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Like a Root Canal for Your Eyes
If you are like most normal Americans, you probably find invasive dental procedures, such as a root canal, to be profoundly unpleasant. If, however, you are the type who, given the choice, would actually pay for the pleasure of sitting through a root canal, I believe I have a movie I can recommend to you.
I can't help but feel like the fact that this movie was made in my hometown in suburban North Carolina obligates me to say glowing things about it. Sadly, that is something I cannot do. I found it to be a perfectly horrible movie with absolutely no likable characters or sympathetic situations.
In a nutshell, "Junebug" is about a self-important and completely uninteresting art dealer who takes a trip to the south, where she proceeds to Not Have a Very Good Time. That's pretty much it.
"This is no fun" is really the underlying theme of the movie. And it is equally true both for the characters in the movie and the audience. The overall tone of the movie is bleak, alternating between long, unenviable, boring stretches, interspersed with periodic bursts of highly unlikeable people behaving in highly unlikeable ways. (Not the good, interesting kind of unlikeable, such murderous or creepy, but a thoroughly unengaging sort of unlikeable, such as contempt and downright crankiness). Fifteen minutes into "Junebug", buoyed between overwhelming boredom and moderate discomfort (you know how you feel sitting through an ungodly, two-hour long mandatory sales meeting while combating diarrhea? Or getting motion sickness in the back seat of your parents' car during a long drive to grandma's house? That kind of feeling.), I began to enumerate ways of spending my time that might be less fun than sitting through this god-awful burden of a movie. And it was during this blessed distraction that I began to notice that "Junebug" has far more in common with a root canal than with an enjoyable cinematic experience.
Your more pretentious viewers might describe this movie as "honest" (invariably adding the words "beautiful" and, of course, "indie" to their description, as though the latter unquestionably justifies use of the former). A root canal is also a startlingly honest experience, during which one can scarcely fail to comprehend the enormity of "a piece of my body has begun to rot and decay, the throbbing, abscessed nerve endings of which must now be extracted with a drill". The fact that it is honest, however, does not make it good. While dripping with its indie-film brand of faux-honesty, Junebug is just as nauseatingly unpleasant. As for whether "Junebug" is in fact, honest, I can only say that if I felt my life was accurately reflected in that miserable heap of suffering-artist, indie-film garbage, I would have committed suicide sometime in my teens, a decade and a half ago.
Also like a root canal, this movie is really only bearable if experienced under heavy anesthetics.
As for the performances of the cast, I suppose they are all just fine, though, again, there is little that is praiseworthy to be said about the ability to convincingly portray Uninteresting, Comptemptible, Dislikable, and Generally Unpleasant.
A far cry from "beautiful" or "moving," this load of utter crap is not even able to achieve "interesting". If you are bored on a Saturday afternoon, I would suggest that you spend it lying on the couch in your dank apartment, watching the flies attempt to mate for 106 minutes... or even just boring holes into your more sensitive tissues. Ultimately you will feel just as satisfied with the use of your time as you would have if you had watched this movie, though you will have made a much more sound financial decision.
The Aristocrats (2005)
Good idea, badly executed
To be blunt, I could have made this movie. The only thing directors Penn Jillette and Paul Provenza had that I don't is access to famous comedians. Other than that, the movie has little direction. It looks like it was filmed with a camcorder, it is very choppy, it digresses a lot, and it is filled with people I've never heard of and whose opinions mean very little to me.
This isn't to say it's not funny. There are some truly wonderful bits in it. Unfortunately they are scattered throughout a long and often tedious journey of filler material and analysis. Much of this is provided by star comedians, such as George Carlin, Paul Reiser, Robin Williams, etc. But a lot of it is from below-the-line showbiz insiders, such as Hollywood columnists, talent agents, editors, etc, who are not introduced until the closing credits.
There are some truly hysterical tellings of the joke, particularly George Carlin, Glbert Gottfried, Kevin Pollack, Drew Carey, Robin Williams, and Sarah Silverman, delivering with her trademark cute-little-girl voice. Billy the Mime's pantomime performance of the joke is high on the list of funniest things I've ever seen. And there is even some interesting analysis about the nature of comedy. Paul Reiser and Larry Miller offer some valuable ideas.
Largely, though, the movie is filled with comedy clichés, such as "Comedy is all about timing." "This joke is all in the delivery." "Comedy is about how far you can push the envelope." And so-forth. The majority of the movie is people repetitively restating these well-known facts, with annoying interruptions by some of today's more annoying comedians, such as Pat Cooper and David Brenner, who think that comedy is nothing more than having a Brooklyn accent, a loud voice, an angry tone, and using the c-word as much as possible. The most abominable of these is the ventriloquism act calling himself "Otto and George" whose material is exactly what I just described, only performed with such poor ventriloquism that it's embarrassing to watch.
Overall it's choppy, redundant, tedious, and fortunately, hilarious.
It's a movie worth seeing, even worth owning if you have more than a passing interest in comedy, but if you're expecting miracles, prepare for a disappointment.
The Colbert Report (2005)
I didn't know what to expect when I saw this show. Comedy Central has a way of releasing shows that look promising, and then disappointing me with them.
But the Colbert Report is very funny, slightly ridiculous, and definitely worth the time.
It's a parody of shows like the O'Reilley Factor. It has a host (Daily Show veteran Stephen Colbert)whose persona is very self-important and self-centered. His name is on everything, all over the set, and his desk is shaped like a giant C. (C stands for Colbert, he reminds us).
The show consists primarily of Stephen Colbert, in his Daily Show persona, sitting at a desk and giving his opinions on things. It's all done in the spirit of satire, parodying popular journalism and the tendency of people who have no expertise to get a lot of camera time, despite the fact that their opinions are basically worthless.
All in all, the show is very funny, and very edgy. I think Stephen Colbert is a good investment for Comedy Central.
The War at Home (2005)
4 words: Bold! Edgy! Fearless! Awful!!!
What do you get when you cross the family sitcom with the Fox Network? The most recent answer is this piece of trash.
What we have here is a pretty unremarkable show, that some lobotomized network executive took a look at and said, "Let's make this really edgy!" because it's Fox and they are trying to be cool.
What you get is this: the main character is a father who talks like a Brooklyn street thug, and has a smart mouth. Everything he says has the same sarcastic tone as a junior high school kid who thinks he's being funny. And a laugh track inserted after every one of his lines, funny or not. And there's the caring-but-sarcastic "I told you so" wife, and the teenage daughter who says "screw you guys" to her parents which is of course followed by the canned audience cheering sounds, as though they expect their viewers to react as though they've never heard anything like that before.
And the laugh track itself is just unbelievably stupid. It's a little bit louder than normal and unnecessarily enthusiastic, with occasional catcalls and howls, as though the "audience" has been given free beer, is half drunk, and is willing to laugh at anything.
It had to be last night's episode, "Which One of You Kids Stole Daddy's Pot?" that ended with the grandmother getting high that propelled this show into the "unbelievably stupid" category, and has me turning off the TV to do laundry between the Simpsons and Family Guy.
Beat the Geeks (2001)
The best thing about it was its short lifespan
"Beat the Geeks" was essentially a time-filler for the Summer 2001 lineup. It was an irritating, low-budget, slow-paced yawner of a game show that didn't fulfill its network obligation of even being funny. Thankfully, the network goons at Comedy Central had the grace to let this one die, a process they are still struggling with at the time of this writing for the likes of "Drawn Together" and, to a greater extent, "Primetime Glick".
The premise was this: There were three Geeks, a TV, Music, and Movie geek, who acted as defenders. The contestants were challengers, and had to outscore the geeks. Now, these were not respectable, Ben Stein-types geeks. They were low down, "I live in my mother's basement and am 35 years old and spend my time hanging out at a comic book store with other unemployed middle-agers bad-mouthing all the 'conformists' on the sidewalk" type geeks. Furhtermore, we are never really told what makes each Geek an authority. Just these guys are geeks. Beat them. You don't have to beat all geeks; just these geeks.
The show was ungodly slow-paced. In fact, it made it seem that each 22-minute program had maybe 10 questions actually written for the show, and they were purposely pacing themselves to ensure they didn't run out of questions. The Geeks had correspondingly more difficult questions, which didn't strike me as particularly unfair. What was entirely aggravating were the 45-second answers each geek would give when asked a question, let you forget that they are geeks (which, I assure you, was not a heavy risk to largely to their haircuts which looked like the sort of thing you might have run into at Comic-Con 1976). For example, when asked, "Who played Mrs. Brady on the Brady Bunch?" the TV geek would reply with the actresses filmography, other TV shows, guest appearances, commercials, a list of past spouses, and her hometown before actually saying her name, Florence Henderson, two words which, if spoken at a comfortable speed, could easily be said inside of a second.
Accordingly, the questions were spaced out in intervals of about 90 seconds. Thus, the actual asking of a question was a pretty special occasion, considering this was a game show, though the fact that questions were only worth about 25 dollars apiece made the average winning prize about $275, which probably didn't even cover air fare.
All in all, not a good show. I'm happy to see it gone. And I will rejoice again when it appears that Primetime Glick has finally "Gone the way of Beat the Geeks".
The Dreamers (2003)
Not a very good movie
This movie struck me as the sort of movie that would be considered "Artsy" because it was about people who have no connection to pop culture, and do things that are quite depraved rather unabashedly. In this case they are young, idealistic film (NOT "movie") buffs, who have the added bonus of being extra-artsy by virtue of being not only European, but in fact French. The story is not particularly gripping, nor are the characters at all sympathetic.
Matthew, the American boy, meets two twins he finds fascinating, but who frankly come off as weird, guarded, and strangely off-putting. Nonetheless, they welcome him into their odd world, where they are basically having an incestuous relationship. What happens is then described by many as a "sexual awakening" but is in fact a rather poorly disguised voyeuristic look into some very unrealistic fictional characters.
The twins, Isabel and Theo, turn out to be very shallow and snooty, but motivated by some sort of need to prove how deep they are. (Artsy!) Isabel then loses her virginity to Matthew basically because Theo dares her to. They then spend the next few days "making love" (which is the arty French-guy term for the fairly grotesque acts of depravity and incest that are going on here), until they run out of food and begin to eat garbage. See?? The stark humanity of sex and suffering? Artsy! This is ART, guys! In the end, nothing continues to happen until a riot breaks out as a result of the French people not being able to watch "feelms" anymore, by which time I found I didn't really care whether these people lived or died, and was mostly upset that I had missed "The Daily Show".
Dude, Where's My Car? (2000)
The movie "Ernest Scared Stupid" grew up to be
I loved this movie. I thought it was purely brilliant. The plot was never laid out in any of the trailers, and we are left to believe it was going to be an MTV-type movie about partying too hard. When the actual plot arrives, it immediately breaks all the rules and goes straight for the utterly ridiculous, from the moment Jesse (Kutcher) wakes up with Trivial Pursuit cards stuck to his face. As the story unravels piece by absurd piece, the viewer is given only hints as to what Jesse and Chester (Scott) did the previous night, hints which add up to what has to have been the most ridiculous and crazy night ever, but as they don't' remember a thing, we never get the whole story, which honestly is the most hilarious part.
We learn that, at some point, they trashed their girlfriends' house, partied with some strippers who now adore them, accepted a briefcase full of stolen money from a transsexual stripper (which they then used to buy a sports car), made out with a seriously hot girl whose muscle-head boyfriend doesn't treat her well, and ran afoul a group of cultists and some space aliens who entrusted them with a weapon capable of destroying the Universe. As I tried to fit all these puzzle pieces together, I found myself cracking up, thinking "What in the hell DID they do last night??". And, of course, the money to save their skins from a murderous she-male stripper, the anniversary gifts to save their troubled relationships with their girlfriends, and the weapon to save the Universe are all in their car, which they cannot find.
Ultimately, if you are looking for fantastic cinematic achievement, then go back to Art School you stupid hippie blowhard. If you are looking for a movie that doesn't take itself at all seriously that will make you laugh, this is the one for you.
One of the worst movies I've ever seen
"Hulk" was, without a doubt, one of the worst movies I've ever seen. It was missing some very basic elements, which I will recount for you now.
The first thing I notice was the conspicuous absence of a plot. This movie was deathly slow. By the time anything happens, you're so tired of waiting for something to happen that the payoff simply isn't worth it. What happens is this: a guy (Eric Bana as Bruce Banner) becomes the Hulk, and they military doesn't like it, so they fight him. Also, Banner's father (Nick Nolte) shows up for some reason and is revealed to be some sort of weird, crazy guy who is also a doctor, apparently, who also fights him, although we're never entirely sure why (we'll get to him in a minute).
The directing was terrible. Yes, terrible. I've heard criticisms that I just didn't understand the film, but frankly, what's to understand? The director was trying to make a movie that watches like a comic book, which is a mind-numbingly stupid idea. He utilizes split-screen shots to try to emulate comic book panels, overlooking the fact that comic-book panels are a limitation when trying to present action to an audience-- a limitation that thankfully the medium of movies can circumvent. Not this one though. The director, apparently completely unaware that he was doing a movie based on a comic book, tried to be artistic.
The characters were all terrible. I don't blame the actors; the cast was in fact pretty incredible. But the characters were terribly written. No sympathy, no empathy, and no development. Bruce Banner was apparently some sort of personality amputee, although it may be by some birth defect that he was simply born without one. Trying to care about this character was a chore in itself, and detracted from what little there was to enjoy about this movie altogether. Again, I can't blame Bana for this, it was a badly-written character, but I have to say, acting like nothing doesn't really count as acting. Nor is it in any way entertaining to watch. The love-interest, Betty Ross (Jennifer Connelly) is extremely lukewarm. She's the ingénue, who loves-him-because-she-knows-what's-right, despite the fact that Bruce Banner has all the lovable personality traits of a toilet plunger, but with a tendency to rip the heads off puppies because he gets cut off in traffic. The chemistry between them is bland at best, and quite frankly, someone who looks like Jennifer Connelly could do much better.
By far the worst character was Bruce's estranged father (Nolte) who shows up out of nowhere and rambles incessantly in an irritatingly mumbled voice like some sort of hobo with a Ph.D. . This sort of thing goes on for tedious minutes on end before one stops wondering "What in the hell is he talking about?" and begins wondering "when is this scene going to end?". Father (for that's his name) also develops an unlikely super-power, which he describes, in typical form, as the ability to "partake with the essences of things," which essentially means he can become stuff. (Admittedly, the visuals here were actually pretty cool. Not cool enough to make up for having to hear him describe it in prolonged bouts of Ivy-League gibberish, though). In the end, Nolte and his son fight for some reason (I think because he's a weird, crazy nut-ball, and Bruce is just a guy who fights people), Nolte partakes with the essence of some lightning and strikes Bruce, and presumably the whole thing is over, except that, for no reason whatsoever, Banner emerges several months later in the amazon, telling some South American drug lords "you wouldn't like me when I'm angry," at which point I actually found myself in throes of agony in the movie theater thinking "Dear God, he survived, they're setting up a sequel."
In short, a man who turns into a giant green monster and tears buildings in half when he gets mad should be quite exciting enough to hold my attention for an hour and a half. If you can make tedium out of that, you might want to reconsider what line of work you belong in.