ldavis-2

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Reviews

The Old Man & the Gun
(2018)

The Sundance Kid's Swan Song
My mother and Robert Redford were born on August 18, 1936. As each approaches their 83rd birthday, Mom looks as though she's going on 73 while Redford looks as though he's going on 183! As I watched this last night, I was distracted constantly by the patchwork quilt which is now his once impossibly-gorgeous visage, his slovenly sideburns, and his shriveled-up physique to the point where I kept asking myself: What the HELL happened to him?!

When the "hero" of your opus is anything but, then you better give the audience at least one compelling reason to be invested in him; Redford's vanity project fails miserably. Bad enough it takes the usual liberties (Forrest Tucker - NO, not the guy from "F Troop" - was living in a retirement home in Florida when he pulled his final jobs; none of his wives or children knew about his shenanigans; he escaped San Quentin with two other inmates; the real Jewel was a Miami shipping heiress and Tucker's 3rd wife), we never learn a thing about him. Why did he pursue a criminal career the way other people pursue an actual career? Did he have Mommy issues? Was he exacting some bizarre revenge? Was he dropped on his head as a child one too many times? I didn't know nor did I care.

Where this lost me was how utterly-inept the film's Javert is. How did he NOT realize Jean Valjean was holding up the bank WHILE HE WAS THERE?! As if to make up for dropping the ball big-time, Javert - egged on by the Mrs. - launches a Les Misérables-like pursuit of Valjean, complete with having his kids follow Valjean's trail by pressing thumb-tacks into a map.

The thing which was impossible to ignore is how "woke" this is: Mrs. Javert; Javert's kids; Javert's partner; Valjean's cohort; a sheriff Javert talks to; and the bank exec Valjean tries to sweet-talk into letting him pay off Fantine's mortgage are black. Yet its "wokeness" goes only so far: none of the other Keystone Cops are Latino, Asian or Native American; ditto, Valjean's victims. And how ironic that the über-"woke" Redford lets his equally-"woke" writer/director David Lowery slip into a scene Javert's daughter reading her Get Well letter to then-President Reagan, thanking him for "making America safe"! All this "woke" accomplishes is to emphasize how forced, contrived, and condescending the whole enterprise is.

We never even learn if the cops ever found Valjean's ill-gotten booty. Speaking of, why didn't he retrieve said booty before he tried to sweet-talk the bank exec instead of telling her that he didn't have the money? At this point, I half-expected him to "get" the money by robbing the bank. But no such luck.

Near the end, The Sundance Kid pulls a Horse Whisperer (or a Jeremiah Johnson), and swipes one of Fantine's horses to attempt a getaway (how he knows how to saddle, bridle, and ride a horse is not for us lesser minds to ponder). I suppose we ought to just be grateful we were not subjected to Valjean and Fantine (aka Sissy Spacek) getting jiggy with it.

This Forrest Tucker needs to go back to F Troop!

Midnight in Paris
(2011)

The Misadventures of Gil The Groupie
Caught this on Showtime the other night after seeing it a few years back, and was reminded of why I found it such pretentious clap-trap. As in "Celebrity", Allen taps yet another young blonde-haired, blue-eyed man to be his WASP doppelgänger, and surrounds him with obnoxious WASP elites. We're supposed to sympathize with him and his "plight". Only problem is Gil The Groupie (aka WASP Woody) is a such whiny, insecure twerp, despite being a successful screenwriter ("Adaptation.", anybody?), you want to deck him!

For reasons I didn't get, Gil The Groupie wishes that he could have kicked it with The Cool Kids of 1920's Paris, when Paris was, you know, like, cool. One night, while wandering down a cobblestone road, Gil The Groupie gets his wish. What's more, The Cool Kids welcome him into The Club instantly; no one so much as asks: "Who the Hell is this guy?". Forget that none of The Cool Kids (Joséphine Baker, Djuna Barnes, Juan Belmonte, Luis Buñuel, Salvador Dalí, T.S. Eliot, F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, Pablo Picasso, Cole Porter, Man Ray, Gertrude Stein, Leo Stein, Alice B. Toklas) were kicking it in Paris at the same time, Allen mocks these figures by reducing them collectively to the same shallow cliché as their new amigo.

Gil The Groupie finds himself in competition with Hemingway (whom Allen seems to have a bizarre obsession with; he gets more screen time than the rest of The Cool Kids put together) for the affections of Picasso's, ahem, "muse". Why any woman would give either of these jerks the time of day is beyond me, but then, the "muse" is doing the nasty with Picasso, King Of The Jerks, so her standards aren't very-high to begin with! Anyway, the "muse" is supposed to be this Little Girl Lost, so we're supposed to sympathize with her and her "plight". Only, we don't (I didn't, anyway): One minute, she's throwing herself at Gil The Groupie; the next, she runs off with Hemingway to Africa (!). After Little Girl Lost pops back up in Paris, Gil The Groupie gives her a pair of earrings, then they wind up in the 1890's because Allen has run out of ideas (not that he had any to begin with), where they find themselves kicking it with The Cool Kids, Belle Époque Version (Edgar Degas, Paul Gauguin, Henri Matisse, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec). When Little Girl Lost declares that she is staying in the 1890's, Gil The Groupie replies basically "whatever." This is the love of his life, but he just goes "whatever"?! Huh?! Did I miss something?! In case anyone cares, Belle Époque began some 20 years before Little Girl Lost declares "it's the start of the Belle Époque". But, I digress.

What had me screaming at the TV (aside from Gil The Groupie finding Little Girl Lost's diary in a bookstore, and how Paris - one of the filthiest cities on the planet - is always freshly-scrubbed in the movies) was how Gil The Groupie tells everyone he's from the future, yet no one asks for proof! He could have blown everyone's minds by whipping out a mobile or showing them his "masterpiece" on a tablet or a notebook or a laptop, but I digress (again)! Such jaw-dropping stupidity really makes you question your faith in humanity!

Wildlife
(2018)

Dano's Dumpster Dump!
Caught this on Showtime last night. Stylish and twice as boring, I didn't buy Carey Mulligan and Jake Gyllenhaal as a married couple, much less, as parents. Then-17 year old Ed Oxenbouldt as their 14 year old son was one, big 1,000 yard stare! It's never explained why the family moved to Montana or how they can afford to rent a house on Dad's meager $40 a week salary as a glorified gofer at the country club. Dad deciding that he needs to abandon his family to play Firefighter comes out of absolutely nowhere. Likewise, Mom pulling Junior out of school for the day to drive up to the fire WITHOUT tracking Dad down made even-less sense. Instead of setting an example for her boy on how to be strong, independent, and self-reliant, the now-"liberated" Mom throws herself at the slovenly Town Big Shot, and recruits Junior to help her reel him in in a scene which borders on incestuous! You've Come a Long Way, Baby!

Actor Paul Dano (in his directorial debut) does us no favors by chucking key points in the novel (Dad was fired because a club member accused him to stealing his wallet, which sends Dad into a breakdown). Worse, Junior's budding relationship with a classmate goes nowhere. So, what does Dad do when he learns Mom has been doing the "cha-cha-cha" with the slovenly Town Big Shot? He pours gasoline on the porch, and sets it on fire (I'm sure the Landlord really "appreciated" THAT)! No wonder the critics were hugging themselves, giving Dano props for making a 105 minute film about stupid, selfish, immature, pathetic trash right-thinking people would avoid like the plague! Dano ought to stick to doing the one, big 1,000 yard stare!

Ocean's Eight
(2018)

Deep End of the Ocean
I hate stupid movies. I hate sloppy movies. I hate stupid, sloppy movies with A-List casts which cost the GDP of a small country. Judging by the reviews, I am the ONLY person in the entire universe who noticed that the "star" of this stupid, sloppy movie, the replica of a priceless Cartier diamond necklace a crew member the "criminal mastermind" behind the heist of the real necklace "fishes out" of a "moat", claiming that it "must" have "slipped" off of the lovely neck of the not-so-lovely celebrity racing toward the bathroom to puke her guts out, despite the unique clasp which makes such a "slip" impossible, was COUPLED! You would think the actors in the scene would have turned to the hack behind the camera, and yelled: "Hey, Dummy! The necklace is coupled!" But no such luck. Stupid Sloppy is as Stupid Sloppy does.

The owner of the lovely neck is Anne Hathaway, who plays a vapid creature named Daphne Kluger (why she didn't play herself, as Vogue's head honcho Anna Wintour does, is not for us lesser minds to ponder). Hathaway's ex, "real estate developer" Raffaello Follieri, defrauded investors out of as much as $100 million in a scheme involving properties the Catholic Church was selling to settle assault claims; most of the ill-gotten booty was blown on lavish vacations. Unfortunately, humanity will never know if she was in on the hijinks, much less, if she ever bothered to ask Follieri how the hell he was paying for their pricey amusements, as the FBI allowed her go on her merry way without so much as asking her a single question.

I mention this because Ocean's Eight isn't just about fraud, it IS a fraud: one, big 110 minute rip-off! Aside from the bizarre need of Gary Ross (the aforementioned hack) to blow $70 million, this odious ode to Girl Power (co-written by a woman!) doesn't have one compelling reason to exist. Bad enough Marlo Thomas, Elizabeth Ashley, and Elliot Gould are dragged out of mothballs for cameos which give "cringe-worthy" a bad name, this has more plot holes than a sieve. The "criminal mastermind" is the sister of the deceased (or not) Danny Ocean. Hours after Debbie Ocean is sprung from the pokey after promising to be a good girl, she relieves Bergdorf-Goodman and Burberry of a few goodies, then crashes at The Plaza, with an unwitting couple footing the bill. Any one of these stunts should have landed her back in the pokey, but no one catches on because she is a "criminal mastermind"!

Criminal Mastermind wants revenge against the ex, an art fraudster (you were expecting a Boy Scout?), who sent her to the pokey, so she decides to steal a bauble, dubbed The Toussaint, during The Met Gala, and frame him for it. She and her Sidekick recruit a motley crew with specific skills, one of whom comes up with the "genius" idea of creating the fake bauble from zirconium by using a 3-D printer. Forget that it is impossible for a 3-D printer to 3-D print zirconium AND that zirconium is heavier than diamonds -- these are "criminal masterminds"!

The "master hacker" warns of the need to erase digital footprints as she creates digital footprints. The Toussaint has been in Cartier's vault since 1968, yet the magnets used in its clasp weren't invented until 2008. Vogue hires four members of The Motley Crew for The Met Gala without conducting thorough background checks. How did Criminal Mastermind get the mobile she uses to con The Plaza into giving "the couple" their room back? How did the "master jeweler" manage to set up shop in The Met's kitchen bathroom? Did I mention the fingerprints The Motley Crew leave all over the 10 ounces of The Toussaint Criminal Mastermind slips into Art Fraud's pocket to "prove" that he stole it?

That this odious ode to Girl Power relies on a MAN (Yen from "Ocean's 11") to relieve The Met Gala of its other priceless bling ("What do you think we are, a bunch of pussies?" Sidekick asks Vapid Creature) was lost on the reviewers, too. Forget how we're supposed to buy that Criminal Mastermind moves $306,400,100, then splits it eight ways without the FBI and the Secret Service on her like flies-on-stink -- she is a "criminal mastermind"! Had ONE of the ladies used part of her fortune to help those less-fortunate, I wouldn't be feeling so ripped-off. But no such luck. Stupid Sloppy is as Stupid Sloppy does.

Phantom Thread
(2017)

I Swear I'll Kill You! I'll Kill You a Million Times!
Having seen this last night, and two other films by Paul Thomas Anderson, I am convinced that he is a reptilian and a misanthrope, too boot. His characters are cruel, selfish, sadistic, amoral or a combination thereof. The sequence with Barbara Rose (a stand-in for Woolworth heiress Barbara Hutton) in this twisted "Pygmalion" (that whirring sound you hear is George Bernard Shaw spinning in his grave!) is the perfect example of Anderson's truly-vile nature: the "hero" and "heroine" not only do not give a whit for their obviously-miserable client, after she passes out at her wedding, they decide that she does not "deserve" to wear the gorgeous gown they made (and she paid for!). They go to her hotel room, and demand the gown back. After the lady's lady companion balks (understandably), the "heroine" storms into Barbara's boudoir and strips it off of her -- an act which gives her and the "hero" a sexual charge! Karl-Otto and Ilse Koch had nothing on these two!

But things really kick into "high gear" when Ilse, sorry, Alma, discovers the joy of poisoned mushrooms: you can slice them; dice them; crush them; fry them in lots of butter. Oh, and you can use them to make the man you love deathly-ill to get back at him for raking you over the coals over how you cooked the asparagus! Now, you'd think the "my girlfriend is trying to kill me" bit would have Karl-Otto, sorry, Reynolds, running to the nearest police station, but, nope, he gets his sick kicks being waylaid by his Wicked Witch to the point where he tells the doctor his sister (aka The Butchest Women in The British Empire) drags into this sordid, sorry mess to examine him to shove his stethoscope where the sun don't shine!

Incredibly, Karl-Otto, sorry, Reynolds, and Ilse, sorry, Alma, tie the knot, and - wouldn't you know it! - run into Dr. Shove Your Stethoscope Where The Sun Don't Shine on their honeymoon. You're waiting for Ilse, sorry, Alma, and Dr. Shove Your Stethoscope Where The Sun Don't Shine to hook up when he invites her to a New Year's Party he promises will be a jolly time; she winds up going to the Jolly Time, but Dr. Shove Your Stethoscope Where The Sun Don't Shine is a no-show (!). Anderson really drops the ball when Karl-Otto, sorry, Reynolds, drags Ilse, sorry, Alma, out of the Jolly Time, then whines to The Butchest Women in The British Empire that he made a mistake in marrying Ilse, sorry, Alma, who decides it's time to break her New Best Friends out (again!). Ilse, sorry, Alma could have dispatched Karl-Otto, sorry, Reynolds, and The Butchest Women in The British Empire, taken over The House of Woodcock (what a stupid name!), hooked-up with Dr. Shove Your Stethoscope Where The Sun Don't Shine, and lived happily ever after -- until it was time to break her New Best Friends out (again!)

Justice League
(2017)

Makes "Batman v Superman" look like "Citizen Kane"
$300 million was spent on this. All the good $300 million could have done, and Warner Bros. threw it at Joss Whedon, who took over after fellow hack Zack Snyder dropped out after the loss of his daughter (he is credited as the director as he helmed the principal photography). Warners turning to Whedon to complete a film featuring Wonder Woman after he was blasted on social media when his rejected Wonder Woman script was leaked unto an undeserving world was an irony lost on them, I'm sure.

The beef I have with superhero movies (aside from idiot studio execs throwing hundreds of millions of dollars at hacks) is NONE of them are faithful to the original origin story: the Kents adopted baby Kal-El from an orphanage; Diana competed against the other Amazons to become Wonder Woman; Bruce Wayne saw a bat come through his window as he was brooding in his study. Here, Snyder and Whedon "outdo" themselves by trashing not one but two superheroes: Aquaman is now a tatted-up boozer who can't communicate with fish, and The Flash is now a whiny Soy Boy who exclaims "Oh, snap!" And like the rotten cherry on top, the Villain has an Oedipus Complex!

Then, there are the plot holes. Yeah, a superhero movie just isn't a superhero movie without tons of plot holes. But Whedon and co-hack Chris Terrio (who won an Oscar; how in God's Name did THAT happen?!) seem to take a perverted delight in trying to out dumb-and-dumber Snyder: God-awful CGI; slow-motion sequences which will make you beg to be waterboarded; ripping off nearly every Si-Fi film from the past 20 years ("The Matrix", "Lord of the Rings", "Thor"). Barry and Victor exhume Clark's grave in the dead of night? Superman has memory loss after being brought back to life? The henchmen of The Villain With The Oedipus Complex tear through Russia, but can't tear the salt box a family lives in to shreds? Did The Villain With The Oedipus Complex set up shop at a defunct nuclear reactor in Russia so that the little girl who lived in the salt box could play with a flower on a radioactive LSD trip? Makes as much "sense" as anything else in this tripe!

But the real crime against humanity is Dumb and Dumber wasting the charged chemistry Ben Affleck and Gal Godot unleashed in "Batman v Superman". I was anticipating Batman and Wonder Woman hooking up (or realizing they are soulmates, at the very least), but in "Justice League", they act as though they hardly know each other -- and don't want to!

Seeing how Whedon has made a second "career" out of his seething hatred of Trump, I'm surprised he didn't manage to shoehorn some jabs at Agent Orange. Perhaps he did, but his overlords decided that was a Bridge To Nowhere Too Far (Walter Chaw of Film Freak Central opines Snyder's "Man of Steel" and "Batman v Superman" predicted the Trump presidency, but he gives Snyder way-too much credit for brains AND talent!).

At any rate, I don't blame Whedon (or Snyder) for this as much as I blame Affleck, who has managed to do the impossible: make George Clooney the second-worst Batman ever! One of the producers, Affleck hired Terrio to write "Argo", for which Terrio won an Oscar (how in God's Name did THAT happen?!); no doubt, he convinced Warners to tap Terrio to pen "Man of Steel" and "Batman v Superman". After the $75 million Warners had to eat when Affleck's opus "Live by Night" arrived in D.O.A., why the former Mr. Jennifer Garner hasn't been tarred, feathered, and run out on a rail is beyond me!

As Shakespeare would have put it, this "is a tale, told by an idiot (in this case, three idiots), full of sound and fury, signifying nothing".

That whirring sound you hear are the Warner Brothers spinning in their graves!

Victoria
(2016)

ericozu hits it out of the park
I'm writing this is because of the characters of Paget and Drummond. Yes, there actually was an Alfred Paget and an Edward Drummond, but NO, neither man identified as homosexual. In fact, the real Drummond (whose family owned Drummonds, banker to Victoria's grandfather, King George III) was 23 years OLDER than the real Paget, and died three years BEFORE Paget came to court as Victoria's equerry in 1846! In short, there is no evidence that Paget and Drummond ever met! That they are presented here as hunky 20-somethings with the hots for each other for no other reason than to push an agenda is a vile insult to them and to their families!

While there is a "point" to making Paget and Drummond hunky 20-somethings with the hots for each other, there is NO point in vilifying Victoria's and Albert's uncle, Leopold. The real Leopold was a tremendous help to his niece and nephew. Here, he is a scheming scumbag who undermines Victoria at every turn, then, because he can, hints to Albert that he is Albert's father. There is no evidence Leopold's relationship with Albert's mother was anything but platonic, and there is no point in making him the heavy.

The real Victoria and Albert were progressive-conservatives, determined to drag the United Kingdom kicking and screaming into the 19th century. But here, they are SO put upon! Neither takes any interest in the issues or the welfare of the people unless forced to; it's a wonder either notices that they have children, much less, give them the time of day!

But the real crime "Victoria" commits is that it is - as ericozu notes - shallow, boring, silly, poorly written, and annoying. And if you're looking for anything remotely-resembling historical accuracy, look elsewhere!

La La Land
(2016)

Better Than I Expected... Which Isn't Saying Much!
Aside from the cliché-ridden "plot" you've seen a bazillion times, I was reminded constantly that people who have "made it" are playing people trying to "make it". Had this been cast with people who actually need that "big break", I might have been able to forgive the cliché-ridden "plot", and hopped on board.

Gosling and Stone have zero range, and their roles make their "abilities" only stick out like sore thumbs: can't sing; can't dance; can't act. Seriously, how much did Stone's team pony up for her to bag an Oscar? She is an "actress" playing an "actress", but couldn't convince me of even that! And Gosling is nothing but droopy locks and a grin. Unfortunately, "thanks" to Eva Mendes, we can't ship Droopy Locks back to Canada until she kicks him to the curb or their kids turn 18!

Four more beefs:

1) Stone skips town because her "brilliant" one-woman show flops, forcing the theater owners to eat the money she owes them; that DOES NOT happen in real life.

2) Who the hell blows beaucoup bucks on a band with NO SHOT of charting in the Top 100?!

3) Gosling proclaims that jazz is dying -- which "explains" the hordes of 20-somethings at his jazz club!

4) I lived in Boulder City. The name of the library is... the Boulder City Public Library! The film's assistant prop manager is supposedly from Boulder City, but didn't set the hack - sorry, director - straight, I assume, because she didn't want to lose her job.

Speaking of jobs, Earth to John Legend: don't quit your day job (whatever that is).

The Secret Life of Marilyn Monroe
(2015)

putrid piece of garbage
I'd copy-and-paste "putrid piece of garbage" like a broken record, but there are a few things which need to be said about this putrid piece of garbage:

* Dougherty has Marilyn's mother hauled off by the cops after she knocks down their bedroom door, brandishing a kitchen knife? If you buy that, I've got some oceanfront property in Arizona for sale!

* Marilyn basing "Marilyn Monroe" on a cigarette girl whom she sees seductively selling a boy a pack of gum? Rrriiiggghhhttt.

* No proof Dougherty ever called her "crazy like your mother" or threatened to take her to a "head doctor".

* Her first screen test/contract happened after she divorced Dougherty.

* No proof Tom Kelley knew Joseph Schenck, much less, wrangled her an invite to Schenck's "poker party".

* No proof her drug dependency began with Johnny Hyde feeding her uppers like they were candy.

* She rehearses a dance routine from "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes" before she meets DiMaggio. In fact, she learned she got "Blondes" on her 26th birthday, after she met DiMaggio.

* She and DiMaggio met on a blind date at Chasen's, not at some dive where a brunette is ready to pounce on him. And the real date did not wind up like this one does. A figment of the filmmakers' warped imaginations.

* The DiMaggio dinner table is headed by his parents. He tells Marilyn when they run into each other after their divorce "my folks ask about you all the time". DiMaggio's parents died before he met Marilyn.

* Marilyn saying Peter Lawford's much-better half, aka JFK's sister, is everything she wants to be? Too funny.

* DiMaggio and Marilyn get jiggy with it after running into each other while she has drinks with Peter Lawford's much-better half, aka JFK's sister while still married to Arthur Miller, AND with the disapproval of Peter Lawford's much-better half, aka JFK's sister? In the filmmakers' warped imaginations. They did run into each other in Reno while she was filming "The Misfits", but she had her posse in tow, and, needless to say, there was no getting jiggy with it.

* No mention of DiMaggio's son or Miller's two children, all of whom she was very close to.

* Miller a passive-aggressive prick who blames Marilyn for killing their unborn child? Any takers for that oceanfront property in Arizona yet?

* No mention of her trip to Korea?! Are you kidding?!

* DiMaggio had a warm relationship with Eunice Murray, who found Marilyn dead (at least they got THAT right!) Threatening to sack her if she doesn't clean Marilyn's pig sty of a bedroom? Pure fiction.

* The real Marilyn was right-handed.

I should have copied-and-pasted "putrid piece of garbage" like a broken record.

Kingdom Come
(2011)

@ericdrumz nails it
Saw this last night on Showtime. As I'm watching, it occurred to me that everyone bitching about how hard the indie life are highly-successful industry people. Whenever I think of Illeana Douglas, I think of her grandfather, who left behind - aside from a great body of work - two Academy Awards. I imagine if she were really hard-up, she could pawn Grandpa's Oscars for a pretty penny.

As for our "hero" Daniel Gillies (aka Whiny Bitch), he is a working actor whom, I presume, has an agent, whom, I presume, knows people, whom, I presume, can help Whiny Bitch get his vanity project off the ground! For the rest of us with no cash and even less connections, Kingdom Come tells you squat about how to get your little opus off the ground. And @ericdrumz was right about Gillies's "producer" -- talk about clueless!

The other thing that bugged me was how everyone bitched about "the money people". Again, these people crap what you and I make in a year. I guess there are a few twits who get their jollies stringing aspiring filmmakers along, but, if you're asking me for x-amount of dollars, what guarantee do I have that you won't go to Vegas, and blow the whole wad?!

The Colombia segment featured heart-breaking footage of stray dogs. When I realized Whiny Bitch did squat to help these poor creatures (I would have moved heaven and earth to bring them to the States or, at the very least, make sure they were off the streets and properly cared for!), he lost me.

If they ever make a film about Michael Hutchence (INXS), Whiny Bitch would be perfect. Not only is he a dead ringer for Hutchence, he is also vain, self-absorbed, and a legend in his own mind!

The New Normal
(2012)

A Child is Not a Cupcake Out of an Easy-Bake Oven!
Watched the pilot. It's not the premise that I object to. Nor the inane set-up. Nor the insipid dialog. Nor the shallow, one-dimensional characters which reek of ugly stereotypes. It's the sanctimonious smugness, revolting misogyny, and even-more revolting attitude toward children, child-bearing, and child-rearing.

After the shopaholic half of the gay couple exchanges coos with a baby at Barney's, he rushes home to his non-shopaholic better half with a miniature blazer he has bought, and declares: "I want us to have baby clothes. And a baby to wear them." This will come as a shock, but a child is not a fashion accessory. And it is not a cupcake out of an Easy-Bake Oven (a truly vicious put-down). It is a human being.

By the way, people behind this travesty, what brought you into this world was not an Easy-Bake Oven. It was a woman. A human being. Deal with it!

Hemingway & Gellhorn
(2012)

Bad Hemingway
There was once a contest called the International Imitation Hemingway Competition, better known as Bad Hemingway, in which entrants submitted the most-ludicrous, ham-fisted short stories in the style of the man some consider the greatest writer America has ever produced, Ernest Hemingway. Too bad the contest is now defunct, because the twits behind Hemingway & Gellhorn could have submitted this ham-fisted ludicrousness, and "won" hands down!

I positively howled at the scene where a bomb explodes as the title characters are doing the nasty, stop as debris rains on them, then pick up where they left off. Then, the film had the gall to have the heroine come upon the crying baby who was the lone survivor of a Japanese bombing raid (one of the most horrific of all wartime images). When her guide (whom I thought at first was the butchiest woman in China) tells her there's nothing they can do, I wanted to reach inside the TV, and throttle them! That the guide turned out to be the future Chairman Mao - whose regime killed at least 40 million people (and babies) - was a bit of nasty the filmmakers didn't want to touch with a 10 foot chopstick. Instead, they were too busy turning Mao's partner in crime, Zhou Enlai, into an erudite stud, castrating Chiang Kai-shek, and making a convincing argument for "Papa" and "Marty" being Forrest Gumps's parents!

When one plays a real person, he should inspire the viewer to learn more about that person; Owen and Kidman fail miserably. Granted, Hemingway and Gellhorn were not the nicest people, to put nicely. And Gellhorn cheated on Hemingway throughout their marriage -- another bit of nasty the filmmakers wanted no part of.

Owen looked like a nerdy Groucho Marx, and Kidman looked like, well, Nicole Kidman. And the script was a putrid mess. "You spend so much time arguing with F. Scott Fitzgerald about who has a bigger penis, but I know the truth"? Gag!

After "Marty" kicked the documentary crew out of her apartment, I was hoping she would follow "Papa"'s lead. But no such luck. Instead, we are "treated" to a bizarre interaction between her and a raven at her window (!). Then, she straps a backpack on, and storms out like an overgrown Girl Scout having a bitch fit. She wasn't the only one having a bitch fit.

Captain America: The First Avenger
(2011)

Stan Lee's Buffalo Chips!
After suffering through Stan Lee's latest offering of buffalo chips, aka Thor, Epix finally got around to showing this last night.

I have a lot of problems with this, namely how we're supposed to buy that a scrawny runt who couldn't cut it in Basic turns into Rambo the moment he's pumped full of some radioactive crap. That he always know exactly what to do. That he never hesitates, never has a "my bad", and the crap coursing through his veins doesn't affect him one bit. In real life, Scrawny Runt wouldn't have had a clue, his body would have attacked the crap coursing through his veins, and he would have been dead by the time he was popped out of his pod!

The Bad Guy, a Nazi gone rouge, has a ray gun that, literally, evaporates everything it's pointed at. So, he builds this complex deep in the forest, houses 400 Allied soldiers, goofs on Wagner, and waits for the right moment to unleash Hell. Makes sense to me, too. Moreover, the Good Guys know all about Nazi Rouge and his plans to unleash Hell. Huh? If Hitler had gotten his hands on the ultimate Weapon of Mass Destruction, do you think he would have been holed up in the forest somewhere, goofing on Wagner, and biding his time? Hell, no!

After nearly two hours of this ham-fisted nonsense (and Tommy Lee Jones looking really, really constipated), we are treated to a close-up of a pair of eyes with the longest lashes you have ever seen. Is this a Maybelline commercial? No, it's Scrawny Runt lying on a cot, waking up as if from a bad dream! Moments later, he's running down the streets of present-day Manhattan (my idea of a bad dream), and runs smack into Samuel L. Jackson, who informs Scrawny Runt that he's been "asleep" for 70 years! So, why isn't Scrawny Runt at some a top-secret location being defrosted and debriefed? Because that would make way too much sense! Besides, Mr. Lee needs him to peddle his newest bag of buffalo chips, The Avengers!

Smash
(2012)

Trash
In Steven Spielberg's "brilliantly-original idea", the clichés are trotted out like a bad cold. The theater lover married to the jerk who hates the theater? Check. The catty gay guy? Check. The bitch who'd kill Grandma to land a gig? Check. The Babe in the Woods waiting tables as she struggles for her big break? Check. The hard-boiled producer desperate for a hit? Check. The homophobic director in self-denial? Check. The tacky, tasteless production numbers crammed with enough double-entendres to chock a horse? Double check!

And why Marilyn Monroe? Why not someone who actually mattered, such as Rosa Parks? No, not a Rosa Parks musical (that would be beyond creepy), but a Broadway play about Rosa Parks. Now, THAT is a brilliantly-original idea, Mr. Spielberg! The upshot is that the "talents" vying for this "dream role" are made up to look like drag queen versions of Anna Nicole Smith! At least someone associated with this tripe has a sense of humor!

If these writers ever want to learn how to do dialog that won't make the viewers squirm in their seats, my rate is $25 an hour. I'm sure Mr. Spielberg has that much in his piggy bank.

The King's Speech
(2010)

Royal Slush
If one needs proof that Americans have an inferiority complex when it comes to anything stamped "Made in the UK", look no further than this steaming pile of pretentiousness which gets my vote as the worst Best Picture ever.

Here's a bit of info I picked up in Film Appreciation 101: in order for there to be drama, there must be conflict. The "conflict" in The King's Speech is the bitchy (and probably gay) archbishop learning that the speech therapist treating the Duke of York (aka Bertie) is an unqualified quack! Well, I knew that when the quack had Bertie rolling around on the floor screeching like a banshee!

And this will come as a shock to these twits, but Edward's hook-up with Wallis Simpson was more than a quickie at the Quickie Mart. But instead of being given an idea of the turmoil triggered by their liaison, we get Edward acting like the petulant Golden Boy forced to marry the Coyote Ugly he banged in Daddy's Caddie. The reason for the opposition was because she was divorced, or as Daddy puts it, "has two husbands who are living still". Would he have felt better if they were dead?

To say the characters are two-dimensional is an insult to two-dimensional characters. Bertie is a repressed wuss with Daddy issues. Edward is a feckless wuss with Daddy issues. Logue (the quack) is an elitist wuss with Daddy issues. Bertie babbles like Lenny Bruce on an acid trip whenever he gets his knickers into a bunch. I seriously doubt that ever happened. Ditto, Bertie and Mrs. Bertie being allowed to leave the confines of their gilded cage without so much as a Bobby in tow.

But what really made me want to hurl was the whole German thing. Logue advises Bertie not come to the throne as King Albert because "Albert" sounds too German. Bertie did not come to the throne as King Albert because Queen Victoria declared that no successor be crowned as King Albert out of regard for Prince Albert.

By the way, Victoria and Albert were - you guessed it - German!

The Dotted Line
(2011)

Swing and a Miss!
I was expecting this self-righteous screed about how professional athletes make too much money and must be forced to "give back", blah, blah, blah. But The Dotted Line was even worse than I feared. Spurlock took a fascinating subject, and made it utterly boring!

Since Spurlock couldn't even be bothered to explain why sports agents have become a necessary evil, I will. Until the 1970s, athletes weren't allowed to be represented in contract negotiations with a team; if it were suspected you had an agent, you were blackballed! Imagine it: 18, 19, 20-year old kids with no business acumen and even less formal education forced to deal with men who had the power to take full advantage of them! Spurlock never hints at any of this. Instead, he insinuates that, to the agents and the athletes' families, Super Jock is little more than a human ATM waiting to pay out, which is such a cliché, a TV series was based on it ("Arli$$")!

Eugene Lee - who must have been a snake oil salesman in a past life - feigns outrage when one of his clients dumps him for a rival. Did Lee take on the kid out of the goodness of his heart? Didn't think so! Boo hoo!

Waking Up Wally: The Walter Gretzky Story
(2005)

Wake Me When It's Over
If there was a story about finding the strength to overcome adversity, I couldn't find it. What I found was an insipid ploy right out of Made-for-TV Hell to cash in on a certain family member's celebrity.

The guy playing Walter didn't look more than 15 years older than the guy playing Wayne, and neither of them looked remotely like Walter or Wayne. The woman playing Phyllis looked like Sarah Palin, complete with glasses and hair in a French twist. The guy playing the therapist looked like he just dropped out of junior high school. The guy playing Walter's buddy looked like a dumpy version of Clive Owen. At least the guy playing the doctor actually looked like a doctor.

Here, Wayne, Keith, Brent, and Glen don't have lives, and Kim is well on her way to becoming Canada's most famous spinster when the therapist begins to hit on her. Yeah, they did wind up getting married, but it was more than a bit icky.

Since the therapist is so inept at his job, he makes lists, he must have written the following for Walter to do; there is simply no other possible explanation:

Have flashbacks about teaching your boy to play hockey while on the way to the hospital.

Visit your parents' graves, then flip out like Frankenstein on an acid trip while having flashbacks about feeding chickens with your mother.

Flip out like Frankenstein on an acid trip as you watch your kids play hockey.

Flip out like Frankenstein on an acid trip when your wife serves you lunch.

Flip out like Frankenstein on an acid trip as you chase after a figment of your imagination before it falls through the ice and drowns.

Babble in Ukrainian like Frankenstein on an acid trip.

Go into deer-caught-in-the-headlights mode at the drop of a hat.

Crawl on your hands and knees across a skating rink.

Get dissed by the coach of a pee-wee hockey team.

Drive your wife and daughter up the wall.

Phyllis and Kim were utterly unlikable because they had something resembling personalities. The others could have been played by cardboard cut outs, and no one would have noticed.

La passion de Jeanne d'Arc
(1928)

Raiders of the Lost Arc!
After years of hearing this film praised to the skies, I finally got to see this last night, thanks to our buddies at TCM.

For the benefit of you budding actors, the following is a blow-by-blow account of Maria Falconetti's portrayal of Joan of Arc, considered by many critics to be the greatest performance in the history of film:

Goes into Pop-My-Eyes-Out-of-My-Sockets Mode. Then cries.

Goes into I'm-Feeling-Sorry-for-Myself Mode. Then cries.

Goes into Lomotomized Zombie Mode. Then cries.

Goes into Bobbing Head Doll Mode. Then cries.

Repeats modes like a broken record. Then cries. A lot.

Joan of Arc was a female George Patton, someone who knew how to kick ass and take names. Falconetti's Joan is a blubbering wack job no one would follow into a pillow fight! Oddly, the only time Falconetti stops the blubbering wack job bit is when Joan is about to be burnt to a crisp.

The ending is a stupefying orgy of violence and bizarre camera angles. There is even a shot of a baby nursing, complete with full-frontal boobie! And the guy in the Mountie get-up lording over Joan's execution is a hoot! Where I can score some of that crack Carl Theodor Dreyer was smoking?

Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work
(2010)

The Queen of Mean
"A Piece of Work" begins with Joan Rivers looking like a refugee from "Night of the Living Dead" before tons of make-up transform her into something resembling a human being. This peek behind the pose may seem brave to some. To me, it confirmed that Rivers has turned herself into Leona Helmsley! A few more gos under the knife, she'll turn herself into Michael Jackson!

"A Piece of Work" actually has a lot to say about the nature of celebrity. Rivers has money and fame, but what she really wants is status, which is why she attends a Kennedy Center tribute to George Carlin, although, as she points out, the tribute represents everything Carlin was against, namely rich Republicans (yuk, yuk). That Carlin made millions off of his feigned disdain for the establishment is lost on Rivers. That you have to earn respect in order to get respect is lost on her, too.

Kathy Griffin prattles about how Rivers paved the way for her, but that's the extent of the props, which is telling yet not surprising. Like Helmsley, Rivers is an utterly unlikeable creature who makes Snooki look dignified. The tirade during one of her routines about her daughter nixing an offer to pose for Playboy made me want to wash my ears out with soap! Little wonder her manager bails on her every chance he gets, her staffers put up with her only because she pays them, and her daughter (a wanna-be A-lister herself) can't stand being in the same room with her for longer than five minutes. Only once, when she and her grandson (whom she seems to adore) visit an ailing photographer does Rivers seem to get that the world does not revolve around her. But maybe, that was just part of her act.

How to Make It in America
(2010)

Dumb and Dumber!
Never heard of this until I caught some episodes last night. A few observations:

* "How to Make It in America" is too long of a title and, given the premise, makes no sense.

* These guys make The Real Housewives of New Jersey look like MENSA candidates. Dumb shows some gumption by charming the fashion designer with a toast, but when he and Dumber show up at the designer's place, what do they bring with them to this make-or-break meet-and-greet to prove that they're serious and got game? Nothing!

* After I stopped yelling at my TV, I realized that Dumb and Dumber are supposed to be stand-ins for every schmuck who's ever had a crazy dream. Well, even schmucks know they have to work to make their crazy dream come true. Dumb and Dumber seem to think that business models and prototypes and capital and material for their "visionary" jeans should fall from the sky and land on top of them because, well, heck, they just should, dang nab-it!

* Oddly, Dumb and Dumber take their sketches with them when they see the pattern maker. I have to assume the lone reason why they just happen to have the sketchbook was because Dumber's mother put it into his backpack!

* When the psycho cousin and the ex-girlfriend's nutter boss are way more interesting than your leads, you've got problems.

Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian
(2009)

Nightmare at the Museum
I don't know which was more tortuous: watching the fingernails-against-the-chalkboard annoying Ben Stiller for 100 minutes, or the historical figures here made ludicrous. Ivan the Terrible, Napoleon, and Al Capone as incompetent twits taking marching orders from a Boris Karloff impersonator? Theodore Roosevelt as a rude snot? George Custer as a cowardly buffoon? (Say what you will about Custer, he was neither a coward or a buffoon.) The Tuskegee Airmen as vapid clichés? The Wright Brothers as chauvinist pigs? Albert Einstein (all 7 of him) as giggly bubble-heads? Octavius giving a shout-out to Obama? And may these jackasses rot in Hell for what they do to Abraham Lincoln! The only historical figure afforded any dignity is Sacajawea (who has to put up with Roosevelt's lechery -- creepy in light of the real T.R.'s "regard" for Native Americans), and I suspect that's only because the "filmmakers" were afraid of being called racists!

If the very idea of Amelia Earhart throwing herself at Stiller makes you want to toss your cookies, then stay away -- stay FAR away!

Carrie Fisher: Wishful Drinking
(2010)

As Grandpa Simpson would say: "Bitch, bitch, bitch!"
And that's all Carrie Fisher does: bitch! Bitch about her father leaving her mother. Bitch about her mother's ex-husbands. Bitch about her father's ex-wives. Bitch about her own ex-husband. Bitch about being a cog in the most lucrative franchise in movie history. Bitch about the father of her daughter leaving her for a man. After 90 minutes of listening to this self-absorbed child of Hollywood royalty bitch, who could blame him?

I do not understand what Fisher has to bitch about. She has a charmed life, and millions in the bank. So her father left her mother. Earth to Carrie: men walk out on their families all the time -- what makes you so damn special?! It is only too-obvious that her "problems" have been of her own making.

Her pathetic bid for approval (which she got from the, no doubt, bought-off audience of sycophants) may make for an interesting doctoral thesis on celebrity narcissism, but it makes for lousy television.

It's Complicated
(2009)

The Ham Club
On the subject of the talent of then-newcomer Meryl Streep, Bette Davis and Katharine Hepburn were divided. Davis thought Streep had the goods; she even wrote her a letter expressing the hope that they'd work together someday. Hepburn, on the other hand, thought that Streep - with her myriad of accents - was a one-trick pony. Two Oscars and 16 nominations may have proved Davis right, but Streep also proved Hepburn right. With Prime, Mamma Mia!, Julie & Julia, and, now, It's Complicated, she has officially joined Robert DeNiro, Al Pacino, Dustin Hoffman, Michael Caine, Jack Nicholson, and Anthony Hopkins in The Ham Club -- great actors who have tanked their great careers to ham it up in utter dreck for big, fat paychecks!

I never bought that Streep and Alec "Thoughtless Little Pig" Baldwin were once married, much less, parents. Neither Jane or Jake are likable: she is a self-absorbed whiner, and he is a self-absorbed creep. If self-absorbed creep Baldwin weren't so full of himself, he'd see the irony of his casting. Then again, probably not.

Then there's Steve Martin as the prototypical Sad Sack. You can see him just counting the seconds until he could run back into his trailer and hide! To say Martin is horribly miscast, and that he and Streep have zero chemistry, is being charitable.

Jake and Jane's children are supposedly adults, yet they act like their puppy has just died when they learn the awful truth. As Jane later explains why she and Dad were playing "home, sweet home" (gag!), the children are huddled together on a bed like 5 year olds on a cold winter's night! How retarded!

Speaking of retarded, on what planet do shrinks advise their patients to sleep around? Seeing how Jane, an alleged baker, plays with dough (more shameless hammy by Streep), and doesn't know the first thing about making croissants, the shrink should have ordered her to go to baking school, instead!

The one in this mess who does himself proud (if you can say that) is the kid who plays The Stepson From Hell. That he had me wanting to ram his bratty head through the wall is either a testament to his talent or proof that he actually is a brat.

One of Jane's pals is played by Rita Wilson, whom Tom Hanks played "home, sweet home" (gag!) with while still playing "home, sweet home" (gag!) with his wife, reminding me of that old chestnut: "If he cheats with you, he'll cheat on you." If self-absorbed hack Nancy Meyers weren't so full of herself, she'd see the irony of casting Wilson. Then again, probably not.

Miss March
(2009)

Finally -- a movie that does what it sets out to do!
How many movies have lured you in with promises of thrills, chills, and good times, only to waste 2 hours of your life? If it was the intent of Trevor Moore and Zach Cregger - neither of whom I knew existed until last night - to make a movie so vile, disgusting, and just plain retarded, it makes "Freddie Got Fingered" look like "City Lights", they succeeded beyond their wildest dreams!

Why "Miss March"? Why not "Miss April" or "Miss May" or "Miss June"? April, May, and June are girls' names; Playboy has a Miss April, a Miss May, and a Miss June; the title would let us know that our hero misses his girl. There -- I just came up with something more clever and original than anything in this dreck!

Near the end of this waste of celluloid, Tucker's psycho girlfriend has her psycho firefighter brother hogtie him. As Psycho Firefighter prepares to dispatch Tucker with an ax (which, I must admit, I was rooting for), Tucker tells Psycho Girlfriend that he loves her. Forget the sheer stupidity of this: a guy is hogtied and about to be beheaded on the grounds of the Playboy Mansion before dozens of witnesses, and NO ONE reacts! No "Wait!" or "Stop!" or "Are you off your meds?!" The other firefighters don't even try to grab the ax away from Psycho Firefighter. Makes you question your faith in humanity.

As it turns out, Cindi (Miss March) isn't the kind of girl you'd take home to mother. She allows a goon to beat the holy hell out of Eugene, then publicly humiliates Tucker's buddy in order to prove to Eugene that she is as pure as the driven slush. Cindi tells Eugene that she became a cog in the Playboy machine because it was the only way that she could pay his medical bills. Huh? Cut to Hef (or The Crypt Keeper), who lectures Tucker that inside every woman is a Bunny (or a slut), then shows Tucker a photo of his true love: a girl named Gertrude who had a dead right eye, and died at the age of 18. Lucky her.

As they watch the filming of a music video that would make 50 Cent blush, Eugene tells Tucker the lyrics to the song make no sense. As the retards who play these retards wrote the lyrics, how would they know that it makes no sense?

Sugar
(2008)

$1,000,000 Arm. 10¢ Head.
The filmmakers want so badly for you to root for their hero, they saddle their little opus with enough clichés to choke a horse. The upshot is that their hero is the ultimate cliché: the arrogant, self-absorbed jerk with the $1,000,000 arm and the 10¢ head!

When one buddy gets cut, another buddy gets promoted, and a third buddy's progress regulates our hero to the bullpen, how does he respond? He jumps the team. That's real mature! Even his mother's attempt to guilt-trip him back to his senses doesn't work. If Sugar doesn't care that his family is now screwed because he decided to screw up, then why should we care about him?

Some reviewers have opined that the film is about how these poor non-white kids are exploited by rich white guys. But, as they say, it takes two to tango, and none of these kids have ever been forced to sign up for a shot at the big time. That Sugar and his fellow screw-ups decide to stay in the U.S. after their visas expire renders the filmmakers' self-righteous screed as pointless as their little opus.

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