CONAN THE HAWAIIAN

22 Aug

1. The Help/Touchstone                                    Wknd/$  20.5            Total/$  71.8

2. Rise of the Planet of the Apes/Fox              Wknd/$  16.3            Total/$134.0

3. Spy Kids 4/Dimension                                   Wknd/$  12.0            Total/$  12.0

4. Conan The Barbarian/Lions                         Wknd/$  10.0            Total/$  10.0

5. The Smurfs/Sony                                            Wknd/$    8.0            Total/$ 117.7

6. Fright Night/Touchstone                              Wknd/$    7.9            Total/$    7.9

7. Final Destination 5/NewLine                       Wknd/$    7.7             Total/$  32.3

8. 30 Minutes Or Less/Sony                             Wknd/$    6.3            Total/$  25.8

9. One Day/Focus                                                Wknd/$    5.1            Total/$     5.1

10. Crazy Stupid Love/Warners                        Wknd/$    5.0            Total/$  64.4

TAKING YOUR FOOT OFF MY NECK DOES NOT MAKE YOU A HERO

The Help holds at number one and Rise of The Planet of the Apes holds at number two which is fitting because they’re both race fantasies stemming from liberal white guilt.  Yeah, I said it.  Now the types of revisionist historical fantasies in The Help are nothing new.  They’re practically a sub-genre of westerns where the White guy comes in to help the Native Americans the way no White guy ever really did.  It’s a way for the audience member to fantasize about how they’d have done the right thing if they lived back then not been like the absolute rest of society and wiped out an entire race for their own gain.  Genocide?  Me?  It’s also becoming a sub-genre of any movies having to do with Black people.  Same motivation: the guilt over the horrific behavior of ancestors (or maybe still living older relatives).  Segregation? Me?  Can you imagine if they made movies in Germany about a fictional hero who stood up to Hitler and Nazism and they were a tremendous success?  How about movies where Englishmen stand up to the British Government to save Irishmen during the famine and it being a hit in England?  I think the Irish wouldn’t be thrilled about that and would let you know in their own special drunken riot manner.  Oh, here’s one: a movie where the women’s movement of the 70’s was the result of a man encouraging a woman.  Imagine the howls of outrage over that.  Yes, in history there have been good people who go against the grain.  Schindler was real and even though they had to castrate the guy in the movie version, the family from The Blind Side is real.  This, however, is sheer fucking make believe.  In The Help a privileged White girl helps to empower the black female servants in her town by collecting their stories and writing a book.  The problem? It’s all her idea. In a time where Black people in the south were standing up for themselves without help, there clearly needed to be a story where White people injected themselves.  I know it’s well-intentioned but we know what paves the road to hell, right?  Here’s a dose of real-life perspective: in the movie the maids are grateful, in real life, the actual maid the author of the book had is now suing her for using her likeness.  That’s how much she appreciated this fantasy bullshit.  The apes were more  self-sufficient in rising up.

AT LEAST KEVIN SMITH IS RETIRING FROM FILM

Recently I was in Best Buy and event though Clerks, Chasing Amy and Dogma, which I all once owned on video and DVD were only $8 I still didn’t buy them because there’s a disappointment that hovers over Kevin Smith.  Clerks was great considering it was a guy with no training and no money at all but the problem is he never lived up to that potential.  Despite more money, more experience and working with more professional people, he just never got any better.  Ben Affleck is a better filmmaker now.  The same can be said for Robert Rodriguez here at number three with Spy Kids 4.  He had the same type of “by-your-bootstraps” kind of success with El Mariachi, but despite two decades now of filmmaking he really hasn’t improved.  I saw all the Spy Kids movies because the idea is a great one, but they were all awful because he has no discipline as a filmmaker.  It’s just messy and disorganized from the story to the actual production. What saves him is that he makes his films cheaply enough that they can either easily make money or simply fail to lose any.  Needless to say, I stopped seeing his films (though Grindhouse forced me to sit through Planet of Terror) and this will not be an exception. Not to mention Jessica Alba is not his new Salma Hayek.

WHAT IS BEST IN LIFE? WRITE A GOOD SCRIPT, DIRECT COMPETENTLY AND HEAR THE PRAISE OF THE FANBOYS!

Conan the Barbarian opens at number four and before we address this let’s look back on the original.  It was directed by John Milus a hyper-macho fuckhead who wrote Apocalypse Now, Red Dawn and two of the Dirty Harry movies and was the inspiration for the John Goodman character in The Big Lebowski.   It was also written by Oliver Stone who is just well known as a macho fuckhead.  Add to this the macho fuckhead character of Conan him, a fuckhead Mr. Universe in the title role and the story about a man fighting a snake over his father’s sword and you have an instant classic movie about manly manliness.  Now, this movie only has Conan’s macho fuckhead character left.  While Jason Momoa makes a pretty good Conan, his biggest accomplishment in life is knocking up Lisa Bonet, which is still a manly thing to do, but no real comparison to being Mr. Universe.  Also your story came from the two guys who brought you Sahara and was so bad it had to patched up on-set by a third writer who’s biggest claim to fame was the last Halloween movie to have Jamie Lee Curtis.  Finally, your director is best known for directing Janet Jackson’s “Runaway.” Yeah, we’ve gone from Apocalypse Now to Runaway.  But honestly what’s missing from this is basic storytelling skill. It’s the same plot as the first one: warlord wipes out Conan’s village, killing his father and he’s out for revenge and a stolen sword.  There’s actually more action in this one than the first, but it’s less impressive.  The film’s high point is when teen Conan kills four attackers by himself.  None of the other scenes ever match the passion and urgency of that early scene.  Aside from the main villain, there are four varying henchmen and like level on a video game he takes them one by one, but aside from the first, there’s no reason sense of satisfaction in their dispatching.  Even the final showdown is more whimper than bang.  While Stephen Lang gives it his all as the heavy, what helped give the original Conan gravity were performances by actual heavyweights like James Earl Jones and Max Von Sydow.  Their commitment to the movie let you know to take it seriously no matter how silly.  The best they have here is Morgan Freeman who briefly narrates (they forget if he opens the film, he’s got to close it) and his warm grandfatherly timbre is not quite the same thing.  I’m not overly disappointed because honestly I didn’t expect much.  It’s actually somewhat better in many ways, starting with the production design. If nothing else, it looks great.  Not the grand vistas of the original, but the sight of elephants carrying a ship through the jungle and up mountains still helps to complete a land of fantasy and wonder. Too bad they didn’t do it in a better movie.

BIG BLUE MARBLE

The Smurfs are down to number five and this has made $320M worldwide. It’s a huge hit.  You only wish I were joking.

ENGLISH DRUNKS MAKE EVERYTHING BETTER

Fright Night opens at number six which isn’t too awful for a remake of a cult film to begin with.  The first one was a fun 90 minutes of what to do when you’re a teenager and no one believes a vampire moves in next door and is after your mom and girlfriend (serious Oedipal stuff going on clearly).  Horror comedy is not easy to do and when you manage to succeed even as well as it did, minor classic status is instantly yours.  This is the same and is pretty much just as much fun.  Colin Farrell continues his little comeback tour by playing Jerry, the vampire next door and yes, the idea that there’s a vampire next door named “Jerry” does not go unnoticed by the film.  Like the first, by far the biggest comic relief comes from the vampire hunter the teenager seeks out. In the first it was Roddy McDowell as a washed-up actor hosting a horror show called Fright Night. In this one it’s a cheesy Criss Angel style Vegas magician whose show is called Fright Night.  David Tennant pretty much steals this film and you wish he’d shown up sooner, because two hours is a long time for a movie like this.  It would have opened better if they’d played up the comedy both in the film and in the ads.

CLEARL THEY DON’T KNOW WHAT “FINAL” MEANS

Final Destination 5 is down to number six. Why?  Why does this exist?  Man, some of you clearly love watching teenagers die.  And not just die, but die in the most needlessly complex and sadistic manner possible.

JUST…WHATEVER

30 Minutes or Less is down to number seven and I get the feeling there’s like 30 pages of a character developing script or maybe even another plot that was jettisoned to boil this down to its basic component: a guy with a bomb strapped to his chest has to rob a bank.  It may even have been a drama based on the real life story, but someone said, “Hey, it’s actually kinda ridiculous so it should be a comedy.  I mean in real life the guy died.”  So now we get a stoner slacker pizza delivery boy who gets shanghaied to this by two middle-aged losers so they can have money to kill someone else to inherit a million dollars.  They’re so dumb that it never occurs to them to just have him steal a million dollars since he has to do it anyway.  It’s hard to judge a film like this because it sets its sights so low and pretty much achieves them so it can hardly be said to have failed.

IF ONLY ENGLAND HAD A HISTORY OF PRODUCING GOOD ACTORS. WAIT A MINUTE…

One Day opens at number nine and once again we have producers finally realizing a mistake that should have been obvious to basically anyone from the beginning and trying to hide it in the ad campaign.  In this particular case it’s Anne Hathaway’s horrible British accent.  Clearly Keira Knightley, Carey Mulligan, Haley Atwell and half a dozen more appropriate, actually English actresses were unavailable for them to do this.  But somehow, between auditions, readings and actual fucking filming they didn’t notice her accent was shit and simply change the character from English to American. Now instead we’ve got an ad campaign where Anne Hathaway talks about how great the movie is rather than letting you hear how bad she is in the role.  And I loves me some Anne Hathaway, but you’re not getting me near this shit.

SANE SMART APATHY

Finally, Crazy Stupid Love closes out the top ten and I still haven’t seen it so I guess the underperformance of this can be blamed squarely on people like me. We meant to go, never did, yet somehow found time for 30 Minutes or Less.

S*L*O*W

Speaking of 30 Minutes or Less, before seeing it, I was in the Food Emporium across the street picking up something to nosh on during the movie and I was getting a little irritated by the older couple who seemed to be holding up the line. Then I realized it was Alan Alda and his wife and it’s okay to wait on Hawkeye Pierce.

NEW MUSIC FOR OLD PEOPLE

Recently I made the decision to create a playlist on my iPod of music only from 2000 forward because as much as I love the music of my life, sometimes you just can’t hear certain songs again.  So, out of 5400+ songs my 21st Century Playlist is only about 1500 songs.  There is no greater proof that you’re old when the bulk of your music belongs in another millennium.  Yeah, it’s six decades vs one, but still…  Well, this coincided with me finally catching up on some music I’ve been meaning to pick up for awhile. I rejoined emusic.com and given how they get everything a day late, being a year behind actually makes their site worth the money, though I still prefer to pick things up physically because I’m old.  I’ve no shame in finally getting Britney’s latest, but I also picked up The Black Keys and apparently there’s a whole sub-genre of hipster white boys who love the old school R&B.  I also grabbed some singles like Maroon 5 and Christina Aguilera’s “Moves Like Jagger” which is a much-needed hit for the both of them after both had albums this year that were either less-than-impressive or outright flops. What’s funny is how much they hate each other and will now be tied together forever.  I also continue to discover old dance music like Milky’s “Just The Way You Are” and Orlando Vaughn’s “Better Than Never” which sounds like the dance music Seal was only trying to make.  I need to stop picking up Moloko single by single, but I refuse to drink the Kool-aid on either Rilo Kiley or The New Pornographers and only picked up her song “Breaking Up.”  Then of course I finally got the latest Prefab Sprout (only if you can count something actually recorded in 1992 but released now as new) continuing 20 years of devoted fandom.  Sorry, Paddy. I don’t know how I missed it.  But for the life of me I simply cannot work up the motivation to pick up the Jay-Z/Kanye West collaboration.  It just feels so coldly calculated like the Miami Heat dream team than a sincere musical match-up and yes, I know Kanye idolizes Jay-Z.  So what. Jeff Lynn idolizes The Beatles but that didn’t make his work with George Harrison any better.

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