Star Wars Ep. I in 3D. Actually, how about no, fuck you George..


This is galling. Before I expound upon the many reasons why, let me backtrack a bit. I love George Lucas, and I despise him. Despite the onslaught of crap he’s imposed upon me this past decade, I can not deny what a profound effect the original 3 Star Wars movies had on me, and the way they shaped.. well part of everything I am today. Yes, they were that impactful and that meaningful. No, it didn’t mean I became a fanboy and went to conventions or camped out for tickets. And I have never picked up a Star Wars “novel” in my life. But the movies alone did allow me to delve in, heart and mind, into a universe I could get completely lost in. Then Lucas took a giant, steaming crap all over my childhood, with his abominable “prequels.” 3 movies so soul-shatteringly disappointing, I kind of, and I am not even fucking kidding here, swore off even going to see movies afterward. I have been to scant few since.

I wasn’t sure at first what I didn’t like about the prequels. All the basic elements seemed to be there. There were light saber duels, fighting, lasers, space battles, weird aliens, even the windshield wiper scene-fade deal Lucas brought from his nostalgia for the old action serials. But every time, and especially after the Phantom Menace, I left the theater feeling hollow, confused, and sadly.. bored. I am not going to go into much more detail of how and why the prequels sucked donkey shlong, because Red Letter Media has already done an amazing job of that. But I will say I thank them for being able to explain point by point all the failings of these films, which I could not at the time. I only knew there was really nothing memorable, and I had little to no desire to ever see them again. I guess my lack of being able to explain to my friends, who were deep in denial and actually claimed to like the prequels, was something akin to being a little kid and feeling patronized. At the age of 4 or 5, you can feel and experience a complex emotion like that, but you aren’t familiar with the term, let alone able to explain it. You’re just pissed off, and it just gets worse when your mom says “oh he just gets cranky when he’s tired.”

Anyway, in a child-like way, I was unable for a long time to explain why the prequels sucked. They just did. And if you are having a hard time coming to terms with the specifics of why they also left you bitterly disappointed (hint: it’s not JarJar. As annoying as he was he was the least of the problems), check out the brilliant Harry Plinkett’s synopsis by clicking the Red Letter link in the above paragraph. And if you are a prequel fanboy/girl…a) you suck.. and b) noooooo.. I did not “decide” to dislike the movies after seeing the Red Letter reviews. They were merely a conduit for pointing out all the technical reasons from a standpoint of filmology I couldn’t articulate. Now.. onto why George Lucas is an even bigger dick than he was last week..

2 years or so back, while visiting my sister and her husband in Florida, we all went to see Avatar. Despite what all the American critics sucking at the teet of James Cameron tell you, that movie also sucked. But it was, at least visually, amazing. It was also groundbreaking. Almost up there with the Wizard of Oz or the early animated Disney films in terms of innovation. It truly was a surreal visual spectacle the likes of which film-goers had never before experienced. Upon leaving the theater, my sis and I both agreed the movie sucked but looked pretty amazing. Literally the next words out of my mouth were “George Lucas has to be thinking how he can top this.” Well, he could have made an amazing new badass Star Wars flick.. Episode 7.. i.e. the empire reforms, Vader’s secret protege emerges, etc. It all could have been in 3D even more bad-ass than Avatar, and perhaps even Lucas learned from his horrific mistakes from Ep. 1-3 and made a movie whose quality was on par with the first 3 AND IN AMAZING FUCKING STATE OF THE ART 3D!! Or.. he could have just started with a brand new story.. something completely new and nothing to do with Star Wars. Maybe an Indiana Jones type flick, or another sci-fi one, or something. But no, that’s not what happened.

You see, going with any of the above suggestions would have required Lucas to do something he has clearly become reticent to do since the early 80s. That is getting off his fat ass and doing some work. We’ve all seen the outtakes and behind the scenes stuff from the original 3 SW. Lucas is thin, frail, looks worn the fuck out, but he’s directing. He’s on location braving sandstorms, he’s involved in every detail and aspect and pleading with his actors for more energy and intensity. For the prequels, his ass is in a comfy chair, sipping coffee, watching actors or stunt doubles fuck around in front of a green screen where he can observe all the “action” from 4 or 5 huge-ass monitors.

 

Again, I’m not going to go too heavily into this. Go check out the Red Letter stuff for details. But that difference right there should clue you in on some important things about Lucas, and why the prequels sucked so hard.

But here’s why Lucas is a dick. Yea, he’s trying top Cameron alright. He’s also trying to jump in to the new 3D craze. He’s also trying to make more money. I have no problem with any of that, except for the fact that he’s doing it by peddling out the same shitty movie that broke 100 million hearts in 2003 or whenever the fuck the Phantom Shithole came out. That’s right. George Lucas watched Avatar, thought to himself there’s no way he can allow Jim Cameron to have the biggest dick in the room, and decided to pay a bunch of assholes to turn his shittiest movie into 3D and re-release it. What a dick move. I know no other way to describe it.

Yea.. that's Jim Cameron over there. No George, I think he's flicking YOU off.

Death Threats: As American as apple pie


 

Ahh, there’s nothing that conjures up the old American spirit more than a good old fashioned wave of death threats. Whether it’s for a controversial political view, a bad rendition of the national anthem, being of an ethnic persuasion similar to that of terrorists or people we’re at war with, or sometimes, even something as asinine as playing a fictional character on TV. If you do or say something, or even look a certain way that a segment of the population doesn’t like, people will threaten your life, and sometimes the life of your family. Such is the current case of unfortunate San Francisco 49er return specialist Kyle Williams. And thanks to the advent of social media, death threats no longer just come in vague letters or anonymous phone calls, but now can be broadcast via outlets like Twitter for all to see.

Now I’ll add the obvious qualifiers. For every one ignoramus who issues a death threat, a good 100 or so people step up to let that person know they are being a rampaging cuntweasel. Moreover the overwhelming majority of these losers wouldn’t have the means or the ability to kill anyone, but that’s little consolation when faceless entities are threatening your and your loved ones’ lives. It should also be noted that death threats, and indeed murders of athletes and entertainers, is not a uniquely American thing, as botching a play in a goddamned soccer game can literally get you killed.

So I am not so naive as to think morons sending death threats to politicians or football players is endemic to Americans, or that it defines the American psyche. And inevitably social media is a conduit for idiots and sociopaths to express their drooling idiocy. Still, I see stories like the poor damn kick returner’s fuck-up and wonder if a little “internet censorship” wouldn’t be the worst thing ever. Ooohhh yea.. I went there.

DRIVE


Movie Review: DRIVE

Year: 2011

Starring: Ryan Gosling, Albert Brooks, Brian Cranston, Ron Perlman, that chick from Never let me go

Stars: 2 out of 5

Oy, what a fucking mess. And I’m not talking about the bloody piles of human goop we’re treated to in every scene for the last half of the movie once director Nicolas Winding Refn gives up on the whole film noir thing and just decides to go with good old buckets-of blood-n’ gore slasher flick. I mean… well, I guess I just explained it. What was the point of this movie? Was there one? I’ll attempt to broach that question later, after I piss and moan about how this movie could have been entertaining and fun, but instead was depressing, needlessly gory, and for the most part, boring.

The movie starts out interestingly enough. Ryan Gosling is a getaway driver for some bad guys. The heist doesn’t go exactly as planned and Ryan and his completely stoic, emotionless face (more about that later) evade the cops throughout downtown L.A. We know, since we read the back of the DVD, that this is his character’s regular nighttime gig. So that scene is pretty cool, and also a big, fat, tease.. More about that later. Next we’re treated to a long opening credit sequence, done with pretty pink fonts and a kickin’ neo-new wave pop tune with moving shots of the L.A. skyline. It’s all very tasteful and effective. It also clues me in to the fact that this movie is going to be filled with more pretense than a Portland coffee house during open mic poetry night. i.e. a lot more style than substance, but that’s what I’m game for, so it’s all good… or so I hoped.

Then, once Winding Refn (or just Refn?) has us interested, he grinds the film to a screeching halt. A solid 45 minutes of what one might call character development, except for the fact that Ryan Gosling had his face surgically altered so that it cannot express joy, anger, jealousy, envy, diarrhea, or any other “hu-man” emotions, as we know it. Seriously.. how the fuck am I supposed to tell happy Ryan Gosling from angry Ryan Gosling to horny Ryan Gosling? (simmer down, ladies). Anyway, Ryan Gosling and his goddamned stone face work as a mechanic for a gimpy Brian Cranston, and he also has a hot neighbor, that chick from Never let me go. No not Keira Knightley, the other one. The gimpy mechanic wants to make a lot of money using Ryan as a race car driver, the neighbor chick wants to make a lot of sexy time using Ryan’s passionately expressionless face for.. well, you can guess.

The neighbor chick has a kid that is clearly of mixed race, and we discover dad is in prison. Ryan is not in prison and doesn’t look like a typical L.A. inmate, so I guess the attraction is obvious. At least it should be, but the director wasn’t so sure you got it, so during a scene when they are in the car, we get to see her hand grab his, for at least a full 20 seconds. Now this may not sound like a long time, but go ahead and sit there and count to 20.. and think about a static shot of a hand on another… wait.. got it yet? OH OK.. I GET IT!!

The romance is short lived though, because neighbor chick sheepishly tells him her husband is getting out of prison. This upsets him, I guess, although it might just be that he’s all in with a pair of jacks. So, in case the protracted hand-holding scene and the painfully awkward “my old man is back and town, sorry no (more?) boinking” dialogue haven’t clued you in on this doomed love angle, we get interspersed shots of the chick’s visibly depressed face and Gosling’s stone dead possibly turning to cement face during the husband’s welcome home party, all the while treated to another indie-pop tune with lyrics, and I’m not shitting you, that go “Can’t get you off my mind.” OHHHH I GET IT!!!

Have I mentioned at this point we’re about a full hour from the decently exciting opening scene and the movie has now slowed to the pace of a three-toed sloth in a coma trying to get a consumer protection bill through congress? Well, finally something interesting, albeit stupid, emerges in the plot. It turns out that neighbor chick’s husband had to pay protection money in prison, and now the price he owes has gone up to an exorbitant amount. What might our (hero?) do at this point? Well, in the real world, he might say.. well this works out great. The mob kills this pesky husband, I can move in on this piece of neighbor tail. But no. It turns out our (hero??) isn’t real bright. His idea is to help the husband rob a pawn shop and be the getaway man, with no payoff except the mob leaves the neighbor chick’s family alone. **SPOILERS AHEAD**

Where it goes from here is pretty predictable, but at least we get another car chase. The heist goes bad, people get shot, Ryan Gosling survives, then something very common in modern fimmaking happens. The director completely runs out of ideas and the entire movie turns to liquified shit. All the underworld figures are revealed. There’s a tough talking Ron Perlman, who seems to be the henchman for Albert Brooks, a movie producer turned quasi-L.A. mobster. In a sort of asinine “twist,” Ron Perlman talks tough but doesn’t kill anyone, and in fact seems sort of grossed out by blood and violence. Albert Brooks goes on a Jack the Ripper freebasing-like killing binge. Wait.. Albert Brooks?? This guy?? That’s different, I guess. Brooks is like everyone’s favorite neurotic Jewish uncle and Ron Perlman is the scariest looking human being on the planet. We also get treated to a scene where Gosling stomps a guy’s face in until he’s got his foot stuck in some kind of red velvet pudding, all the while his expression revealing.. well, still nothing. Unfortunately the neighbor chick is stuck in the elevator with him when this happens, and when she gets out she has the best look in the film.. like “Well, you are hot, but I’m not sure I’m really trading up here.”

As the film unravels from one pointless gory scene to the next, we get the coup de gras, a fight to the death scene between Brooks and Gosling. Sigh. Let’s just pretend this happened in the real world for a second. It would go something like this.. Ryan Gosling would cock his fist back and Albert Brooks would either fake, or really have a cardiac episode and pass out. But in Hollywood, or in this case “Indie-wood,” the director attempts to stretch our suspension of disbelief somewhere beyond the scope of Who Framed Roger Rabbit. But, this isn’t the first time I’ve seen this. Some very mediocre mid 90s film had a final battle scene where an ancient James Caan was kicking the shit out of Arnold Schwarzenegger until Arnold distracted him then hit him from behind with something. Now, like then, I call bullshit. So after this final Albert Brooks boss battle, an injured Gosling drives off, and now I have a confession to make. The screen goes completely black for a full 5 minutes and another indie-pop tune comes on. I am not sure if this was by design, or because my version of the DVD was pirated and given to me as a white elephant office Christmas gift (I of course have since destroyed it and notified the proper authorities). So in short, no idea what happens, why, or most importantly, why I should care.

Movies don’t necessarily need a central theme to be good, but they usually have a fucking point. What was this movie’s? Crime is bad, mmmkay? L.A. is a dangerous place? Ryan Gosling shows no emotion, even when he’s murdering you? The dating pool is pretty weak for single moms? What exactly was Winding Refn trying to tell us, other than he can make Ryan Gosling refuse to emote, and slather the screen with dump trucks of blood while appearing all hip and indie-like? Didn’t Tarantino corner that market then play out that whole genre? I seriously don’t get it. This film got nominated for all kinds of awards. I give it my “best attempt to turn a decent car-chase flick into a boring, pointless, gore porn exercise… starring Ryan Stoneface Gosling.” I give it 4 extended middle fingers out of a possible zero. Bottom line: Ok.. it wasn’t the worst movie I’ve ever seen. But it was damn disappointing, and that’s what pisses me off the most. The “fun” moments are separated by intolerably long swaths of nothing, or bloodbaths. Most of which were completely unnecessary. So here’s a hint: When a director is trying to be “edgy,” by a) having some bullshit 3-part name with an action verb in it, or b) raining down blood and guts to reinforce a non-existent point, the critics will love it…but you might not.

Oh look.. more racist crap with Ron Paul’s name on it


By now most everyone has seen the racist/fire and brimstone apocalyptic lunacy apparently peddled by Ron Paul in the 80s and 90s, much of which seemed to be in an effort to hock some stupid book. For the record, Paul has denied penning the newsletters, despite video evidence he seemed to at least give them his stamp of approval.

Well this time, we have a really, really bad web-ad involving John Huntsman and his adopted Chinese daughter. So bad, juvenille, and cartoonish in fact, the knee-jerk reaction from the pro-Paul blogosphere has been to claim that the Huntsman campaign created and released the ad themselves. Have a looksee and try not to laugh:

Chances are, this was not created by the Huntsman campaign. And certainly no one in the Paul campaign is stupid enough to think this would fly. Undoubtedly, this has to be the work of a desperate Paul supporter with too much time and bandwidth on their hands. Although the attempt to carve into the miniscule Huntsman support seems just as misguided as the message, but alas, no one else running has an adopted Chinese kid to pick on. Plus, the strategy has proven to be sound, like in South Carolina in 2000 when Karl Rove orchestrated a lovely, heartwarming robocall campaign against John McCain, suggesting his adopted part Bangladeshi daughter was a black child out of wedlock.

Yes, it’s Republican primary season…. and that means, smears, queers, and racism on the campaign trail. And even if we pretend for a second that a) Ron Paul didn’t pen, know about, or approve of any of the quasi-psychotic newsletters with his signature affixed (unlikely) and that the same goes for this asinine anti-Huntsman ad (likely) it still presents a troubling pattern. Paul supporters are fired up. And as some of my friends that fit that monicker point out, it’s because he’s the only true libertarian out there. The only guy not being bought and sold by the stoolies in the 2 party “system.” Mmmk. But, it appears some in their ranks are a bit off in their views of race and sexual orientation here in what we like to call the 21st century. And it’s not a stretch to imagine that some of this crowd is supporting Senator Paul because he, at the very least, seemed to.. at one time..  give the thumbs up to their antiquated messages about race relations and homosexuality.

Craig James for Senate


Craig James for Senate

Craig James (or “The Pony,” as us sports geek remember him) is running for senate. He’s in Texas, he’s running as a “Conservative,” and he’s not real popular right now over the whole getting Mike Leach fired over the b.s. with his spoiled kid deal at Texas Tech. It’s not really the fact that he’s running for political office, as a whole host of jocks have done, and on occasion, with some success; it’s that James’s ad is so bland and generic it’s like a TV/Hollywood producer’s idea of what a political ad for a fictional character might look like. Here, check it out:

It’s so cheesy and clichéd, it does seem a bit like James is being sarcastic, or mocking the political process. However since it’s doubtful James would have that level of sophistication or the desire to be the Texas version of Stephen Colbert, we’re left with the conclusion that this is the real deal. A scripted, bland, boring, made for TV republicanish Senate candidate. And for that, James is being excoriated. And while I’m no fan of James or his role in the whole Mike Leach fiasco, and it’s highly doubtful I’ll be voting for a Republican senator in this lifetime, I have to come to James’s defense here. What exactly does the media expect? Would they be less critical if his ad was a homophobic rant? An attack on President Obama’s patriotism? Or maybe a shot of him genuflecting at the feet of a giant cross? (The latter may be seen as proper qualification to QB an NFL team)

Craig James’s first senate ad is short, sweet, and milquetoast. As the critics point out, “just what you’d expect,” from a jock/rookie politician introducing himself. He basically spends most of his 30 second commercial praising governor/once presidential candidate Rick Perry, and inferring I guess he’ll do just like Perry does if elected. That’s a decent strategy I suppose, as Perry was recently re-elected, and is apparently, at least more popular than Congress, which is to say more popular than Hitler and the Bubonic Plague. So Craig James tells us nothing in his first 30 second clip other than he admires rick Perry and he’s all about “conservative values,” whatever the hell that means any more. Not sure what people expected, but I don’t get what the fuss is over.

RED


Movie Review: RED

Year: 2010

Stars: Bruce Willis, Morgan Freeman, John Malkovich, Helen Mirren, Brian Cox, and a bunch of other old and typically respectable actors

Stars: 2 out of 5

RED is a shoot ‘em up, blow lots of shit up, pseudo comedy/action movie with an impressive cast of real veteran actors all teetering on the edge of washed up. They even dug up the still breathing corpse of Ernest Borgnine for a cameo most people under the age of 70 probably didn’t catch. I’ll warn you now there are “spoilers” all over, but I’m not sure I’m spoiling anything, because nothing in this movie makes any fucking sense and I’m not sure the producers really cared, as long as lots of shit blew up and John Malkovich got to act zany. Yee haw.

The movie starts with Bruce Willis playing the same character Bruce Willis is contractually obligated to play in 97.4% of the films he has ever made. An invincible assassin with a heart of gold risking his life for some chick he barely knows. He barely knows this chick, some headset drone in the government pension office Bruce is sweet on based on her voice, but he’s been stalking her (in a totally innocuous way.. I guess) and then goes as far as to break into her house and kidnap her (again in a hee-hee how cute way?) when he realizes his old bosses at the CIA want to kill him and by extension her, for some reason that is never really made clear, but has something to do with Richard Dreyfuss being a dick. In order to try to get as many of his old friends and colleagues killed, he enlists their help, at which point the onslaught of veteran award winning actors having their talents’ completely fucking wasted for lack of any coherent script or character development, begins.

We first meet John Malkovhich’s character, who is paranoid and seems to have Asperger’s. That’s all we ever really know about him. Then we meet Morgan Freeman, who “dies” 3 or 4 different times, in the kind of bad soap opera way, wherein the director wants to make it perfectly clear he’s dead, only to pop up again in the next episode, with some half-baked explanation. But in this case we don’t even get that, just a few wry Morgan Freeman smirks and catchphrases, which I guess we accept because Morgan freeman is a bad-ass spy, and they are like, hard to kill and stuff. Eventually, Freeman’s character finally is killed off, I think, fulfilling the Hollywood obligation to sacrifice the leading black character. Nice going. However, seeing as how Freeman wasn’t playing a veteran detective teaching his young partner the ropes to catch a serial killer, this must have been a stretch.

Next up is Brian Cox. An excellent actor who plays a former KGB agent now buddy-buddy with the old geezer ex-CIA crew. Just in case the audience was born after 1991 or retarded, we’re reminded that the Russians used to be the bad guys. Cox is the most disappointing in this film. He’s probably the best actor of the bunch here, and gets to play a boring, soft-spoken former Ruskie/”now-I-love-this-US-of-A” caricature, who just seems to want to do nothing but bang Helen Mirren (she’s up next). Helen Mirren is a nice grandmotherly older British gal, who offers tea and biscuits to visitors, but used to be an MI6 assassin and still loves to kill people. Wait a minute!!?? A NICE LITTLE OLD LADY WHO LIKES SHOOTING PEOPLE?? THAT’S FUCKING HYSTERICAL!! OH SWEET IRONY!

Anyway, at this point I should explain the rest.. Bruce Willis is being hunted by a young, cocky, hot-shot CIA up-and-comer. We know he’s cocky because after the first 5 or 6 times Bruce Willis has kicked his ass and almost killed him, he’s still taunting Willis with things like “Nice try grandpa” and “You should have stayed retired.” He says this, literally, with his arm in a sling and fresh bruises from his most recent ass kickings at Bruce’s hand. Not sure if it’s supposed to be funny or just idiotic writing, but more about that later. Also Richard Dreyfuss is some kind of evil weapons dealer (as opposed to the heroic family-oriented ones often depicted in Hollywood) and there’s something about the Vice President and a bunch of civilians killed 20 years ago in South America. How or why this is an issue at all, I don’t know, as in real life this is basically a daily occurrence known as: “a military operation based on actionable intelligence with some unfortunate collateral casualties.”

So anyway, the neurotic former government desk job chick from the beginning turns out to be a natural spy/expert in foiling CIA interrogations. The geezer crew hatch some plot to kidnap the vice president, Brian Cox comes to the rescue of his British girlfriend who likes making tea and shooting people, and the rest of the script seems like it was scribbled hastily on cocktail napkins right as “last call” was announced in some Hollywood bar. This isn’t surprising though. This movie was pretty damn ambitious. An A-list cast in a wild combination huge budget action movie/comedy all crammed into a neat and tidy 111 minutes for mass-consumption. I actually give a lot of props to the idea. But it’s obvious where corners needed to be cut to make it to the screen. The script plays out like junior college stream of consciousness filmmaking 101. The character development is nil, relying on the faces of actors we recognize playing the usual kind of parts they play. Finally, the movie ends, with no real resolution to the plot, no real “bad guy” is identified in the grand conspiracy except Richard Dreyfuss, and some people die. The geezer crew and the “new girl” drive off into the sunset with the same dialogue and blocking I swear was stolen from the last scenes of any of the Star Trek part IV-VI movies.

In summation, RED had its moments.. but they were few and far between. There were some cool special effects and spy shit, but since you weren’t sure if you were watching a comedy or a spy thriller, it was hard to get into. There was a fantastic cast, and none of them did much of anything memorable, save for a few catchphrases. Bottom line: If you are bored out of your skull and need 90+ minutes to kill, or a bunch of great actors just showing their award-winning faces on screen is enough for you, or the thought of a little old British lady with a gun just tickles the shit out of your funny bone, check it out. Otherwise, don’t bother.