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A sequel that's BETTER than the original - it is all Firefly could have been!
Serenity is the movie sequel to the much-beloved, ended much too soon US Fox television network science-fiction series "Firefly," with all the show's central characters, doing the same fine acting they did in Firefly.
And it's not just a sequel - it rises to the occasion to be a much better story than any of the individual episodes of Firefly.
Serenity's a luminous rebooting of Firefly, and you don't have to have seen a single episode of Firefly to enjoy it immensely. But those of us who knew and loved Firefly will love it more, because it's also more of what we loved and Fox took away from us.
Serenity, like Firefly, is a science fiction story with strong elements of westerns, spy movie intrigue, and lots and lots of spine-tingling action, and wry, irresistible humor throughout - the humor that comes from a cast that has incredible chemistry.
The plot begins with a half-western, half very high-tech bank heist which goes very much awry, then evolves into a cosmic spy drama centered on River Tam, the victim of terrible experiments on her brain committed by a secret, murderous agency of the tyrannical Alliance of Planets, which governs the colonies of a distant star settled by refugees from a dying Earth.
River Tam and her physician brother Simon are passengers on the starship Serenity, captained by Malcolm Reynolds, a Browncoat - veteran of the war between the Alliance and a confederacy of planets who resisted their overreach (along with his first officer, Zoe Washburn, who's also the wife of the Serenity's pilot).
Serenity's crew are the most entertaining bunch of smugglers and mercenaries in fiction, and why so many of us Firefly/Serenity fans wear brown coats. I won't spoil the plot for you - enjoy it for yourself. Then get a brown coat.
An "anti-adaptation" that needs to be edited. Why did we have to spend ten minutes watching the protagonist drive down a highway?
The idea behind this original film adaptation of Stanislaw Lem's classic science-fiction novel "Solaris" is sound: the idea that humanity finds at the furthest end of its exploration of space... a mirror, so that people are forced to see themselves and stop avoiding the things they'd rather forget.
Once the viewer (my wife and I watched it together as we both speak Russian) gets past the tedium which the screenwriters inject into the plot to make it LESS interesting (what I meant by an "anti-adaptation" of the original novel), then yes, that point is made, and made very powerfully.
Nothing's wrong with Solaris that cutting thirty to fifty minutes of very boring footage couldn't fix. In that respect, it far outshines George Clooney's Hollywood remake of Solaris, which actually put me to sleep - something the Mosfilm original didn't do.
A fine example of what ought to have been cut from the movie is the drive back from the dacha into town over what was probably intended to be a futuristic highway. I thought that concrete, elevated highways were super cool the first time I saw them, too, but as an adult I can say that the whole scene adds NOTHING to the movie - it's just tedium for tedium's own sake.
Just ignore scenes like that and hang around for the good stuff, when the psychologist actually lands on Solaris. THAT is worth all the boredom that comes before.
The Manhattan Project (1986)
Pretty good science-fiction thriller
"Manhattan Project" is a thriller... maybe a little too aware of its own social importance, but it has some very funny scenes (the science fair's a laugh riot, especially for anyone who's ever been in one). And the dramatic parts are great, too.
It's just, when you start digesting the movie, it becomes a bit absurd. It doesn't take a nuclear weapons geek to realize that the government would rather make the purest plutonium on Earth in Los Alamos, New Mexico, where it already owns a county or two of desert sealed for your (and their) protection from spies and leaks of nasty stuff, and not Ithaca, New York.
Even the plutonium plant in West Valley, New York would be a bad place for such a thing, because all the plutonium there is regularly inspected by a UN agency, and the plutonium in THIS movie is military plutonium which the Departments of Energy and Defense would rather NOT have the IAEA inspecting.
Also, OK, nuclear physicists get horny and date cute real estate agents. They try to make points with the families of such real estate agents. But do they sneak teenage kids into their top-secret plutonium production laboratories? Not in this world.
By comparison, the clinkers dropped in the scenes where the teenage kid is actually processing plutonium pale by comparison.
All through that sequence, I was thinking "Someone's been reading 'The Curve of Binding Energy,'" John McPhee's extended interview with nuclear weapons designer Ted Taylor, which contained an unclassified outline of how to build a nuclear weapon.
Let's just say that the screenwriters SKIMMED "The Curve of Binding Energy" - the details would just bore most people reading this review. But you have to give them credit for doing much more homework than the usual Hollywood screenwriter.
So, I have to give this movie credit for touching all the bases of a good science-fiction thriller. It gets decent scores for technical accuracy, and it was ahead of its time on a lot of things (excimer laser isotopic separation's all the news, these days - the Australians, who are basically sitting on top of a huge part of the world's uranium reserves, have been playing with the process for some time, now).
The rest of the plot... the romantic stuff just gets the viewer to the point where serious theft of fissile materials happens. It's actually funny in a way that Oedipal jealousy drives the early part of the film... "that BASTARD! Putting moves on my Mom like that! I'll show him... I'll, I'll, I'll STEAL his PLUTONIUM, THAT'S what I'll do!"
And really, what's this kid's PROBLEM, anyway? He's got study dates with a girl built for sin, and he's POed because his mom's dating someone considerate enough to show him a million-dollar excimer laser? Stranger things have happened in real life, but I dunno... it blew my willing suspension of disbelief away for a while.
But it's a good film. Worth ONE viewing, at least.
A very nice distillation of Carl Sagan's novel
I don't usually think much of screen adaptations of novels; they often come out being very different stories, and seldom better than the novels.
Contact is a pleasant surprise. It's a very extensive rework of the story told by astrophysicist and science writer Carl Sagan, and for a wonder, every change is for the better. Partly, I suspect that this is because the screenwriters who did the adaptation are simply better writers than Dr. Sagan was.
While Contact is a great story about how contact with a civilization from another star system might actually occur, Sagan didn't tell it as well as other writers might have. He spent a lot of time grinding his ideological axes from cover to cover.
Sagan's points were almost all well-taken, but for someone who likes to throw the term "chiliast" (another word for "extremist" which sounds like it refers to molesting little kids with Southwestern cooking) around in his prose, Sagan gets a little chiliastic in Contact himself. The screenwriters dialed that back a LOT from the novel while still making Sagan's points for him. They probably made his points BETTER than he did by not being as intense about it.
Jodie Foster is probably the very best cast for Ellen Arroway available, having had the requisite brains to get into Yale in real life, she makes a very convincing scientist, very much like the brilliant women I've known in science and medicine over my career. She's also got acting tools too well-praised to need further praise from me.
Matthew McConaughey did yeoman work with that the screenwriters gave him to work with, the extensively re-written character "Palmer Joss."
It's not his fault that while this character's much more believable than the original from the novel (Sagan's Palmer Joss was almost a caricature as originally written, and seldom more than two-dimensional), there are still difficult things to believe about how the movie's Palmer Joss behaves. But McConaughey did his usual great work with what he had.
I'm not going into plot development further than that because Contact's so well-written, directed and performed that you deserve to experience every single part of it for the first time.
Contact's not just a great movie. It tells the story Carl Sagan intended to write the way he should have.
Fail Safe (2000)
The very best thing George Clooney did or will ever do.
I want to freely state here that George Clooney is capable of brilliance, and the live television production of "Fail Safe" is a prime example of this. Whether it needed to be produced in black and white... is an artistic judgment that a lot of people agreed with. I was "meh" about it - this is, after all, the 21st century, and the only reason that Fail-Safe was done in black and white originally was economics. Now color's as cheap as black and white, and nothing in the original Burdick and Wheeler novel "Fail-Safe" demanded black and white.
One suspects Clooney is nostalgic for the 1960s, when so many moral questions seemed easier to plumb to us baby-boomers. But the black and white presentation's a relatively minor issue.
One thing I missed from the first movie presentation and the novel was a stronger Prof. Grotescheele (the Herman Kahn-like character in the movie played by Hank Azaria, who cut a figure in Georgetown house parties by brandishing his knowledge and seeming insouciance about thermonuclear war). The character came across as oddly subdued in the Clooney adaptation, perhaps because his egotism was shown (in the novel) in places which may have been very difficult to stage for a live production (in one case, the inside of a parked car). That's ONE drawback to live productions - you're limited in staging.
But these are minor cavils. The fact is, George Clooney shot for a very hard target - reviving live television drama - and hit it outstandingly. The atmosphere of tension and violently conflicting loyalties comes across as sharp or sharper as in the original movie.
I recommend you view this film, and the original film, and read the novel "Fail Safe," for the problem it explores, the very unsteady nature of nuclear weapon command and control, is going to be even more important to us as the membership of the Nuclear Weapon Club passes ten and moves toward twenty nations. Eventually, how well Bangladesh can control its nuclear arsenal when North Korea sells them one will be a question that affects all of us personally.
And I fervently agree with George Clooney's remarks in the end credits of his adaptation of "Fail-Safe" that the growing membership of the nuclear club is an ominous development. I disagree that arms control is imperative; we've had arms control and a Nuclear Non- Proliferation Treaty for almost fifty years, and in that time India, Pakistan, South Africa and North Korea joined the Nuclear Club,often with help from fully signed-up (on paper) opponents of nuclear proliferation. There are absolutely no simple solutions to this problem.
Iron Sky (2012)
Porno for leftist bigots
Here in the United States of America, Iron Sky skidded past "direct to DVD" to the next lower stage of popularity, "Direct to Netflix."
Actually, I don't KNOW whether Iron Sky was sold here on DVD, but we sure never saw any ads for it. Now, what makes a movie SO bad that even the flacks of Hollywood won't try to make a serious dime off of it?
It's not that the film is critical of America. Americans are the most masochistic moviegoers on the planet. We have almost unlimited patience with social critics, and if Iron Sky had had any redeeming qualities to speak of apart from occasional fantastic special effects scenes (including one of the most entertaining space battle scenes - not necessarily the best, because, like George Lucas, the makers of the film think you can bank a spacecraft in vacuum), it might have had some viewers.
But Iron Sky seemed to have been written by the Obama campaign. The makers of the film just can't stop pinching loaves off on George W. Bush. Which is fine if you think that absolutely nothing happened between the end of 2008 and 2012 when the film was released, but most of us are tired of hearing "it's all Bush's fault and it'll always BE Bush's fault, and the Nazis weren't even all that bad compared to Republicans."
"Iron Sky" also insults African-Americans, by implying that the only way one would go into space is as an ACTOR. To get their heads into THAT message, the backwoods skinheads responsible for this turkey and the people giving it high scores would have had to be ignorant of the fact that just ONE of the several African-Americans in the US space program racked up over 688 hours in Space Shuttle missions over five separate missions - which makes Dr. Guion Bluford (now retired from NASA) a more formidable space power by HIMSELF in real life than ANY of the nations whose taxpayers paid for "Iron Sky." Just saying.
This is one seriously bigoted movie. It out-paces serious competition from Hollywood to be the Left's answer to D.W. Griffith's "The Klansman" and "Birth of a Nation."
Funnily enough, it seems to have gotten most of its funding from a nation remarkable for having hung in there with Hitler and the Nazis during World War 2, whose aircraft bore the swastika proudly in their war with Russia - Finland. This may explain the cuddly-fuzzy portrayal of Nazis in Iron Sky's script - sort of a large-screen sci-fi version of "Hogan's Heroes."
So, if you really want to sit through two hours of really slanted and groundlessly negative portrayals of Americans, go for it.
I'm sure our current President LOVES it. I'm not sure what all the people praising Obama and this film at the same time are thinking of, because we're talking about someone who spies on his own people, wiretaps the press, and uses the Internal Revenue Service to punish the political opposition.
But maybe that's how the fans of this show in Germany, Australia and Finland like it.
Oh, and looking over all 24 pages of reviews and ratings, halfway through I noticed at least ten posts were duplicated word for word. Congratulations, Iron Sky fans, for finding a way to pw'n IMDb by duplicating good ratings with the posts.
I'm sure Hollywood's paying attention, and we'll NEVER see a Hollywood feature score less than 9 on IMDb from now on. You've shown them how to game the system.
Dr. Cook's Garden (1971)
Bing Crosby's ultimate made for TV movie
Bing Crosby Productions made a number of what used to be called "thumbsuckers," movies with a philosophical context (not necessarily "message movies," although some of them were).
Dr. Cook's Garden is one of those and stars Bing Crosby himself. It features Frank Converse as Jimmy Tennyson, a young doctor going back to his roots in a quaint New England town. Naturally, he visits the town doctor, Dr. Leonard Cook, played by Crosby in one of his better, certainly darker, portrayals.
During his visit, Dr. Tennyson notices people dropping dead who didn't seem to have a life-threatening condition... except they often weren't nice to know or particularly decent people. There also seems to have been an unusually sharp distribution between the healthy, thriving population of the town and some sickly kids and adults who die sooner than Tennyson would have predicted.
His curiosity piqued, Tennyson noses around Cook's clinic. In the dispensary, where drugs and other supplies for the clinic are kept, he notices an unusually large variety and number of poisons... and Dr. Cook knows that Tennyson noticed.
Suddenly. Tennyson begins having close calls, then, in a climactic picnic (just Tennyson and Cook in a bucolic meadow), the two men have it out. Tennyson has a sandwich with a strong mustard which conceals a dose of cyanide, and when it begins to take effect, Dr. Cook reveals his secret and offers Tennyson a chance not to die if he accepts Cook's method of keeping his little town decent. Tennyson accepts, Cook gives him an antidote for the poison, and a tense relationship ensues, neither man trusting the other.
Eventually Cook himself has a heart attack; Tennyson has the nitroglycerin pills that CAN save Cook... who realizes he's about to be the latest weed pruned from Dr. Cook's Garden.
Crosby gives this character a calm but very dark nonchalance about the deaths he inflicts; it's a side of Bing Crosby I'd never seen back in 1971 when I first saw this film.
While Bing Crosby did produce "message movies" for TV, this isn't one of them. No easy answers are in the plot, and certainly nothing that smacks of Crosby's strong Catholic belief in real life. It's a very quiet, unassuming character study, and a mystery good enough to have been in the running for an Edgar Award.
I can recommend this, if you can find it. It's unusually thought- provoking for a Bing Crosby Production, worthy of that time in the history of television when at least some producers were smarting from FCC commissioner Newton Minow's judgment of television as a "wasteland," and trying to make worthwhile scripts. Watch it, you won't regret it.
Robot Chicken (2005)
Self-indulgent, self-referential crap
This is a clay-mation sketch alleged comedy series whose only virtue is irreverence. Yeah, their irreverence is way cool - for eighth graders.
Eighth graders would have done a better job than "Robot Chicken." It's politically preachy in a way that might have helped American voters make the biggest mistake they've ever made in a Presidential election TWICE.
I didn't mind the wicked sketches about Bush. What was ridiculous was the lack of ANY sort of balance - any recognition that John Kerry and Barack Obama are just as ridiculous in different ways, and just as unqualified to be President of the United States.
Robot Chicken would have done this country a real service if they'd been every bit as caustic and biting about Bush's predecessor, his opponent in the 2004 election, and his successor. Millions of people who lost insurance coverage as the "Affordable Care Act" (THERE'S a joke for you) went into effect would have thanked Seth Green and Matt Senreich if they'd just treated Obama the way they did Bush.
There's plenty of material for wicked, absolutely tasteless humor in Benghazi, Obama's spiritual "God Damn America" adviser (and the press' "nothing to see here, folks" reaction to a Presidential candidate who sat in the pews and lapped up racist vomit spewed from the pulpit of his church FOR 20 YEARS); the sketch about "Operation Fast and Furious" just about writes itself, as does the one about Attorney General Eric Holder getting his cues on how to be the nation's chief law-enforcement officer from the Nixon Administration playbook.
The ultimate Obama sketch would have showed him in Wicked Witch of the West drag giving the Flying Monkeys of the IRS union their marching orders to drag in every Tea Party and conservative organization in the country - and their little dogs, too. But maybe that's over the heads of Seth Green and Matt Senreich.
So... apart from Robot Chicken being a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Democratic Party, the sketches themselves are the very worst sort of sophomoric humor - actually, I've coined the term "freshmanic" for humor that doesn't even come up to the standard of "sophomoric" Robot Chicken is freshmanic humor, gleaned from the drawings on the covers of the algebra notebooks of every dumb football jock who ever lived.
You can DO irreverent humor that's smart humor. Monty Python showed us how it's done, and they are no fonder of George W. Bush than the makers of Robot Chicken. I like Monty Python, even though their smartassery about American politics has that rotten, left-over from the 1970s smell. They still manage to be funny. And Robot Chicken sort of slouched into a dumb, patting themselves on the back sort of smarminess that just makes you want to puke. They stopped being funny toward the end of Season 1 (and I've watched them through the end of Season 2, when they were just boring, preachy, and insulted the intelligence of anyone who watched).
O Lucky Man! (1973)
One more example of cinema puante (the fetid cinema)... self-indulgent crap
This film emerged from the "revolutionary 1970s" as an example of unplanned obsolescence. Everything the director dislikes is set up as a strawman for denunciation; some sex is thrown in now and then to keep the proles watching and nodding to every malformed political thesis between boob shots. Its politics have been overtaken by events; the socialism it espouses by default revealed to be even more mindless, amoral and homicidal than the worst it can say about capitalism.
Basically, you have to have a raging crush on one or more of the actors in this film to like it, or to value technique over substance. While Helen Mirren IS hot, she's not hot enough to redeem this crock.
Guys, if you hate modern civilization that much, there are places you can still get away from it in. Go move there. That way, you won't have to bore us with adoring reviews of self-indulgent film school projects like this.
Very possibly one of the worst science-fiction movies ever made this century.
I mean that, too. Part of the dumbing-down of the civilized world (not just America) is that something that used to be taught in high school, the Law of Universal Gravitation, is blithely tossed out the window in this Leaden Turkey of a movie. Things happen which anyone with a pencil and paper and knowledge of equation F=G(M(1)xM(2))/r squared at his disposal could show would never happen in a few minutes of paperwork. It's not even calculus - just simple algebra. Isaac Newton was able to figure it out in the seventeenth century.
There is absolutely no excuse for this film. It is an amalgam of willful, sorry ignorance of scientific facts wrapped up in a glittering cinema production. The writers of this script should hang their heads in shame, for they have demonstrated a great deal of highly-counterintuitive idiocy in their screenplay.
There are American films I am proud are shown overseas. This one makes me want to hang my head in shame at the thought that the screenwriters' VERY sketchy grasp of science is being shown outside the country, helping to give our people a mostly undeserved reputation for crass stupidity.
If I could burn every reel, tape and DVD of a movie, it would be this one.
The Rounders Meets The Thing - Surprisingly great low-budget SF thriller
Tremors is better than almost all the big-budget science-fiction/horror movies that have come out since it did... and outshines ALL of the other low-budget movies in that genre. It's amazing how the producers and director brought everything together to make a very highly enjoyable horror flick.
Of course, part of the greatness was the cast, who never came together for the forgettable "Tremors" sequels (except Ward and Gross); it was a real collection of good, good actors, a great, wry, quirky, twisty script, and everything just came together to create a wonderful experience for the viewer.
This is one of those movies in which the sum is much greater than the parts; it all just clicks to keep you laughing and cringing by turns. I consider this to be one of the finest movies of the 1980s.
When the writers do satire, it's understated, light, enjoyable satire; when they go for archetypes (such as the pair of traveling cowboys/handymen/screwups Val and Earl ably played by Fred Ward and Kevin Bacon - a clear echo of Howdy Lewis and Ben Jones in "The Rounders"), they do so with originality and verve, and a fresh, light touch.
There aren't any places where the plot drags - the action is taut and sustained; the producers and directors are almost Hitchcockian in their deftness with foreshadowing and suspense, then with sudden and startling plot twists. The humor is just enough to relieve the terror, but it's also great humor.
Tremors is one of my all-time favorite movies. You could do a lot worse than watch it if you haven't yet. You'll thank me for it.
Wrong Is Right (1982)
Underrated low-budget satire - the Dr. Strangelove of the War on Terror
Wrong is Right was handicapped by indifferent marketing; it had a good cast, decent script, good production values. It also came out just after the trough of the Carter administration malaise... and during the Iranian hostage crisis, when people did not want to see MORE terrorists than they already knew existed.
But Wrong is Right is more enjoyable now, when its plot line is comparatively tame compared to the events of the last twelve years.
Post-9/11 viewers can see how prophetic Wrong is Right is of how the War on Terror would play out, with both major US political parties signing on for the dysfunctional response to terror attacks on the United States we eventually saw in 2001.
Wrong is Right's saving grace is the taut interweaving of savage satire and action scenes that characterized its famous predecessor "Dr. Strangelove: Or How I Learned to Relax and Love the Bomb." It drags a little in parts, but not much, and some of the humor is hackneyed, but again, not enough to hurt the production.
The cast of Wrong is Right is "name" actors who came to work, no one phoning in his or her performance. And those performances are very good for a low-budget Hollywood film - they maintain a dark comedic pace as close to that of Dr. Strangelove as possible without Terry Southern in his salad days writing and Peter Sellers doing his stellar best to delight and bemuse.
Wrong is Right could have been made better; it's still one of those wicked satires which you ought to see when you're in the mood for a movie that says "I told you so." Something I'm very grateful "Dr. Strangelove" hasn't been able to say. Yet.
Silent Running (1972)
another fortunate gathering of the stars - a very worthwhile movie
Once upon a time there was a guy named Douglas Trumbull who could make space special effects that really made you feel as though you were in space. His first major effort was the special effects for Stanley Kubrick's "2001: A Space Odyssey," though his influence was felt for twenty years after that. If anyone could be said to have been the godfather for what happens at Industrial Light and Magic, it's Trumbull.
"Silent Running" was Trumbull's first try at directing. And he did a good job. Of course, he had great help - Michael Cimino and Steven Bochco were two of the screenwriters on this movie; it shows in the dialogue, which is taut and crisp. The cinematography, especially in the opening titles, is nothing short of amazing; they even made Joan Baez sing something worthwhile for the opening theme.
The action: Earth has managed to amputate its environment. No flora, no fauna but humans living inside. All the plants, animals, all the wildlife has been moved off-planet to geodesic domes in space (as to "why put the stuff in space?" there's no objective reason that really holds water to a serious sci-fi buff, but it does set up the resolution of the plot). Bruce Dern plays the last dedicated conservationist, on one of the spacecraft carrying the wildlife.
The opening tragedy: the bean counters back on Earth decide they can't afford to tie up all those spacecraft to save a few hundred trees and bunnies, so the crews of the spacecraft are ordered to use miniature nuclear devices to humanely destroy all the wildlife in space.
Bruce Dern's character can't reconcile following those orders with the passion of his life to save Earth's wildlife. And there is the action of the film - he fights, he resists, he refuses, and he acts.
This is a strong, violent, thrilling ride. You don't have to be a tree-hugger to enjoy it; the movie converts you to its point of view - Trumbull, his writers and his cast do what good movie makers do, they convince you to suspend any skepticism you may have about what happens in the film.
This is one of the few science fiction films I come back to again, and again for enjoyment, because it rises over its few flaws to captivate and entertain. At the end, no matter what your sympathies may be in the debate over ecology, you cheer for the protagonist, or you weep for him silently, but you aren't indifferent. A clear sign of a good movie.
Mulberry St (2006)
What Cloverfield should have been....
I saw this film a few weeks ago on the SciFi Channel, and must say it was a very welcome change of pace. It was an excellent movie, much better than anything that came before or after it. Naturally, SciFi isn't showing it again anytime soon (why show quality independent cinema when you can run 100 promos promising to show us the identity of the Final Cylon in its place, after all?) Filmmaker Jim Mickle goes back to the traditional cinematographer's bag of tools - ambiance, camera angles, cut-aways... he delivers a remarkably good movie from a low-budget production without the self-indulging self-parody of "Cloverfield" or its predecessor, "Blair Witch Project." The cast put in a good job - some surprisingly good acting, the surroundings are very well shot, and the script is taut, suspenseful, lacking in clichés or empty space. Mulberry Street's weakness is perhaps the writing of the voice-overs from the television news in the background... they're just a little hokey, maybe a tiny bit indebted to Ed Wood.
Overall, this is a corker of a movie. It's a thriller, full of little character studies when it's not forcing you off the edge of your seat. Along with Shane Carruth's "Primer," Jim Mickle's "Mulberry Street" is proof that independent cinema is alive and well in the United States, despite all that is done to force it into an early grave. When these gentlemen get their hands on the cinematic big guns, they will do greater things. Count on it.
The Lost Missile (1958)
Nostalgic Fifties Shock Cinema
I remember watching "Lost Missile" (actually throwing a fit until my brother and several cousins at whose home I was an overnight guest agreed to watch it with me - I was, from time to time, the Eric Cartman of the 1960s - sorry, guys) and being somewhat embarrassed when the sustained wave of million-degree heat emerged as a plot device - even as a second-grader I knew that a mere missile just couldn't carry the energy around for that much heat or devastation over more than the duration and limited radius of a nuclear detonation.
My inflicting that turkey on loving relatives was a self-punishing crime.
The film's production values were very good. The acting isn't bad (apart from the Shatnerism of the actor who played a governor's aide that someone else here mentioned).
But the idea of a missile Easy-Baking the surface of the Earth by means of the heat of its exhaust... no.
How'd the people at "Mystery Science Theater 3000" miss "The Lost Missile," anyway?
It's a great classic of unintentional comedy - watch it if you want something to drink beer to some weekend.
Mystery Diagnosis (2005)
Good, literate documentary show
I like this show. It's somewhere between "House:MD" and the medical mysteries documentary on ABC in its watchability (of course, without the fictional misanthropic medical Sherlock Holmes of the 21st century, Dr. Gregory House).
Also, Mystery Diagnosis gets into the tendency of some physicians to condescend to their patients. "Depression" is probably the single most over-diagnosed illness because it can be treated with relatively inexpensive and non-toxic drugs, and because HMOs tend to financially reward physicians who choose to do this rather than actually working down a differential diagnostic tree in a patient who is troublesome, and actually treating them for what ails them. I speak as a sufferer from a rare cancer which has metastased to my liver because my physicians, even after I had had a large, rare tumor removed from my abdomen, chose to believe that something else was the matter over a period of years.
Anyway, the show is smart, well-produced, well-researched, and compassionate to its subjects. You can also learn things watching it. So can your doctor.
The Rounders (1965)
A wry contemporary Western classic, or "it takes a hard man to eat boiled owl... "
The Rounders is one of those oddly well-crafted movies which seems to have benefited from a fortunate gathering of the stars at its making. Good movie-making alone seems insufficient to account for its success; every frame of the film seems almost hand-painted; every minute scripted with more than common care (if not with up-to-date cinematic technique).
Director and screenwriter Burt Kennedy is the center around which this gem of a movie formed - the same wry humor that has characterized most of his movie and TV productions shines through here (Kennedy created a small swath of "Simon and Simon" episodes, a span of "Combat" episodes, little, memorable Westerns like "Dirty Dingus Magee," a little of almost every genre before passing on in 2001.) The cast, though, was one of those companies of actors you didn't often see together in low-budget Westerns then (1965) and still don't often see thirty-some years later. And, for a wonder, every actor and actress - from a remarkable cast - pulled his or her weight.
Denver Pyle ("Bull") would go on to anchor "The Dukes of Hazzard" as "Uncle Jesse" after a life in Westerns; Edgar Buchanan (as the irascible "Vince Moore," creator of "that wonderful stuff" in a still located under his barn floor) was just embarking on a long stretch of soft duty as "Uncle Joe" in "Petticoat Junction," plus a number of cameo roles in various other TV and movie projects after spending a good career in movies; Sue Ane Langdon was playing one of a number of sexy/innocent ingenue roles that ran from the late 1940s to the mid-1970s, then after a short hiatus, she would go on to play a series of older roles); Chill Wills would stay with the role of tightwad ranch owner "Jim Ed Love" for the movie AND the TV show which spun off of it the following year.
"The Rounders - The TV Series" ran in the 1966 and 1967 seasons, not a bad run, considering the two leads were replaced by younger, less seasoned actors (including Patrick Wayne as "Howdy Lewis"); not only do we see Glenn Ford and Henry Fonda as the stars of this rollicking epic but as a bonus, Peter Ford and Peter Fonda (sons of the stars) appear in uncredited roles.
The production, if it can be said to have a weak spot, suffers from Disney Disease - that bogus-homespun touch which afflicted Disney's Wonderful World of Color's series of outdoor documentaries (in which announcers with wrinkly, familiar old voices narrated carefully-edited wildlife documentaries in which little baby animals hardly ever got caught by predators). Fortunately, the screenwriter played off of this ambiance for laughs, so that the overall feel is something like "Mister Roberts Goes West."
Fonda ("Howdy Lewis")and Ford ("Ben Jones") work well together on screen as a pair of itinerant, half-clever cowboys who seem always to get the worst from every deal they make with Jim Ed Love. Both actors spent time with the novel, apparently, and their performances benefited from the extra work. This compensates for clumsy special effects (clumsily faked double takes from the "plug-head" horse who is the bane of "Howdy's" existence, for example).
But "The Rounders'" main failing is also its saving grace - an artlessness which makes the show much more enjoyable (to me, anyway) than if it had been a little more polished. It earns a solid eight out of ten points for a great off-beat Western comedic style.
"The Rounders" may just be the last good OLD Western movie; the genre lay in a restless, unquiet coma with brief flashes of lucidity (and a few unlamented "electric westerns") until Clint Eastwood and a handful of other talented directors brought it back to vibrant life. But "The Rounders" is a valedictory for all of those great westerns (and all the not-so-great ones that were worth having, anyway) that Henry Fonda, Glenn Ford, Chill Wills, Edgar Buchanan, Denver Pyle and all the rest of those guys gave us.
Drop Dead Sexy (2005)
"My Name is Earl" meets "Weekend with Bernie"
This is a great movie for fans of "My Name is Earl"... Jason Lee plays the same sort of half-witted hustler as he does in "Earl," but edgier and less saccharine (you can't have a weekly TV show about a REAL hustler, even a half-wit, because eventually all REAL half-wit hustlers wind up like the protagonists of "In Cold Blood" or "Of Mice and Men," and innocent folks get killed - terrible for your ratings on a weekly basis).
But Jason Lee's and Crispin Glover's characters aren't homicidal killers; which is to say they're not the same sort of guys who murdered the Clutter family in Kansas in "In Cold Blood," or the boss's wife in "Of Mice and Men." When they kill, it's pretty well justified, so you wind up sympathetic with the protagonists. It's a fun ride.
Without spoiling the movie more than the cover art or IMDb synopsis do, I can tell you that Lee and Glover's characters get into a blackmail and kidnap caper that leaves them with a beautiful blonde corpse on their hands. Glover's infatuation with her is stronger than death, so they wind up in a even more twisted, trailer trash version of "Weekend with Bernie" in which the delectable corpse just never gets a chance to rest in peace.
The producers of this film brought the production values required to make this not a guilty pleasure - along with the great performances of the cast. Crispin Glover and Jason Lee play off of each other with great comedic timing and synergy. The camera cuts are great as is the score - that part of the movie is done with "X-Files" flair and quirkiness. Xander Berkeley plays his standard poker-faced bad-ass, while Lin Shaye convulsed me with laughter as the profane "Ma Muzzy."
Not a movie for the squeamish, "Drop Dead Sexy" is still a great comedy - a very, very dark comedy, but a great comedy, none the less.
The Andromeda Strain (2008)
Disappointing update of a modern classic - sloppy science and hack fiction
According to Jubal Harshaw in Robert A. Heinlein's "Stranger in a Strange Land," "You have to give an editor something to change, or he gets fretful. After he pees in it, he likes the flavor better, so he buys it."
After almost forty years, you'd expect a remake of a movie to differ significantly from the original; the 2009 version of an Andromeda Strain screenplay would have been a great opportunity to update the plot with all that we now know about biology and how microbes adapt to the harsh environment of space.
But there's also such a thing as editorial coffee, as Jubal Harshaw noted. And A&E's miniseries adaptation of "Andromeda Strain" is a huge, steaming carafe of café de pisse éditoriale - it's ALL changes for the worse, with no real justification for the changes.
Ridley Scott, Tony Scott and screenwriter Robert Schenkkan should hang their heads in shame for this disgraceful series of mistakes masquerading as a remake.
Any updates in a new Andromeda Strain screenplay should have been in the spirit of the original; more typical of Michael Crichton's solid grounding in the sciences and clear, critical reasoning. Instead, the changes included a lot of additional material which doesn't help the story and certainly doesn't fit in the story.
Writer Robert Schenkkan seems to have been working from the "Cliff's Notes" version of "Andromeda Strain," if there is such a thing, because he bobbles several technical points which Robert Wise had no problem at all "getting" in the film adaptation. If he had to stretch the show out to four hours, Schenkkan could have added legitimate material drawn from new things we've learned about possible extra-terrestrial life - or he could have gone the BBC route and put the novel into the miniseries word for word.
Either of those approaches would have worked better than what Schenkkan did. He dumbed the story down from either the novel or the original film script. With the extra time, he could have dispensed with Wise's telegraphic screen presentation (something Wise had to do in order to fit the story inside of standard feature film length) in order to more fully expose the action in the plot. Why didn't he?
The remake also sports a hackneyed political potboiler subplot more typical of Stephen King than Michael Crichton - it's almost the complete opposite of Crichton's excellent "State of Fear," in its pandering to reflexive, anti-government paranoia. The left-wing political overlay adds nothing to the story, and the space this change takes up could better have been used to support other, more promising changes to bring the plot up to date - such as a more coherent and consistent portrayal of the effects of the Andromeda organism.
You could make a decision tree - "How should I change this story from the Wise adaptation and the Crichton novel?", pick the wrong choice on purpose every time, and come very close to what actually happens in this miniseries.
Schenkkan steals shtick from Alfred Hitchcock, he chisels paranoia from Oliver Stone, and he gives us a truly improbable number of four-star generals (this is a rank generally attained by Joint Chiefs of Staff, not worker bees personally in charge of field operations).
The changes aren't the only trouble with this remake of Andromeda Strain. We KNOW that Ricky Schroder and Daniel Dae-Kim can work better than they did in this production. Benjamin Bratt was an obvious miscast for Wildfire chief scientist Jeremy Stone - Miguel Ferrer would have been much, much better; so would William Petersen, depending on the direction the writer and director wanted to go with Stone's character (greater or lower dramatic intensity). The rest of the cast doesn't really do much worth writing home about (not that they had a lot to work with in the script, I realize).
If you missed the original showing and are thinking about buying the DVD version of this miniseries, do yourself a favor and either wait until A&E replays it or see it on Netflix before you buy. I'll bet you decide NOT to buy it if you see it once before you pay the big bucks.
Shout at the Devil (1976)
Ever wonder how Lee Marvin would have done as the lead in "The African Queen"?
Then watch "Shout at the Devil." There are other reasons, all good ones.
Shot in 1976, thus with better quality film and presentation, "Shout at the Devil" isn't a remake of "African Queen".
It has more of everything you want in a frontier war adventure; - more romance (between a British adventurer played by Roger Moore and the daughter of Lee Marvin's seamy ivory poacher, given complex, sympathetic life by Barbara Parkins) and - more explosions and pitched battles; more heart-wrenching tragedy and suspense;
Only the finely balanced banter between Katharine Hepburn and Humphrey Bogart which made their earlier film still stand out as the definite classic compared with this later effort is missing.
But it's still a very, very good film and rewards its viewer well.
In this film, the work Humphrey Bogart did as both comic and romantic lead is split between Lee Marvin as the nearly completely unprincipled Col. Flynn O'Flynn (a self-commissioned Irish-American ivory poacher) and Roger Moore, as unfortunate British gentleman Sebastian Oldsmith.
Oldsmith is Shanghaied by O'Flynn and his equally unscrupulous batman Mohammed into being everything from being a poorly paid "partner" to an aerial observer in a rickety 1914-model aircraft to reconnoiter over enemy territory, to finally become the central character in the movie's spine-tingling denouement.
This film has everything for fans of high adventure - suspense, tragedy, moments of wild comedy, and characterizations that go beyond the standard formula fare.
"Shout at the Devil" is better than average for a Lee Marvin feature; maybe not up to "Tell it to the Spartans" or "Cat Ballou," but definitely a worthy addition to an adventure movie fan's collection.
Strangers with Candy (2005)
Guilty, guilty, guilty, guilty pleasure
I was waiting for Stephen Colbert to produce something funny. I waited, and waited, and waited... but the only joke in the Col-bear Re-por is its name, and that got old after the first repetition. You have to be a hard-wired politics addict to find anything funny in Colbert's show - it's the sort of "satire" the idiot radio-show lieutenant in "Good Morning, Vietnam!" inflicted on people who had to be drafted to hear (aptly summed up as "your show sucks the sweat off a dead man's balls... ").
Imagine my surprise, then - I'd seen a few episodes of the television series version of "Strangers," was unimpressed, but decided to give the movie version a try. I'm glad I did.
The MOVIE version of "Strangers with Candy" is actually pretty funny. Not because it's an extraordinarily well-written story - but the acting talent showed up for work instead of phoning it in, the way big-name stars do so often in B-movies. To paraphrase one of the celebrity GEICO commercials, "Real actors really acting... what a concept!"
This story needed to be adapted for a movie, somehow. What came over as hackneyed and lame in the series is edgy and funny in the movie. The thousand nasty little gags fit the pace of the movie much better.
Even Stephen Colbert manages to be funny in this movie, something I just don't see happening in the "Re-por" (and as much as I really want to laugh at something he does on that show... it doesn't happen).
There's this scarily authentic blend of nerdiness and depravity that just... works somehow. Amy Sedaris kills in a very, very bizarre role - I'm not going to spoil it if you're unfamiliar with the show's main premise, but it's really out there... and yet... it works. Just sit there and let the strangeness wash over your mind in waves.
Perhaps part of the appeal of this film are the flashes of familiarity from real high school... the semi-lethal drivers' ed simulators, the teachers who missed their vocations by being born too late to work in East German reformatories, the nearly edible cafeteria food, unrequited love with unlikely objects of adoration... goofiness overlaid with multiple coats of malignancy.
Watch it. Just don't admit to watching it. And wash your hands afterward.
Mad Dog Prosecutors (2002)
This film ought to be shown in every Civics class in America.
Ever get the idea you'd want to help get a friend elected to Congress after achieving the American dream, starting up a business which creates reasonably priced solar power? You might want to see this film first.
Hostile stockholders accused entrepreneur Michael Zinn of improprieties so they could take his company over. They sold Federal prosecutors on the idea. These guys served duces tecum subpoenas on virtually every important employee and business associate of Zinn's and found NOTHING - not even after nearly causing Zinn's business assistant to have a miscarriage in hopes of causing her to lie about her boss.
So what do these folks (who swore an oath to protect Mr. Zinn's Constitutional rights) do? They decide that when Michael Zinn held a campaign fund-raising meeting for his friend (who was, indeed, elected to Congress, and who elected to leave Zinn twisting in the wind when the Federal prosecutors decided to pick on him, instead of standing up for the guy who got into trouble on trumped-up charges), he was running a scam to launder his own contributions to the campaign through bonuses paid to his employees.
The story is wrenching. This man did nothing wrong that I can see. His only offense was that of succeeding well enough that slimebags who never had to step forward into the light of day used the U.S. Justice Department as a tool to irreparably damage Michael Zinn's life.
No tactic open to Federal prosecutors to coerce suspected criminals to confess to the crimes with which they are charged was left untried on Mr. Zinn except, possibly, incitement of assault on him by other prisoners. He was physically abused by Federal detention guards in transit (in what is known as "diesel therapy," in which a prisoner can be housed in maximum security facilities several times and transported in trucks and aircraft over days and even weeks to cover a distance of a few hundred miles).
This film demonstrates in ways no book can, in a very short period of time, that something is very, very wrong with our system of justice. Laws enacted to deal with drug traffickers and racketeers are being abused to punish people who in many cases were guilty of nothing more than being victimized by the actions of others. It should be watched by every student in every Civics class in the United States of America.
Without cinematic tricks or over-wrought, preachy orating, "Mad Dog Prosecutors" manages to incite strong anger with a broken Justice Department whose employees often violate the same Constitution which they are sworn to uphold with subtlety and malice. In fact, until the problems which led to Michael Zinn's incarceration are corrected, the term "Justice Department" should be reconsidered as a descriptive term for the U.S. Government's prosecutorial arm.
Illegal aliens and urban gangsters make this country nearly unlivable at times with a wink and a nod from the Federal Government (which hasn't exactly set records of efficiency in enforcing our immigration laws over the years), yet people like Michael Zinn who have not done anything but create wealth and employment for others and raise their families too often are swept up into the maw of malicious prosecution by men and women who themselves should be tried for violating the rights of their fellow citizens.
Watch this film. Make your family watch it. At least then, when you vote, you will be equipped to vote more intelligently.
The Stand (1994)
Where Stephen King shows he's the Ken Burns of horror....
Stephen King wears many hats. In "The Stand" he wears both the writer's cap and the crown of the King of Horror. It's an achievement of which anyone would be proud, especially as he wrote the novel, TWICE, and then in writing the screenplay, made the story much better. That's very rare.
King's a pretty good novelist. Not perfect; he's not great at proofing his work sometimes. He had two chances at writing "The Stand" as a novel over ten years and still had things like soldiers firing recoilless rifles (artillery pieces with perforated breeches that can fire only one shot at a time, after which you have to swing the back end open to load a shot - then lock it down tight with a lever, like a porthole cover) at seventy rounds a SECOND - indoors. The electric Gatling gun you may recall from "Predator" only fired fifty rounds a second, and it fires about the same size ammunition as an M-16.
In the screenplay for "The Stand," Stephen King fixed that problem and many more, besides. Like Michael Crichton, he's a better screenwriter than a novelist. Movies have the advantage over books that they impose certain constraints on the story-teller. In a movie you just can't convincingly show somebody firing a weapon with bullets the size of lava lamps seventy times a second standing up. It just doesn't work visually.
For the screen, King HAD to show things that can really happen - at least until the supernatural intervenes, when he's ALLOWED to make the normally impossible happen. The audience has to be in on the deal. Stories almost always start with a believable world, and people doing believable things. Normally impossible things happen because something goes wrong in this believable world to make them happen. By then, the viewer agrees, just for that moment, to suspend his or her disbelief in what's happening because the story's so great.
Originally, "The Stand" was a four-part miniseries on ABC. SciFi Channel regularly shows all four parts in a marathon, which is fine, too. (It means that about five or six times a year at least, you get a chance to see it.) But there's no filler here - it's all meat. "The Stand" is one very solid, rich and meaningful story.
This is the best screenplay Stephen King's ever written, and Mick Garris did a fantastic job making it happen on film. The cinematography is superb, every scene's framed wonderfully, and the casting is incredible.
Everybody in this film works the way you wish name actors, writers and directors would every time they came in on a made-for-TV project. They all perform as though it were their first role and they're trying to make their names all over again. This is a crew of professionals turning in the best job of acting they've ever done.
The few mistakes in this film don't even register until the second or third time you watch it. The first time through, you just sit there with your jaw hanging down, leaving finger-shaped impressions in your armchair.
I'm not going to spoil "The Stand" for anyone, because everyone seeing it for the first time deserves to experience every thrill and twist of the plot without warning.
All I will say is that this miniseries shows that Stephen King can be the best storyteller on Earth when he buckles down.
"The Stand" on the screen is what the novel should have been, with preambles, excess and other stuff that didn't belong there pruned off. It's the story that should have been told, presented with professionalism and passion not commonly seen in made-for-TV productions.
King waded through that bulky (1,140 page) novel and pared it down to a real thriller without losing a spiritual vision which is surprising in a film of any sort. King communicated a sense of faith and mission as "The Stand" unfolds that stunned me. As he himself described it in the dedication of the novel, "The Stand" is a "tale of dark wonders" about the hard part of living, in which God can sometimes seem the worst monster of all.
This doesn't mean that it's suitable for all ages. "The Stand" is a Stephen King story through and through, full of death, gore, violence, betrayal and sacrifices of all manner. It can be a harrowing experience for many people. The sensitive viewer and the parent of young children should know this.
I can't think of a better horror miniseries done anywhere, anytime. If you can handle the action, watch it - you won't be sorry.
Breaking Bad (2008)
Excellent! Comedy, like chocolate, can be best when very, very dark.
Vince Gilligan shows how big a piece of "The X-Files" and "The Lone Gunmen" was his with "Breaking Bad" - quite a large chunk, as it turns out. He has a rare gift for getting the best performances from his players, and in "Breaking Bad" he and Bryan Cranston chop some serious wood.
I've been following the series for four weeks now, and my wife and I just watched the most recent installment of the series ("Grey Matter") together - the first time she's seen the series at all. And her reaction was not entirely unexpected.
It's like chocolate - some folks like their chocolate light, some of us like it bitter-dark. I happen to be one of those serotonin junkies who like chocolate dark enough that there are special numbers to measure how dark it is.
And "Breaking Bad" is Special Dark Comedy. I don't think it's writing a spoiler to repeat what the network discloses in their own television commercials, so I'll explain what I mean by that. Bryan Cranston, better known before this series as the hopeless bungler of a dad in "Malcolm in the Middle," totally convinces as a high-school chemistry teacher (in a job way below his intellectual gifts - he's a serious, research-quality chemist) who must cope with a second job at a car wash under a bastard of a boss who treats him like a serf, a controlling wife, a son who he loves desperately who has a middling-severe case of cerebral palsy... and lung cancer that has already spread throughout his body, thus a very short life span.
As you might expect, this is a man with a lot of anger, and given his situation you can't blame him. He also has a bastard HMO who won't pay for the therapy that might save his life (I mean, gee, that would actually "maintain health," and you can't expect that of a "health maintenance organization," at least in my own experience of dealing with cancer and an HMO at the same time).
Another cross this man must bear is a gruff, well-meaning bear of a brother-in-law who is a DEA agent, and takes the protagonist on a "ride along" as he directs the take down of a meth lab. Our terribly ill chemist sees the lab, knows the chemistry involved (if bikers and gang bangers can make it, how difficult could the synthesis be for a REAL chemist?)... and he sees the sort of money it would take to buy a house in a decent neighborhood for cash lying around and learns that this is nothing exceptional in the world of play-for-pay amateur amphetamine cookery.
At this point the protagonist decides not to accept his fate meekly, not to let his wife and son exist in poverty after he dies slowly and expensively... and takes the step which Milton and Shakespeare and Goethe all have THEIR protagonists make - away from acceptance, toward stepping out of his assigned role as humble victim. And thereby hangs a great tale.
To do them credit, the series creator Gilligan and his associates decide not to sugarcoat the choices and consequences involved in the protagonist's decision to step out of the path leading to the poorhouse for his family. Nor do they confer sainthood or omniscience on the central character of the story. He screws up by the numbers, not least by who he decides to choose as his partner in his new career as methamphetamine cook (a choice which lends a number of seriocomic twists to the story).
The series is, by turns, absurd, tragic, touching, howlingly funny, bitterly sad... it fulfills Robert Heinlein's definition of art - "inflicting pity and terror on its audience." More you cannot ask. Watch it if you like your comedy very, very dark.
The F Word (2005)
From the people now bringing you "Occupy Main Street"....
What would happen if they held a national political party convention in New York and nobody talked to the actual delegates? Well, the answer would be that you'd be watching Jed Weintrob's "The F Word."
This movie says that it documents the protests outside the Republican National Convention in Fall 2004. So much for truth in advertising.
Although "Joe Pace" (played with earnest - no, rabid - outrage by Josh Hamilton) does find some Republicans to speak to, he doesn't even pretend to interview them. Hamilton's character just makes the same statements with his questions the leftists made with their obscenities and violence in the streets.
The surreality comes in as left-wing protesters begin hitting New York policemen and Pace is crouching in the foreground saying "things are really getting tense with the cops here." Not the protesters, who are HITTING the cops, but the cops, who are doing their jobs.
Yeah, that's a documentary. 10 points for style, minus 250,000 for objectivity.
Weintrob's clever work with camera angles, cuts and editing show his intention to make propaganda early in the film. "The F Word," more than anything else, is a textbook on how to slant the facts and tell lies with film.
"The F Word" is slick propaganda, a post-modern version of "Triumph of the Will." As such, it merits study because this is the 21st century version of how to lie with a camera and a microphone.
You trot out the calm, aesthetic camera effects and soundtrack when you want your audience to identify with interviewees; then go to black and white when you want to show people with whom you disagree in a bad light, and posterize when you want to confuse your viewers (as with the disjointed-appearing Walt Whitman-quoting guy in Central Park near the middle of the film).
"Strange day... is anybody listening? Is anybody listening?" central character "Joe Pace" intones, as he strolls down Central Park not listening to anything but the sound of his own voice. The intelligent viewer cringes, expecting him to drop trou at some point and pleasure himself to the sound of his own verbal brilliance.
The central character then muses about the importance of people listening to each other when the folks with whom he most obviously sympathizes are talking non-stop to themselves and listening very little, to anyone else.
After half an hour of self-righteous talk therapy in the streets, Pace changes roles, has a bystander interview him, and delivers a nasty sound bite about how horrible it is that the Republican Party DARES to have their convention 'in one of the most liberal cities in America.'
This is the ONE truthful moment in "The F Word," when Jed Weintrob's mask of objectivity slips and he shows us that he'd cheerfully confine anyone who doesn't agree with his politics to a concentration camp. No one's allowed to walk around New York unless they've passed a political litmus test given by Jed Weintrob.
Nobody's too paranoid or obnoxious to be given a sympathetic ear by Jed Weintrob's faux journalist "Joe Pace" as long as they're rabidly leftist.
Even the guy from the "New York Peace and Justice Radio Show" who goes on and on about how the NYPD are computer-analyzing the videotapes they're making of the crowd is presented as a valid voice - the ironic wink from Weintrob's character which would have humanized him AND the left-wing head cases surrounding him is curiously absent from a movie preening itself as witty and profound.
This mockumentary ends with a little rock ballad that helps it earn its title - one of the protesters earnestly shouts just before "The F Word's" end credits that the 1960's comedian Lenny Bruce once said "You take away the right to say F---, then you take away the right to say 'F- - you' to the government."
Now, I'M exercising my Constitutional right to tell the director and cast:
"Guys, you f---ed up.
A documentary should tell BOTH sides of the story. If you don't want to do that, be honest with your audience and call it a 'political commercial' - George Soros is rich enough to air it in every major TV market in America.
Your movie sucks out loud."
This film DOES succeed in comparing and contrasting what real assholes behave like at political protest meetings, compared to the left-wing media's whipping boys, the Tea Party (who are almost uniformly good mannered, pick up their trash AND everyone else's, and don't hit anyone, including the cops).
I can't wait for Weintrob to follow this up with a movie-length ad for Occupy Wall Street/Occupy Oakland/Occupy Any Place but Mom's Basement.
I'm sure that whatever ACORN is calling themselves these days has lied to enough members of the New York teachers' union to be able to hire Weintrob and his production company.