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The Cabin in the Woods (2012)
I've never understood the Cult of Whedon. I've spent my life at the altar of sci-fi and fantasy, and I find his efforts to water down both genres so as to make it digestible to the "norms" deplorable. His imagination seems alive, but restrained by some kind of formula or methodology which lays waste to every cool concept he writes up.
But then, I've never understood the concept of horror. The old, pre-war Hammer and Universal horror movies are cool because they're just cheap popcorn fun. Horror was easy before the images of Nazi concentration camps made humankind a bigger, badder monster than his celluloid creations.
Having said all that--I understand what they're trying to do in this film. It's a homage mixed with some half-baked concept that actually sounds kind of cool if you extricate it from the homage part. Too bad they're beating the old ideas they homage into a fine paste with the blunt instrument of a half-baked idea.
What If Fans of "King of the Hill" Took Over the World?
A friend of mine threw Idiocracy into the DVD player while we were doing a computer rebuild just to have something on in the background. I dimly recalled hearing about the movie when it came out, but because Fox didn't do any marketing, I had no expectations about the movie beyond my friend's comment that it had its moments. Three days later the movie still haunts me to the point where I had to come here and post a review.
This doesn't mean that I think that Idiocracy is a perfect movie. It has logic holes so big you could drive a monster truck through them. But somehow, I think this is part of the point of the film. If it got everything right, it could have gone down as one of the great dystopian sci-fi classics of the ages, but that's not this movie's goal. Its goal is humor with a message, a much more honorable goal in an era where horror surrounds us on all sides. Idiocracy parodies itself even as it's making important points about the direction that the world is headed. Or at least America.
No, this movie isn't going to solve any of the problems it presents in alarming and almost horrifyingly believable detail. This isn't going to make any movie critic's top 100 lists anytime soon, but I'll argue that it's a movie that most Westerners will see something familiar lurking in the background. Using all those images, archetypes and visuals that our subconscious minds have absorbed since birth, it warns you while it makes you laugh.
I can only hope that this film becomes another cult hit for Mike Judge.
I Am Legend (2007)
Another Zombie Movie
As a big fan of Richard Matheson's work, I went into this movie wanting to like it. Will Smith has the skill to act, so there were many reasons to be optimistic. Unfortunately they just didn't do it right.
The main problem was the ridiculous superpowers that infected humans get from this unexplained, convenient, super-virus. Not only did these creatures resemble demonic bad guys from a video game, they are created by the same technology. And they're just as easily dismissed with their inability to speak or do anything but scream and murder. The probability of an anti-cancer virus genetically re-engineering humans into virtually indestructible beasts with superhuman powers is laughable at best. If they're such perfect killing machines, they would likely have run out of food really fast and ended up cannibalizing each other out of existence. Ignoring that, Will Smith's character would have ever survived for long with these things around is unlikely. The religious zealotry and rationalized insanity of Omega Man's albino bad guys was far more believable and probable despite the cheesiness.
The storyline is equally freshman, yanking on heartstrings with predictably tragic events created to incite sympathy for the main character. The scene where he is rescued from his attempt at suicide is never properly explained. The idea that an ex-Army Colonel with access to hardware wouldn't have the necessary weapons to deter an army of zombie monsters is preposterous. And I have no idea when pleasing red state piety became a Hollywood priority, but the implication of divine grace and intervention in the plot was going way too far.
So why the 4? Because Will Smith did a good job with a bad story. Because the scenes were laid out beautifully. Because Bob Marley is heavily referenced. Because I liked the ending even though it leaves a lot of questions hanging.
Around the Fire (1998)
Three for Tara Reid
It's worth watching if you're a guy who wants to see Bunny Lebowski dressed up as a hot hippie. Otherwise, it is a very inaccurate portrayal of what life is like on tour. Despite the fact the Dead let the producers use one of the best versions of "Brown Eyed Women" available (8/27/72 I believe?), it's a thinly veiled, misinformed, anti-drug tirade that has nothing to do with how things are conducted within the hippie tour community.
The story starts off with good intentions, but if the people responsible for this movie had stuck with the real story of a misfit trying to find someplace to fit in, it would have worked. Every kid whose been on tour eventually has to deal with the drug thing, but this movie gets distracted by that impasse, dragging the whole movie into a big authority power trip. Having been on tour many times, I can tell you that the experience of it could fill a movie with wonderful characters, hilarious situations and sacred moments. But someone somewhere decided that a movie like that would be celebrating a lifestyle that Big Brother does not condone.
Silly and Cheesy
While it's camp value is worthy of a viewing, this movie is a mess from a technical standpoint. The editing and sound engineering make it so that you spend half the movie trying to figure out what the hell is going on. I didn't even know Sweetback was supposed to be a prostitute until I read it here. It seems to be more soft-core porn with a tacked on plot rather than a serious movie. While it's a great time capsule of 60's attitudes towards sex, it comes across as more of a reason for Melvin to get it on with actresses.
But apparently it didn't matter--the movie made money. Perhaps it's the total cheesiness that is the film's allure. Or maybe it's the excellent soundtrack (I really thought someone famous had done it) that gave it street cred. But it's probably all that silly sex going on throughout the film that made the film its money.
Match Point (2005)
Rent Crimes & Misdemeanors Instead
There have been few moments in my life where I've felt ripped off after seeing a movie, but this was one of them. I went into this flick hoping to see a good Woody Allen Movie, and all I got was an updated version of "Crimes & Misdemeanors" featuring steamy, forbidden sex between two beautiful people instead of two older people. Woody already did this before, and he's done it better.
Sure, the movie builds interesting characters in the beginning and sets them in an interesting place. But very early on the plot loses its way and descends into cliché. The characters show behavior that you can read about in the tabloids in line at the supermarket. Big deal. The whole theme of luck loses its punch due to some glaring, huge holes in the story that anyone with rudimentary common sense could figure out. There's just too much wrong with this film to forgive it on the basis of Woody's reputation.
The real tragedy of this film is that it had all the necessary components to say something worth saying rather than something already stated elsewhere. If it's supposed to be art, it's Xeroxed art. If it's supposed to simply tell a story, it's a story we've seen a million times.
The Big Lebowski (1998)
The Big Lebowski is rare in the world of motion pictures. It's like a well written book (like Dune or LOTR) in that you can walk away with something new from it with each repeated viewing. The Cohen brothers put a lot of thought into their films, and the Big Lebowski is no exception.
Talking crap about a movie is the easiest thing to do, and I've read a few reviews that have done just that about Lebowski. In these people's defense, it's easy to jump to this conclusion because at first glance, it appears to be a meaningless film. But if it were meaningless, why set the film during the first Gulf War? Why do a period piece set 7 years before the movie's release? Because they're playing with allegory here, trying to say something about America.
There is much evidence of this. The perceptive viewer will note that we're dealing with clearly cut characters that embody archetypes of American culture. We're also dealing with events that mimic the political and sociological landscape of 1991. In addition, most period pieces splash nostalgia all over the screen, but there's hardly any in Lebowski. This movie is a humorous, tongue-in-cheek statement about the health of the American character circa 1991.
But even if you take the meaning of the movie out of the equation, The Big Lebowski is a top notch film. The characters and their interactions in the movie are entertaining. The direction plums the depths of their potential and brings it out for us to enjoy. The scenes work to promote the themes of the movie and give us a good laugh in the process. The Cohens did their job and then some on this one, and it seems to me like they had a damn good time doing it.
SHOULD BE REQUIRED VIEWING IN ALL SCHOOLS
The genre of science fiction has evolved drastically over the years since Day the Earth Stood Still came out. I suggest that in the light of such films as this, modern sci-fi has devolved significantly (see Independence Day).
Day The Earth Stood Still is pure science fiction, but in a decade of cheesy "B" movies, witch hunting for communists and the growing awareness that mankind could nuke itself into oblivion at any moment, it's a bold statement about the human race. Most people living nowadays can't remember what it was like to have the threat of a full nuclear exchange hanging over their head all the time. A lot of people alive during the early 50's were scared by the atom bomb, and had little faith in human wisdom. That's what this movie was talking about. It's a movie with a message, and just like The Matrix, it's message takes precedence over any petty, minor inconsistencies that may exist within its framework.
This movie is a peice of art trying to make a statement, not JUST a movie about a human extraterrestrial visiting Earth in a spaceship. There are reasons The Day The Earth Stood Still is considered one of the finest movies of the 50's. The most important being that it gave the sci-fi genre credibility through its exploration and understanding of the wide spectrum of human nature. We understand the hot soup that we're in by the end of the movie, and it leaves any rational, good natured person lamenting the fact that it's message is still as relevant today as it was in 1951.