Friday, August 27, 2010

Snap Judgment

I'm bored and this week's releases look reasonably rip-able. Let's get it on!

Mesrine: Killer Instinct (directed by Jean-Francois Richet, written by Jean-Francois Richet and Abdel Raouf Dafri, based on the book by Jacques Mesrine)

Ah, that poster gives me fond memories of asking for directions in Paris -- especially if you throw in a little smoke-blown-in-face. Now, I don't know Vincent Cassel from all those fancy artistic French rape movies he's starred in (okay, fine, just the one), because frankly I've done enough permanent damage to my psyche for one lifetime, thank you very much. (You think I'm kidding? I once ordered an old-fashioned without remembering to specify the bourbon. My soul is fractured beyond repair.) I do know Vincent Cassel from Ocean's 12, which is just like those in-jokey YouTube videos college kids make with their friends that they know no one else will understand, except that "OMG Stevie Cheats At Lawn Dice EPIC FAIL" probably didn't cost $110 million to make.

Fun coincidence: "Killer instinct" is actually one of the known side effects of Mesrine, the newly FDA-approved migraine reliever. Is Mesrine right for you? Talk to your local Landmark theater. (And while you're at it, ask them why there's no "T" in "Yogurberry.")

Takers (directed by John Luessenhop, written by Peter Allen & Gabriel Casseus and John Luessenhop & Avery Duff)

Wow, that's an impressive roster there -- Idris Elba, Matt Dillon, Gaius Charles (the guy who played Smash Williams on Friday Night Lights), Chris Brown (the guy who played an obnoxious abuser in a little-boy sweater on Larry King Live), and... Hayden Christensen? Really? Front and center on the poster, there? I only have one guess as to how this happened. The producers said, "Hey, we've got some really talented African American actors in this movie; can we round it out with James Earl Jones?" Then the casting guys turned to their assistants and said, "Get me the guy who played Darth Vader!" and everything went downhill from there and nobody noticed until the movie was in the can. How tragic.

(written and directed by Neil Marshall)

Apparently this is what the industry papers call a "sword and sandal epic." As in:

HUSBAND: Okay, honey, I'm off to fight some guy to the death.

WIFE: How come?

HUSBAND: Can't remember. Think he stole my goat or something.

WIFE: Well, pick up some milk on the way back. The stuff I bought yesterday already went sour.

HUSBAND: Someone really needs to invent refrigeration.

WIFE: I feel like that's a long way off. (pauses, looks down) You're wearing THOSE?!

HUSBAND: My sandals? Yeah.

WIFE: I thought we talked about those being strictly at-home footwear.

HUSBAND: I only have one pair of clean socks left, and this battle will probably only take like twenty minutes but I'll still get them all sweaty and not want to wear them again and I don't know when we're doing laundry next.

WIFE: Be that as it may. The world at large does not need to see your toenails.

HUSBAND: (sighs) I guess I don't really need to kill this guy.

WIFE: I didn't want to contradict you, but I'm pretty sure we've never owned a goat.

HUSBAND (roots through cabinets) Do we have beer in this century?

WIFE: Yeah, but it's really grainy.

The Last Exorcism (directed by Daniel Stamm, written by Huck Botko & Andrew Gurland)

Your guess is as good as mine. Seems to be some kind of movie about yoga.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Snap Judgment

Consistency? Reliability? Snap Judgment craves not these things. It wasn't here last week and it might not be here next, so enjoy it while you can.

2012 (rated PG-13, directed by Roland Emmerich, written by Emmerich & Harald Kloser)

Remember how when you were a kid, if your mom bought you a great new toy and you broke it, she'd just buy you a new one that was twice as expensive? No? Well, that's apparently the parenting technique that the Sony Pictures executives were raised with, since they're always giving Roland Emmerich more and more money to make big-ass disaster movies regardless of how badly the last one performed. If 2012 flops, we'll have to steel ourselves for a $600 million mega-epic in which the entire galaxy gets magnificently destroyed -- and in case they're already taking pitches for that, I think it would be pretty awesome if Neptune broke loose from its orbit, strapped on a bunch of rocket-boosters, and started ramming into all the other planets. (But in the third act twist -- lo and behold -- Pluto, that underdog of underdogs, rides to the rescue and saves the day and is rewarded with the reinstatement of its planetary status. We'll figure out the rest later. I see Taylor Lautner as Halley's Comet.) Anyway, I know that a lot of people are pointing to how ridiculous 2012 is going to seem once that year passes apocalypse-free; but I'm forced to look on the more-pessimistic side and worry that, if all this Mayan death shit really does come true, the movie that pre-emptively chronicled it all wasn't made by someone cool like Spielberg or that District 9 guy, but by the dude who brought us 10,000 B.C. Talk about adding insult to injury.

Fantastic Mr. Fox (rated PG, directed by Wes Anderson, screenplay by Anderson & Noah Baumbach, based on the book by Roald Dahl)

George Clooney stars in yet another heist movie! This is really a bummer for Steven Soderbergh, who I've heard had planned a fourth Ocean's movie but was going to do it all stop-motion with cutesy animals, just to keep things fresh. Now he'll have to come up with a different approach. Maybe Ocean's 14: Ocean's On Ice? Or a "reimagining" of Ocean's 11 with Lady Gaga in the lead and Carrie Prejean as the loathsome casino owner? There are a lot of ways to go with this, is what I'm saying. Don't let that damn hipster and his furry menagerie get you down, Sodes.

Pirate Radio (rated R, written and directed by Richard Curtis)

So. This movie is rated R, while 2012 is rated PG-13. 2012 is about the entire fucking world getting blown to pieces and every single fucking human being on Earth dying a horrible death (except for a few past-their-prime movie stars and Chiwetel "gonna need to do lots of experimental stage work to make up for this" Ejiofor). Pirate Radio is about a boat that broadcast some rock music in England in the 60s.

Do we need any further evidence that our ratings/moral decency standards are a little screwed up in America? I mean, for crying out loud. 2012 should clearly have gotten a "G". Everything in that movie is true! All that stuff's going to happen eventually! It's just highly realistic depictions of natural phenomena. Whereas Pirate Radio has (a) sex and (b) loud music about sex. That's NC-17 for sure. When will the MPAA learn? I ask you.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Snap Judgment

I'm thinking of pre-empting this whole thing for more Balloon Boy coverage, because at any moment that lovable kid could toss a giant paper airplane into the air and then duck into a kitchen cupboard, thus provoking rampant cable news speculation that he may be headed into either hostile foreign airspace or Utah, depending on his particular coefficient of drag.

But this is the biggest movie weekend in a while and I don't want anyone to miss out on my snap-judging. So I'll adhere to my fake-journalistic responsibility, though I may need to make a few late-breaking asides to check in on Balloon Boy.

Law Abiding Citizen (rated R, directed by F. Gary Gray, written by Kurt Wimmer)

Well... sheesh. I mean, I understand that Hollywood is entering a new era of "socially responsible" filmmaking, trying to keep impressionable youths from being exposed to onscreen evils like smoking, racism, and casual nudity -- but this may be taking it too far. "Law Abiding Citizen"? It sounds like a filmstrip that they'd show in a Wisconsin elementary school in 1952. "Meet Jimmy Johnson. He looks both ways before crossing, he signals when making a left turn, and he doesn't urinate in public without a permit." Seriously, they should have just called it "Guy Who Pays For All The Music He Downloads," because-- BALLOON BOY ALERT! We're being told that Falcon has just taken a nap on the couch. While the couch is not airborne at the moment, our scientific panel has concluded that, given sufficient upward propulsion and helium reserves, it very well could reach the upper atmosphere within a matter of hours. --and who doesn't like a good rumination on the merits of good citizenship?

The Stepfather (rated PG-13, directed by Nelson McCormick, screenplay by J.S. Cardone, based on an earlier screenplay by Donald Westlake, Carolyn Starin, and Brian Garfield)

The hands on the poster above are demonstrating a very particular kind of knot -- the "double Dahmer," as I believe it's known in some circles. Though slightly more labor-intensive than the more traditional single Windsor, it pairs quite well with both three-button suits and strangulation. So, if you're a high-ranking Wall Street executive dressing to impress for an important meeting (the kind where you might need to kill someone) (but I repeat myself), you really ought to consider this often-overlooked method. Sure, it lacks the pizazz of the triple Gacy, but subtlety is the name of the game in the post-recession era. OK, now that that's out of the way, let's see how Balloon Boy is doing. OH NO! This time he's either rummaging through the closet, or strapped to a nuclear warhead bound for the moon. Let us know how the water tastes there, Balloon Boy! I hear Evian and Fiji are already competing for the bottling contract.

Where the Wild Things Are (rated PG, directed by Spike Jonze, screenplay by Spike Jonze & Dave Eggers, based on the book by Maurice Sendak)

Naturally, as a member of either late-Gen X or early-Gen Y (I've never been able to figure out which), I was a huge fan of this book as a child. Proudly taking its place on my toddler-height bookshelf alongside dog-eared copies of The Lorax and Atlas Shrugged, it taught me of the wonders of imagination, the horrors of being denied dinner, and the surprising dearth of wolf costumes in the real world. Will it survive being co-opted into a high-budget work of mass entertainment, however offbeat and fueled-by-hipster-genius that work may be? Well, why don't we ask Balloon Boy to weigh in here. Perhaps he can provide the kind of guileless, spiritually pure insight of which a sarcastic burnout like me is no longer capable. I'll just ask the iguana in the checkered scarf who heads up my IT department if we can link him in through Skype or iChat or something. In the meantime -- wait. What's that? Oh. My. God. Balloon Boy just found his way into the prop department at Paramount and climbed into the Iron Man suit. And the thing really works! He's breaking mach-3 over the Atlantic right now. Watch out for supervillains, Balloon Boy! They always seem to possess intimate knowledge of your every weakness, and they can't be defeated until you've realized an important life lesson about using your powers for good.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Snap Judgment

My triumphant return to the judgment-snapping fold a couple of weeks ago was not met with the dramatic uptick in movie quality I was hoping for. May this week finally change all that. Well, may it? I... er... let's see.

(directed by Jonathan Mostow, screenplay by Michael Ferris & John D. Brancato, based on the graphic novel by Robert Venditti and Brett Weldele)

Ah, I'm sure this one seemed like a slam dunk. Bruce Willis scored mad bank ten years ago playing a father figure to that kid who saw deceased Philadelphians, so why not put him in another movie where he plays a surrogate dad? Except, the title is Surrogates, implying that he'll be in competition with other middle-aged dudes who are out to steal his paternal thunder. Highjinks ensue, one guy falls into a pool fully clothed, another one gets projectile-puked on by a baby, we build to a hilarious finale where they're all trying to out-do each other's 4th of July barbecues, end on a sweet little "it's all about the children" life lesson, and wait for the checks to come in! Well done, studio honchos. There'll be an extra hooker in your jacuzzi when you get home tonight.

Wait! It seems I may have been slightly mistaken. The team of well-trained border collies who handle my research have just informed me that this movie is actually about a future world of hyper-technology where people are "plugged in" to a nefarious supercomputer network that controls the whole world. Hmmm. Sound a little too much like a landmark Keanu Reeves movie from the 90s? I think so too. Get it straight, you stupid execs -- that kind of lightning only strikes once, and it was called Johnny Mnemonic. So disappointing. You're paying that hooker out-of-pocket.

I Hope They Serve Beer In Hell (directed by Bob Gosse, screenplay by Tucker Max based on his book)

I'm stumped. How do you make fun of a guy whose very existence is a joke? This may be the greatest challenge I've ever faced on SJ. And I've riffed on United 93, for crying out loud. Sure, I could play the "alternate titles" game and toss out A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Douchebaggery, or Eternal Dickwad with a Worthless Mind, or maybe I Hope They Serve Beer At Your Public Castration Ceremony, And I Mean Actual Beer, Not The Mass-Produced Shitwater That You Pride Yourself For Drinking Because You Think It Makes You More "Real" Or Whatthefuckever -- you know, the usual stuff. But I'm not really in the mood for that.

Fame (directed by Kevin Tancharoen, screenplay by Allison Burnett, based on a screenplay by Christopher Gore)

This would have been a great opportunity to put a bunch of those High School Musical kids together with some American Idol favorites from past years and have them all sing and dance together and stuff. Sadly, given the ironclad nature of these performers' existing contracts, they'd be lucky to get away with singing in the shower, let alone appearing in a competing production. The makers of Fame have attempted to overcome this unfortunate hurdle by casting such up-to-the-minute teen icons as Kelsey Grammer, Bebe Neuwirth, Megan Mullally, and Charles S. Dutton -- an incredibly shrewd move given the vast numbers of middle-schoolers that stay up all night bit-torrenting old episodes of Cheers and Roc. (Remember when Roc started airing all its shows live? Those were some heady days. You kids think you have it pretty good with The Office and 30 Rock, but Roc Live! was a zenith of television comedy that may never again be reached. Imagine your favorite episode of Arrested Development, and then imagine how much funnier it would be if Jason Bateman had to break character occasionally to remember his lines, and you'll have some idea.)

Now where were we?

Brief Interviews with Hideous Men (directed by John Krasinski, screenplay by John Krasinski, based on the book by David Foster Wallace)

Oh, this would have been a much better alternate title for that Tucker Max thing.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Snap Judgment: The Reckoning

I've been prepping for over a year to make this the best Snap Judgment ever. (That's my story and I'm sticking to it.) Let's do this.

9 (rated PG-13, directed by Shane Acker, screenplay by Pamela Pettler, story by Acker)

So this one's apparently about a little guy made of cloth (but who still needs glasses) who wakes up from a coma just in time to stop the impending machine-made apocalypse. I know what you're thinking -- another Young Einstein already? Oh, that we should be so lucky. Sadly, Yahoo Serious's unfortunate copyright lawsuit against Yahoo! in 2000 likely means we won't be seeing his body of work stateside any time soon. Will the voice talents of Elijah Wood and Jennifer Connelly be enough to tide us over until the winds of forgiveness blow that incredible Australian back to our shores? It's hard to tell; most reviews say that it looks gorgeous but is thin on substance. Sounds like Friday afternoon at The Ivy, which I can walk past for free. Next!

Tyler Perry's I Can Do Bad All By Myself (rated PG-13, written/directed by Tyler Perry, based on his play)

Fun fact: The word "Bad" in German means "bath" or "bathe," so if you sort of semi-translate the title into German, you get Tyler Perry's I Can Bathe Myself, which I'm told the man himself is already planning for a 2053 release. He's got his mind on the future, that Tyler.

Whiteout (rated R, directed by Dominic Sena, screenplay by Jon Hoeber & Eric Hoeber and Chad Hayes & Carey Hayes, based on the graphic novel by Greg Rucka)

Ah, white-out. Boy, have I had some crazy times with that particular brand of correction fluid. Back in '81, I found a bottle of it in my parents' study and poured it all over everything I could find: furniture, books, one of those "portable" tape recorders that weighed more than a cat, and -- speaking of which -- possibly one of the cats. If only they'd had YouTube back then! I would have ridden that train straight to my own "outrageous" reality show. And -- uh oh. Bad news. The bespectacled turtle who does my proofreading has just pointed out that the movie is Whiteout, whereas the substance that blondes allegedly use on their computer screens is Wite-Out. Why, one wonders, would the filmmakers fail to capitalize on such a brilliant opportunity for synergy between scary Kate Beckinsale shower scenes and nearly 60 years of dominance in the chemical typo-negation business? Those morons left billions on the table. Billions.

Sorority Row (rated R, directed by Stewart Hendler, written by Josh Stolberg & Pete Goldfinger, based on a screenplay by Mark Rosman)

Hey, here's a great idea for a horror flick: someone makes me go see this. OH ZING! No, no, I'm just kidding. Movies like this are the bread and butter of a snap-judgmenter like myself, since it's so astonishingly easy to predict every single scene in the movie just by looking at the poster. For example, I know that at some point, one of the girls will think the killer is hiding in the closet, and she opens it, and it turns out it's just a cat. And then later on, another girl will think she's being chased down the stairs by the killer, and she turns around at the last second... and it turns out it's just the cat. In the next scene, a girl is driving home from a bar late at night, and there's no one on the road but her and this other car -- with its headlights turned off. She keeps turning onto side streets, but the car stays on her tail. Finally the car corners her in an abandoned alley and the door opens and... it was just a cat driving. And the headlights weren't on because, duh, you need opposable thumbs to turn the knob. But at the end of the movie -- IT TURNS OUT THE CAT WAS THE KILLER AFTER ALL! Holy crap, you didn't see that one coming! It's like That Darn Cat meets I Know What You Did Last Summer, or, translated into cat language, Meow Meow Meow Meow Meow Can Opener.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Snap Judgment

Well, here I am, over a day late. (A few months and a day, actually, but who's counting?)

(No, seriously, I hear someone counting back there and I want to know who the hell it is. You think time and witty ripostes grow on trees in the Nickverse?)


Anyway! Let's see what we got.

Bangkok Dangerous
(rated R, directed by Oxide Pang Chun and Danny Pang, written by Jason Richman)

This one sure looks like a slam-dunk, humorwise. Good thing; I'm kind of out of practice on the whole snap-judgmenting thing and I'm not going to turn down an easy softball pitch for my grand reopening. So would you look at those direc-- aw, CRAP, I already made a joke about Oxide Pang's hilariously chemical suffixy name. Damn you, PopWhore archive! Well, thank goodness the title is even sillier. What is that, exactly? Is that how verb-averse mothers warn their children about the perils of visiting Thailand? "Bangkok dangerous! Hotels overpriced! Hookers likely transvestite!" (I know, I know. Reeeallly didn't compare to a good Oxide joke. I'll try another.) The upside to all this is that it's now fairly clear that Nic Cage will sign on to absolutely any script that features him holding some kind of weapon, riding a motorcycle, having long hair, walking around, or breathing. I mean, does he actually have an agent anymore, or does his business contact number just ring a random line somewhere in Bangladesh where a guy named Fakhruddin Bill picks up the phone and says "How may I offer you excellent service in committing Nicolas Cage to appear in whatever crappy film you have in mind?" and maybe throws in a little "While I access this information, may I share with you some advantages of upgrading to Nicolas Cage Gold Service?"

Everybody Wants To Be Italian (rated R, written/directed by Jason Todd Ipson)

So, the movie's title and credits are supposed to be the Leaning Tower of Pisa and some of the cast are trying to hold it up. They're going with that, huh. Tell me, is this minor touch of marketing brilliance supposed to distract me from the fact that DAN CORTESE is in this movie? Because I am a man who holds pop-culture grudges, and if the bulk of Mr. Cortese's screentime isn't devoted to apologizing for those Burger King commercials and the popularization of "extreme" sports (in addition to the word "extreme" in general), then I ain't buying a ticket. Also: this guy's first movie was called The First Vampire: Don't Fall For The Devil's Illusions. Also: everyone does not want to be Italian. Some people want to be French, or Russian, or Thousand Island.

Friday, May 02, 2008

Snap Judgment

Iron Man (rated PG-13, directed by Jon Favreau, screenplay by Mark Fergus & Hawk Otsby and Art Marcum & Matt Holloway, based on the comic book created by Stan Lee, Don Heck, Larry Lieber & Jack Kirby)

Man, Jon Favreau has come a long way since playing that billionaire Ultimate Fighting Champion contestant on Friends, huh? Makes you wonder if that show imparted some kind of magic pixie dust to its guest stars. Perhaps next year we'll see the gala premiere at Cannes of un film de Ugly Naked Guy. Anyway, Iron Man also features Gwyneth Paltrow, who has apparently banged out enough oddly-named children to resume her acting career -- just in time, too, because if those mortgage payments were held up any longer, her husband was going to have to resort to making cameos in Kanye West videos. (Oops, too late.) The movie's getting all kinds of crazy buzz and positive reviews, but that scene in the trailer where Iron Man outruns a couple of fighter jets has to be making the airlines nervous -- it's bad enough that they're crippled by a sinking economy and stratospheric gas prices, and now they have to worry about the inevitable market competition from dudes in red metal suits who can fly you from LAX to JFK in two hours without that annoying $25 extra baggage fee. Sure, you might laugh about it now, but when Iron Man appears on Delta's inflight entertainment, let's see which scenes they cut.

Made of Honor
(rated PG-13, directed by Paul Weiland, screenplay by Adam Sztykiel and Deborah Kaplan & Harry Elfont, story by Adam Sztykiel)

Ahem. Producers? Studio dudes? Marketing department? C'mon over and let's have a little chat. I'll need your full attention, so leave your BlackBerries and iPhones with your assistants. (It'll be okay; they can thumb-type "NOT UNDER ANY FUCKING CIRCUMSTANCES" just as well as you can, and probably with better spelling.) Ready? Okay. We need to discuss the concept of movie titles. Because you people clearly aren't getting it. Now, I'll grant you, lame wordplay in titles is a necessary evil. Puns, double entendres, creative misspellings, all par for the course. Done well, they can be cute and even kind of clever. Legally Blonde, for example. Made of Honor, on the other hand, makes no freaking sense. It just sounds like a low-budget, direct-to-video film about a selfless Roman soldier (probably played by Kevin Sorbo) who's forced to slay a bunch of burly extras in order to rescue his kidnapped fiancee. How does changing Maid to Made signify the fact that the maid of honor is a dude? It doesn't. It's that rare nonsensical pun, formed in such desperation that it doesn't actually mean anything. Like making a movie about a traveling pharmaceutical rep and calling it Breath of a Salesman, even though it has nothing to do with halitosis or lung disease or anything of that sort. See, ordinarily a blunder like this wouldn't be that big a deal. But you've been so shrewd about everything else with this movie so far that it's really a shame. I mean, on the weekend that Iron Man opens, you present the female filmgoing populace with Patrick Dempsey in a wedding movie. That's genius on the same level as putting a little high-tech gadgets section into Anthropologie or Sephora. And you even dowded up Michelle Monaghan enough so that women, rather than being demoralized by her freakishly unachievable beauty and physique, will walk out of the theater thinking something along the lines of, "Y'know, if she and Dempsey were in a bar together and I walked in, that bitch would crying into her cosmo within five minutes while McDreamy and I made the beast with two backs in the coatroom. Can I get a hell yeah?" Seriously, to blow the title after all that is just unforgivable. That is all. You may now get back to your busy day of yelling at the maitre'd of Craft while surreptitiously surfing porn.

Redbelt (rated R, written and directed by David Mamet)

Is there anything David Mamet can't do? Of course not. Plays, books, essays, screenplays, TV, jujitsu, whatever. If he wanted to become the world's top snail racer, he could do that. And then someone would interview him about it, and he'd say something like "The secret is, you must always remember that a snail is a snail; it's not a stapler, or a deck of playing cards, or a fifth of bourbon."