Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Wasted Postage - Reports from the Netflix theater

Gran Torino (2008)
Gran Torino, at times, feels like a death march - the lonely doom of a man without a country, slowly realizing he's the only outdated model left on the shelf. But the apparent glee in which Eastwood's Walt growls rapid slurs and insults almost finds a stand-up comedian's rhythm and unwinking acknowledgment, offending only the clueless in the crowd. It's not all Archie Bunker one-liners. When Eastwood stares down some neighborhood thugs, he's as menacing and believable as ever. As a topical depiction of America's changing portrait - the titular muscle car reminds of Detroit's fallen empire, the decaying rust belt neighborhoods - is all relevant and gracefully executed.

The questionable moral many might take from the story? Xenophobia is fine as long as you hate all the gooks, zipper heads, crackers, slopes, guineas, Jews, spooks, spades and mics all the same. But, maybe not. Hopefully more people walked out of the theater knowing that hell, if Walt can work past his old attitudes and help a neighbor in need despite himself, maybe we can too (even if his transformation takes place in a Holywood two-hours). Demerits for the sniveling young priest's uneven dialogue, and the forced macho scripting during the "teaching-young-Thao-how-to-talk-like-a-man" montage. B+

Transporter 3 (2008)

Xtreme Mountain Dew Monster Energy Red Bull Lager Doritos ('splosion) C-

Teeth (2007)
Purity-ring-wearing, bible thumper Dawn learns she is the vagina dentata myth personified during a sexual assault (it does not end well for the male attacker) in this indie horror/comedy. Even during attempts to go over-the-top in it's satire of evangelical chaste, Teeth misses all the good jokes and beats us over the head with the easy ones. The film's one success is flipping the misogynistic dentata myth on its head. In ancient lore, it was a story to scare men away from doing the deed with the vile and untrustworthy fairer sex. In Teeth, her, um, gift becomes a tool of female empowerment. But, in the end, the gore isn't even fun, and that's all that really matters, isn't it? D

Bananas (1971)
More slapstick and absurd than Allen's later comedies, Bananas plays like a string of one liners and physical gags tied together by the satirical story. Allen plays Fielding Mellish, a clumsy milquetoast trainwreck typical to Allen comedies. After a courtship ends in disappointment (in one of the films funnier and more insighful scenes), he leaves New York for the insignificant fictional country of San Martin in an attempt to impress his politically active lady friend. Through a series of mishaps, Mellish becomes involved in a South American revolution and before long, he's become the president/dictator in a fake Castro beard. But, as with most Allen films, it all comes back to his relationship with the girl, and his neurotic feelings of inadequacy.

Meta and postmodern well before those words were part of the mainstream's film vocabulary, the film is bookended by Howard Cossell color commentary of an assassination/coup and then a marriage consummation.
"Bananas" is strongest in its NY-set first half, before it sags under the weight of its high concept plotting — proving slight for an Allen film — but leaps and bounds beyond 99 percent of everything else out there. B+

Friday the 13th (2009) - Of course it's completely pointless, serves up a bunch of kills — none of them creative — and boobies. But it could have at least been funny, suspenseful, or I dunno, competent. Jason's newest reboot is best used for joke fodder while drinking with friends. The unambitious (even for Jason standards) plotting doesn't attempt to make one hair of sense, despite that it would have taken about three more seconds of effort to clarify all two of the plot points. You can't even tell which disposable 20-something is dating which disposable 20-something, eventually they all just start banging each other for the sake of more boobies, with girlfriends all-of-a-sudden not caring that their douchebag BF is in the next room with an identical floozy. D+


The Juice Box said...

I want to see Gran Torino now. Before, I was kind of iffy on it. Thanks.

Warped Coasters said...


Anonymous said...

It's stange that you give Friday the 13th a D+, it sounds like a visual treat!

Anyways, that's sad that we keep making old movies worse, for the sake of skin and gore...

Warped Coasters said...

there were many epic moments of boobage, but it was a terrible, terrible unfrightening excuse for a horror movie.

The film does leave you with a few questions, namely: is Jason a botanist in his free time, or just a pot head?

Who is paying Camp Crystal's electricity bills in the 20 years since it closed?

How did anyone fin out about the lush marijuana field if anyone that ever goes there is eviscerated by a machete?

Why/how does the Abercrombie douche bag have a lake house a few yards from Jason's main killing field?

I guess we'll never know.

Professor Film said...

I have to defend the "Friday the 13th" remake here. I am a hardcore Jason fan, and the first 20 minutes of the remake are just about perfect, encompassing everything that made the series what it is. If the end credits rolled right after that, I would have gone home happy. Is the rest of the movie as good? No. But to introduce logic into your criticism is borderline ridiculous. Every character in every Jason film is interchangeable. Nobody cares about character development. Some of the kills were weak, I admit, but I gotta respect the one where Jason stabs the girl through the cranium and lifts her out of the water just enough to reveal her breasts. At the very least, it shows the filmmakers know the history of the series and are catering to their core audience. I had a good time, what can I say?
I'm going to defend "Teeth" here as well. Does the film as a whole work? No. It feels a little padded, like the material warranted 60 minutes instead of 90. But I think the lead performance by Jess Weixler is a bit of a revelation. She nails that sunny Christian virginal personality at the beginning of the film, and shows her gradual evolution into feminist warrior by film's end. Her journey kept me interested. I think the rest of the characters were under-developed, I could give a shit about her mother, and I find it unbelievable that she would sleep with that douchebag at that film's mid-point or that he would call his friend in the middle of having sex. Regardless, I thought it had a sly sense of humor for the most part, and at the very least was semi-original. On a sidenote, a friend who I watched it with said it was the worst film he has ever seen in his life, so I see your point of view as well.

Warped Coasters said...

yeah i shouldn't look for logic in a Jason movie ... but I would have appreciated more humor and maybe some suspense. for whatever reason i just didn't have as good a time as I thought I would. the scene with the Asian guy in the shed was about the only comic relief in the whole thing.

Professor Film said...

I will agree with you on the lack of suspense. The filmmakers employed the Jason POV in every kill, thus eliminating any potential scares. Every film in the series had the decency to shake things up and let Jason unexpectedly kill at least once, so that's a big fail on the remake's part. And might I say that I had no idea what the hell was going on during the sequence inside the suspended VW bus. The way it was shot made the ensuing action indecipherable. OK, it's not the greatest film ever made. But it was still a step up from that God-awful "Texas Chainsaw Massacre" remake. Now that was a cinematic abomination, save for Jessica Biel's tanktop.