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Monthly Archives: February 2012

I am getting muthafu***** tired of these muthafu***** sharks!

Deep Blue Sea. Researchers at a deep sea lab experiment on sharks by making their brains huge (4 times a normal size) so they can extract a secretion that will cure Alzheimers. The sharks (computer generated) get very smart. Too smart. A hurricane gives them an opportunity to hunt down several stock characters on the isolated station. None of the characters is “bankable” so their gruesome ends are ho hum. Samuel L. Jackson makes an appearance, and LL Cool J is the sea station cook who says things like “Damn, muthaf***a'” and “Peace out, bitc*” and “Open wide, you nappy toothed fu**a’.” And there is a Jacqueline Bisset look-a-like and damned if her diving suit doesn’t allow for ample cleavage.

There are three sharks, and they are all dispatched in manners strikingly similar to the Jaws films. Figure that.

All that said, this film can be fun and Jackson’s “give the sharks hell” speech is memorable. Snakes on a Plane memorable.

Jawbreaker. The hot chicks run the high school. The top hot chick is kidnapped by her three cohorts as a prank. She is accidentally killed in the process. The murder must be covered up. The veneer of high school politics is exposed in the process. And the queen bee (Rose McGowan) –

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well, things go poorly for her.

This is a retread of the Winona Ryder-Christian Slater satire Heathers. Heathers, however, was funny. Jawbreaker is merely nasty, which is not all bad, but close. The film has a self-satisfied manner, constantly congratulating itself on its advanced perceptions of popularity and social standing, but never veering to far from the titillating trash it pretends to mock. I prefer the titillating trash without the condescension.

It does have a young Judy Greer who turned in a great performance as the cheated-upon wife in the Oscar-nominated The Descendants.

The Adjustment Bureau. Matt Damon is a candidate for Senate in New York, pretty much a carbon copy of George Clooney’s presidential candidate in The Ides of March – smart, iconoclastic, liberal, not the kind of guy to admit he wouldn’t support the death penalty for the murderer of his wife. He finds his true love (Emily Blunt) before a big speech and then on a bus and there is a real connection. But his path leads to higher things than true love. Sooooooooo . . . .

A bunch of angels (Anthony Mackie, John Slattery and eventually, ponderously, Terence Stamp) in ridiculous fedoras do all in their power to keep Damon away from Blunt and “on his plan.” And their power is impressive, except when it is not. So, they can freeze time and inject an idea into the mind of Damon’s campaign manager, but when Damon and Blunt are close, the best they can do is jam land lines and ensure that a cab won’t stop for Damon.

A decent premise (true love conquers all, even angels who have us on a predestined course) is destroyed by failure to let us in on the rules of what angels can do and cannot do (apparently, their powers are weakened near water, ala’ the aliens in Signs). Worse, the “Mad Men” hats the angels wear are actually powerful. They can open doors. Not in the “a well dressed man can get the right doors opened” way but in a “wearing this hat can get doors of teleportation to open.” And before you can say Ben Braddock, Damon is interrupting Blunt’s wedding.

Image result for Matt Damon The Adjustment Bureau hat

“How do I look in this? Really.”

Avoid.

Remember the Titans. Denzel Washington plays a high school football coach in 1970s Alexandria, Virginia. Washington is given the head coaching job in the middle of the integration wars. Making matters worse, he replaces Will Patton, the soft-spoken former coach, who responds with a bruised ego but a determination to stay on as an assistant coach for “his boys.” There are racial tensions between Washington and Patton and between the now integrated high school football team. No worries. All those tensions are erased by group sings, group hugs, group showers, the iron-fist of the strict Washington, and the velvet touch of the gentle Patton.


“THIS IS A VALUABLE LESSON.”

The lessons are fired into your brain with the subtlety of a nail gun, and the cliches pile up quicker than you can say After School Special. Denzel’s players can sing and dance, and they soon turn those slow-footed white boys into singers and dancers. The black defensive captain is angry and he lacks the concept of team, so the white defensive captain shows him what teamwork really means. Washington is a “My way or the highway” kind of guy, yet Patton shows him that imrpovising and being receptive to new ideas can make him a better coach. Patton is too gentle on the black players, a repressed form of condescension, so Washington points this out, and dag gummit, Patton learns to be tough.

Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.

As for what one would hope could be a saving grace in a sports picture, the football is laughably inauthentic. Altman filmed better sports footage in M*A*S*H.

Lurid, inane, bordering on the sick, Simon West’s picture attempts to tell the story of the murder of a military woman on a Georgia base. She is tied to the ground by tent pegs, spread-eagled, naked, and strangled. West lovingly lingers on the image. Worse, her physical entrapment is connected to a gang rape in similar circumstances years prior. West cruelly enjoys that image as well.

But forget The General’s Daughter as a pseudo snuff film. Even if you can get by that horror, you are left with four insurmountable handicaps.

First, the story is absurd. When a new clue is required to move it along, boom! – it drops out of nowhere. When the investigators (John Travolta and Madeline Stowe) must wrangle information from the daughter’s psychiatrist, they suggest a breach of his medical ethics that is so moronic you can’t believe it has been penned for the screen. If another clue is needed, Travolta just sticks a gun to the head of a character and there you have it -the beans are spilled. When Stowe confronts a suspect in the gang rape seven years earlier, she uses the most obvious technique in the book (the threat of DNA evidence on the daughter’s panties), he succumbs, and voila’ – case solved. Apart from the hackneyed interrogation technique (gasp! – they were just-bought panties, not old panties, and it was all a bluff!), the suspect confesses that he tried to stop the rape, but was unable to do so. Which begs the question: WHY WOULD A BLUFF AS TO HIS DNA ON PANTIES FAZE HIM IN THE SLIGHTEST IF HE WAS NOT ONE OF THE GANG RAPISTS?

Second, the acting is abysmal. Travolta is particularly awful, a condescending bore overly taken with himself. Stowe is useless, and her puffy, mis-shapen face, distorted by collagen and who knows what else, is upsetting, especially when one remembers her in The Last of the Mohicans. With the exception of an interesting weird turn as the daughter’s mentor by James Woods, the rest of the characters are forgettably stock.

Third, the film unintentionally creates a sub-theme of backlash against women in the military. Ostensibly, the film presents women in the military as a good thing, and West clumsily ties the daughter’s gang rape and murder years later to this new phenomenon. Yet, when Travolta and Stowe question a female guard who was on post the night the daughter was murdered, the female solider is a) incompetent; b) blubbering like a brook; and then c) blase’, as she explains to the investigators that people on base often came to the scene of the crime all the time “to fu**.” Add the truly bizarre behavior of the daughter (she essentially sleeps with everyone under her general father’s command), the depiction of military men as almost crazed in their dislike of women in their ranks, the creepy mutual attraction of Woods and the daughter (he is her superior in the chain of command), the fact that Stowe and the daughter – both military women – are made to look sexually enticing (even sporting cherry red lipstick), and an early sexual foxtrot between Travolta and the daughter, and you get the feeling that maybe this film is anti-women in the military. Either that, or West is doing some recruiting. Join Up! The Chicks are Hot!

Finally, if you don’t know who the murderer is in the first 20 minutes, you were probably shocked that the boat sank in Titanic.

A black crime comedy that is full of visual gambits (many hit, many miss), this is a heist film billed as Great Britain’s Pulp Fiction. It has many similarities – the screwing around with sequence, the blase’ attitude to brutality, the quirky characters – but visually, it shares more in common with the Cohen Brothers first film, Blood Simple, though post-MTV in attitude. The director shows you every knife in his drawer, from stop action to slow motion 360 (an entertaining card game gone bad), to interspered music video. The result is a mash of a film, but it is populated by engaging players (a quartet of inept thieves, a trio of crass, drugged out marijuana brokers, a Mr. Big, a fatherly enforcer with a weird concept of family values, an Abbott and Costello) and it moves quickly (sometime, too quickly, because the Cockney is a bitch).

The director, Guy Ritchie, has moved on to the Robert Downey-Jude Law Sherlock Holmes flicks, infusing them with the same action and pace as this picture.

Does it have soul? None. It’s all flash and teeth.

Cruel Intentions: Reese Witherspoon had to come from somewhere, so why not a high school socialite world remake of Dangerous Liaisons, with monied prep school Manhattanites in the roles of French courtesans. It looks chintzier than it should, shot at maybe one estate and at one apartment building, giving it a decidedly cheap feel. It’s neither adept enough to be engaging or camp enough to be funny. It also includes a cringe-inducing courtship between Ryan Phillipe (as Valmont) and Witherspoon. Phillipe, tasked to deflower the chaste Witherspoon (she is the daughter of the headmaster), becomes “totally infatuated” with her. Why? Because she makes him laugh. How? Because during a car ride, she made faces at him by sticking her tongue out and screwing her nose up and using her fingers on the top of her head to simulate the look of a lunatic/horned beast.