PARTY AT JAKE RYAN’S

4 Mar

1. The Lorax/Universal                                 Wknd/$  70.7            Total/$   70.7

2. Project X/Warners                                    Wknd/$  20.8            Total/$   20.8

3. Act of Valor/Relativity                               Wknd/$   13.7            Total/$   45.2

4. Safe House/Universal                              Wknd/$    7.2             Total/$  108.2

5. Good Deeds/Lion’s Gate                         Wknd/$    7.0             Total/$   25.7

6. Journey 2: Mysterious Island/WB            Wknd/$    6.9             Total/$   85.6

7. The Vow/ScreenGems                             Wknd/$    6.1             Total/$   111.7

8. This Means war/Fox                                 Wknd/$    5.6            Total/$    41.5

9. Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance             Wknd/$    4.7            Total/$    44.9

10. The Artist/Weinstein                                Wknd/$    3.9            Total/$    37.1

I AM THE LORAX/LISTEN TO ME/YOU’RE BETTER OFF STAYING HOME AND WATCHING TV

The Lorax opens very unsurprisingly at number one and I had no interest in this whatsoever.  Like many of the Dr. Seuss books, they simply cannot sustain more than thirty minutes and the resulting efforts to stretch them out into feature length films leads you to crap like the only Seuss movie I ever saw: The Grinch Who Stole Christmas, where get answers to the question no one ever, ever asked like, “What’s the secret origin of The Grinch?”  No one cares because that’s not what the story was ever about.  Now as an environmental warning tale The Lorax has the benefit and curse of being as relevant now as it was then.  The problem is a company like Dreamworks are the last people with a clue on how to place relevance in their animated fare. They only know celebrity voices and cute characters, which is why you have Zac Efron, Taylor Swift and a lot of cute bears and now the boy who was in the book isn’t acting out of genuine curiosity; he’s just doing it for a girl who loves trees.  And you definitely can’t have the book’s darker ending where maybe the boy will bring the trees back.  And even if there was a to spin the tale into broader story that could hold up for 90 minutes, I’m very doubtful the people who brought you Despicable Me could do it. They couldn’t do a story about a grumpy man made nice by cute kids right and anyone can do that.  Besides if you want a gorgeous animated movie about the environment there’s something called Wall*E from people who know that animated movies should be more than just cute and pretty with stars behind the mike.

WE ARE THE YOUTH RUN WILD

Project X opens at number two and you could say this is what you’d get if Jake’s party from 16 Candles was a film unto itself, but given the director of The Hangover, Todd Phillips, is being heavily advertised at its producer, it’s safe to say this is what you’d get if The Hangover was made as teen flick and you made a prequel showing all the activity they led up to morning after. This makes the second “found footage” movie in as many weeks that’s actually shot pretty decently, failing to induce any type of nausea and playing upon the conceit that it can never be just one camera.  It’s the cameras of everyone who is involved, from cell phones to the cameras in police cars strung together as part of the narrative.  Absolutely no new ground is broken here for teen flicks. It’s just a matter of how well you tell the old story and they do a decent enough job.  We have all the familiar characters: mild-mannered lead, obnoxious best friend who propels the story forward, other best friend who’s usually dorky and slightly heavy; beautiful, platonic best gal pal destined to be come the love interest, hottest girl in school whom everybody wants, pretty boy jerk, stodgy parents not realizing their departure is about to open up the gates of chaos…nothing new and no new variations on these themes.  Just the fantasy of some guys who wish they’d actually thrown this type of party.  But if you just want to see teen debauchery played for laughs (as opposed to some type of warning fable where all this drinking, drug use and promiscuity would lead to destruction) and some young girl nudity, this is your movie.  Turns out I was in a mood for just that and I’m not complaining. Well not too much anyway.  I could have used just a little less montage footage of debauchery (which is repeated, throughout the film ad nauseum) in the favor of a tiny bit of character.  Somewhere down the line I lost my ability to enjoy the whole “good guys dumps bad girl for good girl best pal” cliché. Maybe it’s just because I’m old now, but I’m very aware that the 17-year-old hot girl is still just a 17-year-old kid and behind that perfect face may be someone just as insecure as the dweeb chasing her which means she suffers the same feelings of rejection and most importantly humiliation when he rejects her for his best gal pal.  It’s hardly giving anything away to say it happens here, but what really makes it troublesome here is that the girl in question is in fact nice. We never see her being mean or cruel to anyone.  She’s beautiful, he invites her and she’s willing to give herself to him—only to be abandoned without apology.  But like I said, this is a geek fantasy.  The girls they wanted but couldn’t get have to be punished for their crimes of being unattainable even when depicted as being willing. Never ask why I hate myself and my geeky people.

I LOVE A MAN IN A UNIFORM

Act of Valor is down to number three and it’s been a long time since there’s the Department of Defense just flat out made a movie to get people to enlist. Honestly, I’m surprised it took them this long given how they’ve been a strong part of movies like Top Gun and Transformers, which, are little recruitment posters in their own right.  Only those movies had other themes.  Yes, yes, yes. I used the word “themes” in relation to Top and Gun and Transformers. Stop laughing.  But they do. Top Gun could have been transferred to anything else and have the same story.  Transformers was about selling toys while pretending to be about giant fighting robots.  But movies like this are purely about the glory of serving your country in the military to the point where an active part of the movie’s campaign is to mention actual SEALs are in the movie and not just advisors like so many other films.  Needless to say, that’s pretty much a guarantee it’s going to suck.  At least Top Gun and Transformers are trying to entertain you.  Act of Valor just wants to leave the theater pumping your fist to the nearest recruitment office before the high wears down and you realize that only the most elite soldiers do this kind of work and most of you will be in charge of packing the shit they use if that much.  Just ask the bitter former Navy guy who bartends now.  He left Top Gun to go fly jets and found himself scraping off the hull of an aircraft carrier.

THE ONLY THING IN COMMON IS A SIMILAR AMOUNT OF MENALIN

Safe House holds at number four, followed ironically by Tyler Perry’s Good Deeds at number five and I say ironically because Denzel Washington is the biggest Black star in Hollywood while Tyler Perry is sadly by a wide berth the most successful Black filmmaker ever, but there is no way in hell Denzel Washington will ever work with him.  Not that Perry cares since he’s moved on from the cross dressing to making himself his own leading man.  Unfortunately, actors like Gabrielle Union and Thandie Newton don’t have these options as the former couldn’t parlay Bring It On into Halle-like status and the later had her career derailed by being tricked by Jonathan Demme into recreating a role made famous by Audrey Hepburn.  That’s a no-win scenario.  Just ask Julia Ormand about Sabrina.  There’s no point in discussing plot because it’s Tyler Perry.  It’s a character driven story from a writer/director/star who can’t write, direct or act.

THERE’S “SELLING WITH SEX” AND THERE’S “REPELLLING WITH DESPERATION”

Journey 2: The Mysterious Island is down to number six and also in this is Vanessa Hudgens and do you think the producers took her aside and said, “Look, we appreciate your enthusiasm, but pictures of your vagina didn’t do anything for Sucker Punch or Beastly so we’d appreciate no ‘leaks’ when our film comes out. We want kids, not dudes legally prevented from being around children. Okay?”

SEE YOU IN UNDERWORLD 5 WHEN YOUR HOUSE PAYMENT IS DUE

The Vow is down to number seven and also in this Scott Speedman and honestly, a Nicholas Sparks movie over a third Underworld film isn’t exactly a step up.  It’s merely another type of crap.

A SMALL PRICE TO PAY TO BE RID OF HIM

This Means War is down to number eight and we’re one step closer to McG no longer being allowed A-list budgets and stars. Hell, how he’s still doing it a decade after one real success in the first Charlie’s Angels film is a mystery.  The second one failed.  We Are Marshall failed because it required him to tell a story about people.  He did to the Terminator franchise what Brett Ratner did to the X-Men franchise and now this.  Enough already.  The directors of Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance (down to numeer nine) , Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor appeal to the same ADD type of viewer, but do it with a manic sense of fun, while McG does it with a soulless bombasticity.

A SOLID TEN

Finally, The Artist jumps back into the top ten to celebrate its Oscar wins. I actually saw it the Friday before the awards and it is well-deserved because it takes some talent to make a silent film in the 21st Century and make it entertaining, not tiresome or boring to people who have never known a world without sound.  Yes, it’s a silent movie about the death of silent film and the trouble facing one of its biggest stars who refuses to make the jump for artistic reasons (rather than being unable to like so many actually couldn’t).  Jean Dujardin has the perfectly type of expressive face needed to carry this and his Oscar is also well deserved. I’m not sure how Penelope Ann Miller wound up in a film like this, but I was a fan once so it’s not surprising that someone else was 15 years ago when she was the “Hot New Thing” and gave her a job the first chance he got.  Similarly Missi Pyle being here.  Her hot moment was in 90’s as well with Galaxy Quest.

BANDWAGON TIME

Sadly, like everyone else I loved that damn Fiat commercial in the Super Bowl with the Croatian swimsuit model speaking Italian (she’s married to an Italian soccer player).  But what I loved most about it was the song.  It’s called “Smokescreen” by Willis and it’s about three years old.  They’re English and what she’s about to say when the commercial ends is “Fuh-fuh-fuh-freedom…”  I’ve also hopped on the bandwagon and gotten Goyte’s “Someone That I Used to Know.”  In my own world, however, I picked up Kate Bush’s new one (50 Words For Snow) and Air finally came out with a new album.  Now, where the fuck are you Telepopmusik!?!  And god knows you owe me a better album than the last Zero 7.  And thanks to an offer I couldn’t refuse from freaking emusic.com which keeps leading me back in, I finally got the Daft Punk soundtrack to Tron Legacy and the entire Grace Potter & The Nocturnals album.

CULTURE AND SHIT

So I finally got off my ass and went to a museum this weekend.  Nothing as clichéd or crowded as The Met or MOMA but The Jewish Museum where the exhibit was “The Radical Camera.”  It was about The New York Photo League, a group of young (mostly Jewish, hence the exhibit location) photographers in the 30’s who gathered to take pictures of New York City in all its gritty detail (noted crime photographer WeeGee was one of their members).  The picture used to promote it here in the city is one of the most amazing called “Butterfly Boy” from a project to document “the plight of the Negro” in Harlem. However, because they were so determined to sell their message, albeit a valid one, they later admitted to slant the photos to obscure an actual vibrant community in favor of depicting poverty and the oppression of racism.  They were very much politically motivated at times (they were no fans of Wall Street even then) and this became their undoing as after WWII when the Red Scare set in, their seeming sympathies with Socialism placed them under fire and by 1951 they’d shut down.  So if you think attacking merely because you think they’re socialist is new, think again.  Just as well, because after the war they’d actually become less political and more concentrated on aesthetics and the work clearly suffered from a lack of social passion.  It’s an amazing exhibit and I might add it to my growing library of books on photography.  The book of the exhibit was $45 at The Strand, which was a bit too rich for me (hey, I had a gift card for that $40 book on ass), but what was reasonable was the New York in the 70’s coffee table book from Allan Tannenbaum (though technically the book goes up to 1982).  He was a photographer for the now-defunct SoHo Weekly and in a prime position to document one of the most interesting times in New York’s history.   Freed from actually having to endure the crime and poverty of that time we can look back and appreciate the cultural richness that was gasping its last gasp in NYC as the 80’s commoditized the city and made it too expensive for artists to gather here the way they had for decades previously.  Few things say 70’s NYC more than Halston, Roy Cohn and Steve Rubell together at The Mudd Club.  Tannenbaum also has a chapter specifically about John Lennon and Yoko Ono and honestly if you’re looking for a symbolic representation for the end of 70’s NYC, it would have to be John Lennon’s murder in 1980.  Or Sid Vicious overdosing in 1979.  Either one works.

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