Wayne into the role of Ghengis Khan in The Conquerors.

Johnston's much younger girlfriend has just dumped him, and he receives a mysterious, unsigned letter, apparently from one of his former girlfriends, that 20 years ago, she had his son, who is now searching for him. With the urging of his next door neighbor, Johnston begins a cross country odyssey to meet with several of his former lovers, in hopes of discovering the identity of the letter writer.

For the most part, Johnston's former lovers turn out to be every bit as wooden and pathetic as he is. There is Laura (Sharon Stone) who is the mother of an exhibitionistic, nymphomaniac teenage daughter. Then we meet Dora (Frances Conroy) who is the aching wife of a really annoying real estate salesman.

From there its on to Carmen, played by Jessica Lange, who is getting face time in a movie for the first time in about 2 decades. Too bad it had to be this one. She portrays a mystical animal comunicator. Finally, we meet Penny (Tilda Swinton), who is an angry biker chick. Watching her biker buddies beat the crap out of Murray provides the film's only emotionally satisfying moment.

The brutally painful dryness of this so called comedy is exceeded only by a totally frustrating ending. Evidently the people who made it ran out of money to pay the writers, so the film stopped rather than ending. That was difficult to determine until after a moment of blackness at a point the film shouldn't have possibly ended, the credits started rolling, sans even a "the end" message. For a moment, I wondered if the theater forgot to roll the final reel. Even if they did, I was happy enough to have it over with.

Bad as I am torturing this movie, I am now going to demonstrate the power of the internet, and this website, by selling about 10,000 tickets to this film with just four words. I know the Kexkateers pretty well; so here goes...totally naked teenage girl. That thundering sound you just heard was Kexkateers running out to find this film at a theater near them.

This Week: Flyboys:

Only one thing prevented this film from being elevated to coveted smiley status; or maybe it would be more accurate to say there were about 40. I don't have a huge problem with stretching 60 minutes worth of story into roughly 90 minutes worth of movie. That's done all the time. If directors didn't routinely take that approach, we wouldn't have a whole lot of full length films to watch these days.

What bugs me is when somebody tries to stretch 60 minutes worth of story (or maybe a little less) into over two hours worth of movie. At that point, you are going to get your little project smacked square in the mouth here at K.A.W. I've got better ways to waste my time than sitting through some overly fleshed out production.

That said, Flyboys is getting an excessively bad rap from about two-thirds of the professional critics. Yes, its too long. Yes, its cliche ridden. No, the CGI effects aren't bad, in fact they are pretty good. No, the acting isn't strong, but let's face it; none of us went to this movie to see James Franco make a run at an Oscar. Hell, we all know that Ted Nuggent has a better chance of being PETA's man of the year.

Most of us went to this movie to see WWI planes in dogfights, and there was plenty of that to satisfy. Compared to other films in a similar genre, say, Wings or The Blue Max, this film stands pretty strong. The latter was okay, but frankly, it degenerated into a laborious blabfest only briefly broken by flying sequences. Wings had the advantage of being a silent movie.

There is another pretty glaring problem with this film, aside from the one noted by critics. Fokker DR 1's were pretty rare in the German Luftwafe, and there was only one painted red. It belonged to the German ace of aces, Baron Manfred Von Richtoffen. In this film, virtually every German plane in the sky is a red, tri-wing.

This is the story of several young American men, from divergent backgrounds, who, for one reason or another, run off to France to join the air corps. One of them is even a black professional boxer who is accepted in France because they were quicker to get over their racism issues than the U.S., evidently. That part of the story is actually true. After the American's entered the war, he wasn't allowed to fly any more, inspite of his experience.

Early in the film, when all the Americans arrive at the French airfield for induction, the commanding officer asks how many of them speak French. Only the black guy raises his hand. "Typical Americans," groans another French officer. "They come to this country and they don't even speak French."

Yep. Those damned French are sooooo provincial. Imagine a true red-blooded American making a jackass statement like that. You know, I think we ought to give the Statue of Liberty back to them. But we should modify it a bit. Instead of holding a torch, she could be raising her arm and flying the whole country the bird. We could set it up right next to the Awful Tower.

We should even change the inscription. Instead of it saying, "Bring me your tired, your poor your huddled masses yearning to breathe free." we could change it. We don't believe that any more anyway. No, when we alter it and give it back it should say, "Bring me your smelly, your pretentious, your snarling son's of bitches and call me queen of France."

Anyway, they all get trained to be pilots, and quite a few of them end up dying. This comes as no surprise to either the audience, or the cliched veteran American pilot who leads the squadron. But a few of them survive and become heros. There is nothing new or original here, but not a whole lot of movies about WWI pilots have ever been made, so this comes about as close to qualifying as originality as we are likely to get out of Hollywood these days.

This Week: Horton Hears a Who:

From everywhere they came before spending their bucks
To K.A.W. to find out, if this movie sucks.
No doubt, they must have thought, for everyone knows,
Old Kex would conclude that this movie blows.

Cat in the Hat was awful, The Grinch was a crime
Only Kex will tell us, how bad the Doctor was treated this time.
So Kex sat in a theater with kids of all ages
Some teens with their cell phones and a few revered sages.

There were Mingers and Pompers and Feezles about
A Bedroozle, some Dimbers and a Ruttollie no doubt.
A Kiniger came in, and some Bindeloes too
What's Kex rambling about? I haven't a clue.

So was this movie as bad as other Seuss of the past?
Surely it would be they thought, but Kex said, "Not so fast!"
No Myers on screen, or Carrey dressed like a green bear.
This time around, we had some animated fare!

We all know the story, it takes about ten minutes to read.
For a 90 minute film, it had to be fleshed out indeed.
It's easy to think that the result would be dumb
And stretching the plot would make our butts very numb.

Seuss wrote this story to warn the citizens of America of their fate
Following the path of a Senator from a North Central state.
But the messages contained in those wonderful lines of rhyme
Found new meaning to others with the passage of time.

But alas it's a pity, and a little bit rude
For Docs beloved characters to be toys served with bad food.
Still the movie's not bad and should bring you a smile
If only to escape the cold of late winter for awhile.

We hear voices of Carrey and Carrell, and old Ms. Burnett
The CGI characters are as good as any we have seen yet.
It's quite good enough to make us forget one sad bungle
As everyone knows, kangaroos are never found in the jungle.

Charlie Osgood sounds fine as he narrates the tale
With a pro like him involved, the movie can't possibly fail.
But Kex tell us true, was any of it funny?
"Enough so," said I, "It'll make lots of money.

"Go see it," says Kex, get out for a ride."
"Drive with haste to your theater, with your kids by your side."
"Buy Pepsi and popcorn, and maybe some candy."
"I'm sure you'll agree, this film is a dandy."

Copyright 1999-2007, 2008