Wednesday, July 31, 2013

July Recap

Apparently it was Flame War month on the blog.  Two of the top posts of the month sparked nasty personal attacks.  I guess with as hot as it's been it's no surprise tempers flare up a little.

  1. My "review" of my new book "Girl Power" which was inspired in part by the books pictured above. Weirdly this has over 100 views and only 3 comments.  Maybe it's getting a lot of Google hits.
  2. My innocuous post on social media and influencing people that ignited a flame war to the point I had to freeze and hide comments.
  3. My insecure rant about books similar to mine.  The author of "The Turning" actually showed up to bash me while not bothering to defend his book.  I deleted the comment but he also posted it to Amazon which does not have my Stalinesque view on stupid comments.
And now some stuff I watched:

The Good Guys:  I watched the pilot for this a couple years ago when Fox unceremoniously dumped it into the late spring schedule.  I might have watched more but I forgot it was on, as is usually the case.  Anyway, I remembered it when I watched this "Lucky" movie (featured below) because it stars Colin Hanks as a straight-laced, career-minded cop who gets busted down to property crimes because he opened his mouth one too many times.  He gets assigned to Dan Stark (Bradley Whitford) who's like the cop version of Uncle Rico from "Napoleon Dynamite" in that he's stuck in the early 80s from the Trans Am he drives to the polyester clothes he wears to the Foghat he listens to religiously.  His motto is "Let's bust some punks" even though most of the time the punks in question are small-timers who steal humidifiers or bread into a dry cleaner or vandalize houses.  Yet strangely the small crimes always seem to lead to bigger cases.  This follows the buddy cop mold pretty well.  It's obviously not a gritty crime drama like "The Wire" or even "Law & Order."  Since it was created by the same guy as USA's "Burn Notice" it's no surprise it follows the same formula as USA crime dramadies like "Monk" and "Psych."  Actually the show would have probably been on longer if it aired on USA and not Fox since the ratings standards would be lower. 

Warm Bodies:  I don't really like traditional zombie movies.  They're all pretty much the same story in my mind.  But I do like movies that riff on the traditional formula like "Shaun of the Dead" and "Zombieland."  This is another good riff on the formula as it's a zombie love story!  R, a zombie, eats the brain of a normal girl's boyfriend and sees the boyfriend's memories of her.  He slowly starts to turn back into a normal human as he spends time with her.  Love conquers all!  If you can get past the many implausible elements, it's a fun movie.
Now, some internationally-themed dramas!

Red Corner:  This was a taut legal thriller about a guy (Richard Gere) who is trying to sell Baywatch and other shows to Communist China only to wake up one morning with a dead hooker in his room and police arresting him.  The rest is an examination of China's kangaroo court system.  It is pretty predictable but still engaging.

Hotel Rwanda:  It's kind of like Schindler's List only in Rwanda in 1994 and a hotel instead of a factory.  Don Cheadle plays the hotel manager Paul who has been good at cozying up to Western people who visit the hotel.  Most of those Westerners abandon him once the shit hits the fan.  Through bribery and phone calls to well-placed people, Paul manages to keep over 1200 people alive.  Watching this and "The Whistleblower" a couple months ago makes it clear how impotent UN "peacekeepers" are.  If they aren't standing around watching people get slaughtered then they're raping girls and selling them into slavery.  Anyway, a lot of the reason two tribes in Rwanda hated each other is one tribe's people had noses that were wider or some silly bullshit like that.  It really brings to mind that old Star Trek episode with the two black-and-white guys.  Really though, you're going to kill thousands of people because you don't like their noses?  This world sucks sometimes.

Babel:  This was about as boring as I thought it'd be.  I don't know why 1/4 of the movie had to be devoted to a deaf Japanese schoolgirl who went around exposing herself to everyone:  random guys, her dentist, a cop.  I mean I get her dad gave a rifle to a Morroccan guy who sold it to a guy whose kids shot Cate Blanchett, but so what?  If you're going to make that tangential of a connection, why not have stories about the people who made and designed the gun and the bullet?  "Lord of War" did pretty much the same thing as this movie in the credits by following a bullet from the factory all the way to when it killed someone in Africa.

The King's Speech:  This was good up until the speech part.  I felt like when I watched "Snow White and the Huntsman" where Kristen Stewart had to deliver some big motivational speech and it fell really flat.  In the same way once the king makes his speech it's like, oh, really, that's it?  It was not that great of a speech.  There were more pauses than if Shatner had been reading it.  You could tell the dude was just fighting through it.  (Which really if he's the king couldn't he have gotten better speechwriters?  Ones to cater to his handicap and for instance eliminate P-words that trip him up?)  Anyway, compared to Hitler and FDR, King George VI would come in a distant fourth for speechmaking.  And then at the end it says the king and his therapist remained friends for the rest of their days; wasn't that like 13 years?  Didn't his daughter Elizabeth take over in 1952?  It seemed kind of misleading.

God Bless America:  I watched this on Fourth of July just for the irony.  It's a very dark comedy written and directed (but fortunately not starring) Bobcat Goldthwaite.  Frank, a sadsack who's divorced, loses his job, and has a brain tumor, gets sicks of our vapid, mean-spirited, celebrity-obsessed culture and with the help of a psychotic teenager goes around shooting reality celebrities, political pundits, the Westboro Baptist Church, and random douchebags on his way to LA to kill the cast of American Idol (or a thinly veiled version thereof).  While I'd disagree with the methodology, I can't really disagree with what Frank says.

Super:  This features a premise that isn't all that fresh.  An ordinary guy loses his wife to a drug dealer and with the help of a really terrible Christian superhero series decides to become the Crimson Bolt, who beats people with a pipe wrench.  Like Kick-Ass it starts off relatively goofy and benign and gets increasingly violent and gory.  Though from a Practical Superheroism standpoint I had to appreciate all the things he does right with his final incarnation of the Crimson Bolt:  using a bulletproof vest, carrying a gun and a knife, etc.

Highlander:  Endgame:  This movie's fine as long as you know nothing about the first "Highlander" movie where the eponymous character was the last of the "immortals" and won "the prize."  But hey none of that happened so now some relative of his ends up killing him and taking his power to kill some really bad guy.  I'm not sure there's a movie series that's made less sense except perhaps the "Troll" movies.

Tomb Raider:  Cradle of Life:  Speaking of dumb sequels!  This is a bunch of pointless stunts in search of a story.  But it's a good way to remember Angelina Jolie's original boobs fondly.

Blue Valentine:  I remember there was some flap about this movie maybe getting an NC-17 rating because of all the dirty sex scenes.  WTF happened to those?  Did they cut all those out to get the R rating?  There is still some sex but it didn't seem especially steamy to me.  The rest of it is a fairly ordinary story of a couple who hook up and get married maybe for the wrong reasons (a baby that may or may not be his) and discover years later that maybe they don't really love each other anymore.  But if you watch just one movie this year with Ryan Gosling singing while playing a ukelele, make it this one.

Ordinary People:  This movie probably would have seemed less ordinary (punny!) if I hadn't seen the later "Door in the Floor" based on the first third of John Irving's "A Widow for One Year" which features a lot of the same material.  That being that after an accident that kills one of her kids, a mother really doesn't like the other kid anymore and becomes cold and withdrawn, which ultimately brings down her marriage.  (OK, in "The Door in the Floor" it's actually both kids who die and the replacement daughter the mother doesn't like and the husband is more of a cad, but still...)  And the psychologist scenes made me think of "Good Will Hunting."  So obviously this must be a good movie if at least two other movies stole from it!

Price Check:  This is an IFC movie about a guy who works for a third-rate supermarket chain's marketing department.  He and his wife are struggling to pay the bills and then along comes his new boss (Parker Posey) who promotes him to a VP and starts moving in on him and his family.  But the more important message is about the guy having to grow up and put his dreams of working in the music biz aside for the sake of his family.

You ever get to that point where you've exhausted all the good movies you want to watch on Netflix and you just start to watch more marginal things that sound somewhat interesting?  That's the point I finally reached in July.  Hence I watched some terrible-to-OK stuff:

Iron Sky:  You have to admire a movie that starts off with a ludicrous idea--in this case Nazis building a huge base on the dark side of the moon after losing WWII--and then proceeds to get ever more ludicrous.  There's all the hammy acting and cheesy effects you'd expect in a Syfy Channel movie, but it's a fun B-movie with one of the better space battles in recent memory.

Branded:  There are some movies that look bad and then you realize are pretty good...this is not one of those.  The plot really made no sense.  Apparently fast food companies want to make people think fat is beautiful.  Because there aren't enough fat Americans already.  So they decide to sponsor an extreme makeover show in Russia where a fat chick gets surgery to be skinny except she goes into a coma and so everyone in Russia decides to get fat.  Then an ad exec burns a Red Bull (an actual bull) and is able to see that brands have invisible kaiju attached to them and pits them against each other until Russia bans marketing entirely.  Um, what?  How do you buy a car or TV or box of cereal if you're not allowed to advertise?  Do they all just come in one plain version?  According to the movie Lenin was the basis of all modern marketing.  I'm not sure how true that is or not, but it would be ironic if the Communists had created the capitalist machine that destroyed them.

Lucky:  This has an interesting high concept:  what happens when a serial killer's victim wins the lottery?  The answer is that the killer gets the jackpot and pretty much drives his gold-digging childhood best friend insane when she marries him and learns the truth.  The concept was probably better than the execution.  The movie stars Colin Hanks as the Norman Bates-esque killer.  The problem watching Colin Hanks in anything is I spend most of the movie thinking how much he looks like his more famous father, Tom.  He should get some plastic surgery or something.  And a voice synthesizer because they kind of sound the same too.

Flypaper:  This starts off as kind of a normal bank heist/hostage movie, but with a twist that TWO crews try to heist the bank at the same time.  One is a trio of real professionals and the other is a pair of rednecks who figured they'd bust open the ATMs.  Things take a turn when some of the hostages start to end up dead and it becomes more like a game of Clue.  Trying to solve the case is that McDreamy guy from Grey's Anatomy who has some kind of mental disorder for which he needs pills but of course there aren't any.  It's pretty fun even if there seem to be some holes created by M Night-style plot twists at the end.

Incidentally, Branded, Lucky, and Flypaper all feature Jeffrey Tambor in a supporting role, which kind of freaked me out when I watched them back-to-back-to-back.  Is he just in every independent movie now?


  1. I was curious about Warm Bodies. A friend of mine said it was twilight With zombies. I never understood the Highlander movies. I liked the first one, with Christopher Lambert and 007, but after that it went weird. Jeffrey Tambor must be stalking you.

  2. dude...flame wars have been your specialty since al gore invented the internet lol :-) some of those late 90s ones were classic

  3. You REALLY were digging deep into Netflix this month.

    "Warm Bodies" seemed like a Tumblr of a movie: once you know the basic concept, you get every joke that can be made about it, making the premise itself tired almost instantaneously.

  4. I've since let go of my anger I had with regard to Briane P and Andrew. It was good I stepped away from it for a while. I started following both of them again.

  5. In the future, you really should link to the posts you reference in the recap. And leave all comments, even those you'd rather not keep. The only bad comment is spam.

    1. It's also worth noting that Iron Sky was created by the same friendly Finnish filmmakers who gave us Star Wreck: In the Pirkinning. These guys have basically been making amateur films. I haven't seen Iron Sky, but Pirkinning was just this side of genius. They do much better work than most of the amateur films I've seen (which is why I've never made it a habit to watch amateur films). In another lifetime, their movies would star Simon Pegg.

    2. I reckoned I should put links in but then I figured no one would care so why bother?

  6. There's no such thing as bad publicity I guess. Of the movies you reviewed I've only seen a couple. The scene in Hotel Rawanda I remember most was when they were driving down the road and realized it was covered in bodies. That really drove home the scale of the atrocity. It was a good movie, which is why I have a hard time accepting him as War Machine. I still think of him as a pacifist.

  7. The only movie on your list that I've seen is The King's Speech. I think you might have missed the point; this wasn't about whether or not the speech was any good, it was about overcoming a tremendous obstacle to do one's duty. Remember that this poor fellow had lived in his brother's shadow his entire life and was not supposed to become king, much less in time of war. The fact that this was all true made the movie all the more appealing for me. I've seen the movie several times and highly recommend it.


    You say you've had to delete comments from people; does this trouble you, or is it your intention to create a dialogue?

  8. I was wondering why I couldn't comment on that post. Now I feel curious about what everyone was arguing about.

  9. I hope everyone has hugged it out by now. What a goofy month. I've often wondered if I should start rating movies or something. It seems like something I should be doing.



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