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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:


Austin Powers 2

Austin Powers 2: The Spy Who Gagged Me:

There wasn't a damned thing worth wasting a couple of hours of my life seeing this week. There were absolutely no notable new releases, and even among the left over new releases last week, there was nothing I was going to get out of the house to spend my time on. The two films that have produced the most interest from the Kexkateers were Blair Witch II and Pay it Forward.

Blair Witch II is taking such a pounding from the real critics that I hardly need to pump any more bullets into a dead white elephant. Last year, a bunch of college kids with a rented 16 mm spent a couple of hundred thousand bucks and scared the bejesus out of movie goers and Hollywood. So the folks in tinseltown got on the band wagon, multiplied the original budget by about 100 and dropped a cinematic bomb. I gave the original Blair Witch a good rating because there was a lot to love about it. Mostly, a group of moronic, obnoxious, foul-mouthed teenagers got rubbed. What's not to love? I didn't want a sequel, I wanted a weekly series.

Meanwhile, Kex's sources in the field report that Pay It Forward is so preachy you might as well stay home and watch the debates. I'm depressed enough about this election as it is...once again, one of those morons is going to get the job. I'm guessing it'll be the Texas govenor who's brother ripped off every little old lady in Colorado when Silverado went down, and somehow managed to avoid spending the rest of his life in jail. I guess it helps if Dad is the Vice-President, with emphasis on the word vice: By Bush family standards, destroying an S&L that results in a $20 billion federal bailout is just a little high-spiritedness. He's certainly not my choice among the two evils, but I don't have much faith in the judgement of the people. Hell, if people weren't so willing to put up with crap, I'd have had a good movie to review this week.

Oh yeah, I was going to talk about Austin Powers: The Spy Who Gagged Me. This movie surprised me because it didn't really suck all that bad. The first one was mostly just dumb. If it hadn't been for Elizabeth Hurley, there would have been nothing in the entire film worth looking at. Michael Myers played duel roles in the first installment as Austin Powers, a sort of hipster-dufus 60's secret agent, and his evil nemesis, Dr. Evil. Myers was great as Dr. Evil, and little more than annoying as Powers.

In the second installment, Myers adds a third role to the repetoire, also appearing as Fat Bastard, one of Dr. Evil's key operatives. There is probably serious danger of failure in a movie when the bad guy is more compelling than the hero, an ongoing problem that largely sunk the Batman license. It's almost a disappointment in the Powers movies when Dr. Evil fails. But somehow, the films overcome the problem of a more interesting villan.

Joining Myers is Heather Graham, as his love interest Felicity Shagwell. Every time I look at Graham, I get this creepy feeling that there is something wrong with her face that I just can't put my finger on. Hollywood is trying to pass her off as a beautiful sex-goddess, but I'm guessing she earned the distinction on a casting couch somewhere. It's not like she is earning points on her acting ability.

In Austin Powers II, Dr. Evil travels back in time in an effort to settle the score with Powers by stealing his mojo. Apparently "mojo" is the secret to his otherwise inexplicable sexual prowess. With time travel capabilities, Dr. Evil would almost certainly have better opportunites to destroy Powers, as Evil's son points out, but then it wouldn't have been much of a movie.

Dr. Evil is joined by a new sidekick, his clone Mini-me. Together, they are threatening to blow up Washington D.C. with a super laser located on the moon. Naturally, Powers and Shagwell arrive to foil his evil plans. The movie has a few good laughs, mostly low grade humor, but compared to wretching my way through Blair Witch II, it is a worthwhile Friday evening rental.

Last Week: Monsters Inc.:

A few weeks ago I was invited to the home of some acquaintances who, while likeable, are sort of the pretentious academic types. As I entered their otherwise tastefully furnished home, I noted a rather hideous contemporary painting on the wall. It was little more than random splotches of paint and the odd swirl or two. Being Kex, my mouth engaged a split second before my brain, and I promptly commented on the fact that I found it rather hideous. My hosts were a bit shocked. They commented, "Why this is the latest original from Rudolpho De Froisgras," or some similar name. One of my hosts continued, "It represents the enternal struggle of man against the ever present hardships of life."

Properly admonished and educated, I suppose, I could only comment that I had recently watched a segment on the TV news in which a gorilla at the Denver zoo was given paint and some paint brushes. He created something, that in my estimation, looked remarkably similar. I added that it must have represented the gorillas' struggle against the eternal hardships of life.

You see, I don't think that the painter in question has any real, appreciable artistic talent as I would define it. At some point he has managed to convince people with too much disposable income that he does, however. All he really does is make a mess on a canvous, then allow art critics to tell everyone else what it represents. Then he peddles it off on upper middle class academics with no children, and subsequently lots of disposable cash. Finally, he laughs his ass off all the way to the bank, 8000 bucks richer. Its a nice scam. But somehow, I doubt anyone capable of pulling it off has any remarkable insights into the hardships of life, if you get my drift.

Now that I have told that story, which might end up being a little bit revelant in a few minutes, I'd like to discuss this week's film, Monsters Inc. Right up front, I want to say that from a purely visual standpoint, this movie looked good. Well, no, it looked great. Okay, actually, it looked really REALLY great. And that said, some of the worst dates I have ever been on were with women that looked really REALLY great.

"HEY! KEX! We don't believe you have ever been on a date with a woman that looked really REALLY great!"

Okay, so some of the worst dates I have ever been on have been with women that looked pretty good. See? I know the Kexkateers so well now I can do both parts. Think that is impressive? You should be around when I pray.


Never mind. That was a joke. The problem with Monsters Inc. is that as good as this movies looks, there just isn't much else to go on. The story is pretty shallow, and not interesting. I know its basically a children's movie, but I'd have been just as entertained as I was if I had gone wearing earplugs.

The basic premise of the story is that monsters live in an alternate universe linked to ours by children's closets. They power their city, Monsteropolis by harnessing the energy of children's fear when they pop out. The best at the craft is a big, blue, hairy monster named Sully (John Goodman). His assistant is a green ball with arms, legs and one eye. It must have taken some overpowering imagination to dream him up.

The monster's world is thrown into chaos when a little girl comes through the closet and invades their world. The evil head of Monster's Inc. and his assistant want to kidnap her, and other kids, to more easily harness their fear, since children are becoming harder to scare.

But in the end, Sully and his assistant demonstrate that there is more energy in laughter than fear, and the monsters change their ways. Their energy crisis is resolved. I'm not really giving away much by telling you the ending, because you are going to figure it out 10 minutes into the film anyway. There are a few dead end subplots, such as Sully's assistant's romance, but that has to be a dead end. One look at him leads us to conclude that the duo won't have much in the way of a rewarding sex life.

Now, getting back to where we started here, I read a review on this movie in which one critic concluded that the film featured a complex story rife with allusions about prejudice, office politics and alienation. Here is betting that the critic in question has a couple of original Rudolpho Defroisgras hanging on his wall right now. Monsters Inc. is a shallow, but marginally entertaining little children's tale which looks good. That is as far as it goes. The story is not complex, or symbolic.

I want to conclude on one other note. I'm going to tell you the secret to successful life in America in one word; "Marketing." I'd guess that if you polled people in America right now as to what the best animated film of all time is, this movie would get a significant number of votes, and a lot of them would come from people who haven't even seen it yet. Why? Marketing: The film is being marketed as the best animated feature of all time, and people are buying in. I even saw Halloween costumes based on the characters before the film was even released. Is this the best animated feature of all time? No. But at least we know what the best movie review site on the web is, right? So I'm getting busy with the marketing. *G*

Previously: Moonlight Mile:

You could tell that this movie was in serious trouble within the first 5 minutes. We open with a scene where Joe (Jake Gyllenhaal) pours a couple of teaspoons of Pepto Bismol into the dog's bowl along with the daily dosage of dog food. Presumably, it kept the dog from doing a lot of projectile vomiting for the run of the movie. If only we had mustered sufficient foresight to be equally well prepared.

Believe it or not, the movie decended into a deeper pit of difficulty following the canine Pepto dosage. When Joe, Ben (Dustin Hoffman) and Jo Jo (Susan Sarandon) pile into a limo to be transported to the funeral of Ben and Jo Jo's daughter, and Joe's fiance, the first of several temporal difficulties arise. I would offer that it would be difficult enough to make a credible movie if you haven't mastered the simple labor of telling time. But when you can't even consistantly figure out what season it is, things get really bizzare. Thus was the lot of director Brad Siberling.

When the motorcade first pulls away from Ben and Jo Jo's house, it is obviously the dead of winter, since snow and cold grey skies are evident. But along the way, the cars pass a little league game in progress, in which trees with leaves are plainly seen in the background, and the sky is a less ominious blue. Then, upon reaching the cemetary, it is clearly snowy, with grey skies and leaveless trees once again in view. Either Siberling doesn't know Jack Crap about continuity, or that was one hell of a long drive to the cemetary.

Later in the movie, Joe is attending a dinner at the house of some of Ben and JoJo's friends. The mother notes that her daughter's age is only 7 months different than Joe's. We also learn that the daughter recently had a birthday, and that Joe's birthday is in December. So, we conclude that this dinner get-together was occuring sometime in the summer, even though only a few days have passed since the funeral. It is also still cold and nasty outside. This fast and loose seasonal turmoil was apparently included to keep the audience so disoriented that they wouldn't seriously consider how badly this movie sucked otherwise. Sorry, but Kex is not that easily distracted.

Let us backtrack a moment, and consider the plot in a little more detail. Joe was engaged to Ben and JoJo's daughter, but she was murdered in a restaurant just weeks before the scheduled wedding. So Ben and JoJo invite Joe into their home, in hopes of filling the terrible void in their lives. Naturally, Joe, who struck me as a bit of a clueless vagrant, readily accepts the invitation to free room and board. It was not evident that he had a family of his own, or anywhere else to go, or anything else to do with his life, so this invitation had to be a real coup for him.

The weirdest part of all of this is that JoJo and Ben live in this crappy little town (are there ever nice, pretty little towns in movies?) where there are apparently no males between the ages of 12 and 57. There are a lot of single females around, consequently Joe's presence in Smallcrappytown is a little like dangling prime rib in front of a pride of starving lions. About 40 horny young females immediately begin swarming around Joe with the obvious intent to take a wild pony ride or two, but Joe will have none of it.

You see, Joe is so busy brooding that he is incapable of noticing that the young female populace of Smallycrappytown is doing everything short of a chorusline striptease to get his attention and favor. Initially we think it is because Joe is brokenhearted over the loss of his fiance, but later we learn that the pair had really broken up and the wedding was never going to occur. Consequently, Joe is being troubled by the angst of being a freeloading poser, or something like that. In the real world, a guy like Joe would swallow his pangs of conscious in about three hours and start a wild bagging binge on every horny package of estrogen in Smallcrappytown. Instead, this movie decided to take the low road and get weirder.

Joe meets a local lady who runs the postoffice and local bar. Out of the 47 women that are hot on Joe's trail, she ranks about 46 in all the significant qualities like attractiveness, low bitchy factor, psychological availablity and overall desirability. Still, Joe goes after her like trailer park dwellers to Jerry Springer.

Then, just when we think this movie couldn't get any weirder, we have this whole trial sequence. Joe busts out with this surreal dialog about truth and honesty that looked like it wandered over and leaped out of his mouth from some worse movie. Not that I was surprised by much of anything at this point...apart from the deep mystery of why I ever wanted to see it in the first place.
Dustin Hoffman wandered through this movie without ever really convincing us that he felt any particular connection to his character. Jake Gyllenhaal was wildly miscast; not surprising since I can't for the life of me think of a role in any movie I have ever seen that he would be right for...well, maybe an expendible teenager in one of those slasher flicks. The film's only redeeming quality was the performance of Susan Sarandon. But her excellent performace stood in such wild contrast to everything else in the movie that we wondered if her character was somehow edited in by mistake.

The moral of this mess? I think it was something like, "the truth shall set you free." Fair enough, I shall take the opportunity to set my readers free of the burden of seeing Moonlight Mile. This movie sucked.

Last Week: School of Rock:

There are words which should simply never be spoken; never ever. Not just because they are appalling, bald faced lies. Because they end up causing suffering and or death for millions of people. Here is an example of a phrase that never should have been spoken simply because it was a lie. In this case, it didn't really hurt anybody: "I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Miss Lewinsky."--Bill Clinton.

We all had a hissy about that one. A President shouldn't say something like that. Maybe, "Its none of your damned business." Would have been preferable. But we aren't terribly comfortable with the President doing something probably a majority of the people sitting in judgement of him had also done at some point, and we really didn't want him lying about it.

Here is a more serious one that so far, we've taken in stride, even though we should be holding the man's feet to a blistering fire: "He has weapons of mass destruction--the world's deadliest weapons-- which pose a direct threat to the United States, our citizens and our friends and allies.--George W. Bush.

If we keep letting our President tell lies like that and we won't have to worry about friends and allies. Meanwhile, that particular lie has cost thousands of lives, and carries an ongoing pricetag of over $1000 per second. Call it a matter of personal preference I suppose, but if we are going to threaten impeachment against a guy who lies about getting a hummer, we ought to be doing some serious whipping on a guy that lies about matters that carry us into war. Of course, George W. Bush has told the American public so many whoppers that the press no longer even has a standard to which they hold him.

Here is another really awful lie that got told somewhere, by someone. I have no idea who it was. It must have been some studio talent scout. While it hasn't killed anybody yet, but it has inflicted some serious pain and suffering. There should be consequences. Here is the lie in question: "Wow, that Jack Black kid has talent!" How much better off would the world of entertainment be if that one had never drifted out into the ether of human experience.

Even if that is one we can't do much about, here is another really awful lie: "This new script, School of Rock, is a winner! Lets make this one as soon as possible!" The saddest thing about all of this is that School of Rock is enjoying some box office success. That means that Black is going to get more lead roles, and School of Rock 2 is just over our horizon. Horrors!

Dewey Finn (Jack Black)is a lazy, good for nothing rock musician wannabe. Its pretty clear from the beginning that he has no talent. But he is supposed to be our object of sympathy. His roommate, Ned Schneebly (Mike White), is a former member of one of Dewey's failed bands. He grows up and realizes that there is no reliable future in playing rock music, so he does what we are supposed to think is an awful thing: He tries to create a stable future by becoming a teacher.

Ned has an annal retentive girlfriend who wants him to stop being such a spineless weenie, and toss Dewey out on his butt. Afterall, Dewey is apparently about a year behind on rent. We are supposed to hate her because she has a stick so far up her ass that it is protruding out of her mouth. In reality, she was the one adult character in this movie I did like. I'm thinking that I wouldn't put up with Dewey's crap very long either.

Threatened with expulsion, Dewey tries to appeal to his band to get serious about the upcoming Battle of the Bands, which carries a $20,000 prize. But even the members of Dewey's band are fed up with his shit, and they vote him out. In effect, everyone around this guy was convinced that he was a loser, but we were supposed to like him.

As Dewey is trying to recruit members for a new band, his roommate receives a phone call from an upper crust private school that needs a substitute. Dewey needs the money, so he takes the job posing as Ned. Now we are really starting to like the guy, as he is not only shiftless, but willing to commit felony impersonation.

Once teaching, he realizes that some of his students are talented musicians, and he puts together a band under the quise of a class project. Dewey wants to try to win the Battle of the Bands and collect the prize money. The students that can't sing or play an instrument are given crew jobs. The students get no education under Dewey, and the parents start to become suspicious when their children seem to be learning nothing except rock history.

Eventually Ned finds out what is going on when he receives a paycheck in his name from the school. His girlfriend again tries to make herself detestable by calling the police. I figured it was exactly what someone should have done. Meanwhile, the students go off to play in the Battle of the Bands, and their parents storm the event when everyone gets wise to what is going on. Naturally, the students put on a great show, and suddenly their parents are proud of what they have accomplished. I didn't get happy until I saw the final credits rolling.

Last Week: The Polar Express:

Really Fun!
You will love this movie!

Hauntingly beautiful!
Rightfully to be placed among the finest holiday films ever.
Sure to be an annual treasure! all the Kexkateers

May you always hear the bell.

(Now, turn off your computer, get off your butts, and go see this movie!)

Previously: Walk The Line:

For those of you checking in to read a review of Harry Potter, that will come next week.

Meanwhile, everyone sing along:

We're gonna burn burn burn! An awful moooovie!

Academy Awards night, two thousand five. There sits Joaquin Phoenix watching Jamie Fox picking up Best Actor honors for Ray, and thinking to himself, "Self, I could do that!"

Of course, there were a few problems with that thought. First of all, Joaquin isn't black, he couldn't pass for blind if you poked both his eyes out, he doesn't look even remotely like Ray Charles, and he can't sing a lick.

Okay, so casting Joaquin in either the inevitable remake of Ray or in Ray II: Return of the Jedi was obviously out of the question. No problem. How about taking the lead in a story based on the life of Johnny Cash? He doesn't have to be black, he doesn't have to be blind and he doesn't have to bear even the slightest resemblance to Ray Charles.

But, there are still problems. In the first place, he doesn't look anything like Johnny Cash either. Then there is still the damning problem that he can't sing. But remember here that Hollywood is basically run by a bunch of retards. Remember that this is the same entertainment capital that once cast Clint Eastwood and Lee Marvin in a musical. Did it bother anyone that they couldn't sing?

Well, yes. Paint Your Wagon crashed harder than Bush's approval ratings since November 2004. (I hate to say I told you so, but....). Now, they could have overcome the problem easily enough by just having Joaquin lipsinc to real Cash songs. But nobody in Hollywood is all that bright. Instead, somebody hit upon the ultimate low-road solution. And why would that surprise anyone?

"Hey, let's cast Reese Witherspoon in the role of June Carter!" Suggested someone who should be sentenced to life watching reruns of PeeWee's Playhouse. Then again, the idea made sense in the most perverse sort of Hollywood logical way. Witherspoon looks nothing like June Carter, and if it's remotely possible, her singing talents are even worse than Joaquin's. That is supposed to make it harder to notice that the entire production plays like bad karoke night somewhere on east Colfax.

I have learned something from watching Ray and Walk The Line. If you want to be a good singer, it helps a lot of your brother dies tragically when you are young. It also appears to be a pretty good career move to indulge in controlled substances to the point of frying your brains and very nearly ruining your life. In short, I guess I'm pretty glad both of my brothers are still alive, I abhor drug use, and my singing talents are even worse still than those of Phoenix and Weatherspoon...put together.

The plot of this movie is pretty easy to summarize. Johnny Cash rises from humble beginnings and finds fame as a singer. On the road, he meets June Carter, who has been famous since birth. In spite of the fact that he is married, has a kid and another on the way, he immediately tries to bag June.

Ten years slip away, with Cash and Carter touring together from time to time, or just bumping into each other along the road. Cash continues to try to bump June in a more intimate way. She resists his charms, mostly because he has none anyway.

Eventually at a show in Vegas, Cash manages to get her drunk enough or something, and bumps nasty with her. That leads to the downfall of his marriage, his full blown crash into drug dependency and his ultimate arrest on possession. For anyone in this life with half a brain, that series of personal tragedies might have dredged up the conclusion that chasing after June Carter=bad idea. But Cash persists. Eventually he straightens himself out, and wins her love.

There were a couple of interesting credits in this movie. The Carol Burnett Show and Jeopardy received a gratitous mention in the closing credits. I'm not sure why. There weren't clips from either in the film. Maybe the people who made it just spent most of their time watching the two shows, instead of actually doing any work on the movie.

There was also a credit to an actor portraying Roy Orbison. At lot of famous singers were portrayed in this film: Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis and Buddy Holly were most notable. But I didn't notice anyone who appeared to be portraying Roy Orbison. Maybe he ended up on the cutting room floor.

It was fitting that the beginning and one scene very near the end of this film was set in Folsom Prison. Spending two and a half hours watching it was like doing serious hard time.

Previously: Epic Movie:

Question: How do you go about making what is almost certain to be one of the worst movies of 2007? A good formula would be to try to lampoon some of the most well known movies of 2005 and 2006; many of which were sufficiently pathetic that any attempt to send them up made as much sense as trying to teach Dick Cheney to be surly and unpleasant.

The movies that became the target of Epic Movie Included Pirates of the Caribbean 2, Narnia, Snakes on a Plane, Nacho Libre, Harry Potter, Superman, X-Men, Willy Wonka and a few others along the way. Of course, it helps enormously if you have seen most of these films, otherwise the jokes might be a bit puzzling. If you have seen most of these films, as we did, the jokes are mostly too obvious and not particularly funny.

Who in their right mind would even bother to do any sort of parody of Nacho Libre or Snakes on a Plane? The former was a Jack Black movie. 'Nuf said. It was bad enough all by itself that the effort was pointless. The latter almost became an internet project, as ideas posted on various chat and fan sites became incorporated into the film. When you create a movie that is half written by internet addicts, you know you are going to end up with an unrepentent piece of garbage.

The movie starts as we are introduced to 4 "orphans," Edward (Kal Penn), Peter (Adam Campbell), Lucy (Jayma Mays) and Susan (Faune Chambers). What they don't know is that they are really all part of a single family. This is an example of what passes for comedy in the film: Edward is hispanic, Peter is British, Lucy is a brainless WASP and Susan is black. Wow...outrageously funny.

Through various misadventures, each of them discover that they are chosen to go on an epic adventure through a message they find in a Wonka candy bar. They are invited to tour Willy Wonka's factory. But it turns out that Willy is a sadistic cannibal who wants to cut them up and incorporate their body parts into his candy.

While fleeing Willy, Lucy happens onto a wardrobe that is a passage to the mysterious land of Gnarnia. Its hidden behind a bunch of crap that is stored in the wardrobe, which naturally all falls on her. Soon the others discover the passage as well. But Edward is seduced by the evil White Bitch (Jennifer Coolidge, aka "Stiffler's Mom"). She wants to prevent the band from fulfilling the prophesy that will liberate Gnarnia from her rule.

After Edward is imprisoned by the queen, the others must seek out the rightful ruler of Gnarnia, Aslo. Along the way, the group must be trained in the art of warfare by an aging Harry Potter and his friends. One would be strained to find anyone who hasn't done the excessively aging Harry joke at this point.

It turns out that Aslo (Fred Willard) is a half lion, half human who agrees to help the other three free Edward and fulfill the prophesy. Willard's appearance in the film does little more than remind us just how low rent this entire project is.

Meanwhile, Edward is making his own plans to escape, when entrusts fellow his fellow prisoner, the pirate Captain Jack Swallows. However, that is all a ruse, as Captain Jack is in the employ of the White Bitch, and she is merely trying to find out where the rest of the band is by getting Edward to reveal the information.

If gross out humor, painfully obvious gags, and watching familiar characters look even dumber is your bag, you'll probably enjoy Epic Movie. However, films like the Scary Movie series and Date Movie have already worn the genre so thin that there is really nothing original left to offer. Personally, I'd recommend that you just go out and rent the aforenamed films and make up your own jokes. It'll probably be more entertaining.

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