Archive for the ‘Movies (C)’ Category

ANTICLIMAX! A New Drawing.

Posted: March 24, 2014 in Drawings, Movies (C)

 

 

 

 

The Counselor (2013)

 

 

It came to my attention, as I lifted the dusty cover to my sketchbook with a creak, that I haven’t drawn anything in almost four months. That’s even worse than skipping out on going to the gym. At least you walk around and lift stuff, even if you’re not actively working out. To be any good at drawing, you gotta exercise regularly, or your skills atrophy, and I fear that’s kinda where mine are at now.

With that in mind, I dashed off a quick likeness sketch. I finally got around to seeing THE COUNSELOR, written by Cormac McCarthy and directed by Ridley Scott,  and generally dismissed by critics and audiences when it came out last October. But personally I’m never going to rush to discount a movie with weird violence, Rosie Perez, and a pair of leopard henchmen, and I was especially entertained by Javier Bardem’s crazy character and even better, his crazy hair. We can debate the extent of the movie’s merits but let’s please not call it uninteresting.

Anyway, here’s my drawing of Javier Bardem’s crazy hair:

 

 

COUNSELOR

 

 

The Counselor: Javier Bardem

 

Take a dip in the thoughtstream of my Twitter account: @jonnyabomb

I’ve been thinking about this movie again because I recently finished the Kindle Single “Searching For Dave Chappelle,” by New York Times reporter Jason Zinoman (who also wrote Shock Value, a book I liked about horror films).  I’ll probably write more about the Chappelle piece soon, but since it cites the same CB4 screening I attended back in the spring, it put the movie back in my mind.  

Here’s my review of CB4, which I originally wrote for Rupert Pupkin Speaks

CB$-DMC

CB4 is a sorely-underappreciated comedy, maybe one of the funniest of the 1990s. It’s a viciously smart and hysterical send-up of hip-hop culture. Chris Rock stars as Albert, a kid with dreams of hip-hop stardom. He takes his nom-de-gangsta, MC Gusto, from a local criminal (Charlie Murphy) and starts a group called “CB4” (Cell Block Four) with his buddies Euripides and Otis, who come to be known by the [brilliantly chosen] aliases of Dead Mike and Stabmaster Arson. The group is a pitch-perfect parody of NWA (with Rock as Gusto strongly resembling Eazy-E, who cameos in the film just to confirm the notion), among many other groups and stars of the time.  The difference is that this is a parody made by people who genuinely love the music being parodied.

Chris Rock wrote the movie with the brilliant cultural critic Nelson George.  The director, Tamra Davis (BILLY MADISON, HALF BAKED) made plenty of music videos for plenty of big names, NWA included — not to mention she married Mike D from the Beastie Boys.  So this isn’t the kind of SCARY MOVIE junk spoof that favors pratfalls and easy jokes over sharp satire and legitimate affection — the parody in CB4 is so effective because it comes from familiarity with its targets. It’s the kind of movie that kids around with love. This was Chris Rock’s first starring role, and he and his team managed to score an incredible cast which includes Chris Elliott, Khandi Alexander, Richard Gant, Art Evans, Theresa Randle, Rachel True, Tommy Davidson, Halle Berry, Isaac Hayes, and the great Phil Hartman as a right-wing politician out to stop the child-corrupting evil of CB4.

Phil Hartman CB4

The funniest part about CB4 is that it has turned out to be not just timely satire for 1993 but prophecy for 2003, and for 2013 too! Think back to 2003, the height of rap superstar 50 Cent’s fame, having been achieved with a tough-guy backstory — nine bullets! — and a name taken from a real-life criminal. (If you have time, Google the name “Kelvin Martin.”) Now, in 2013, the biggest rapper in the game (literally) is Rick Ross, ironically a former corrections officer who took his stage name from bigtime drug trafficker “Freeway” Ricky Ross. Chris Rock has cited these examples in answer to repeated requests for a CB4 sequel:  It can’t be done.  When real life becomes more ridiculous than imagined satire, it becomes a whole lot harder to be in the business of satire.

Stabmaster

@jonnyabomb

Cloud Atlas (2012)

 

If you didn’t see this movie on the big screen, you missed out.  If you missed it entirely, you fucked up.  And if you were one of those who called it “the worst movie of the year” (whoever Mary Pols at Time magazine is; stupid stupid Peter Travers) – God help you.  When this movie comes to be seen as a lost classic in a few years, you may wish you weren’t so nasty.

I won’t be gloating though.  I choose the avenue of love.  This movie encouraged me to be that way.  This movie is about a lot of things I may or may not believe in – fate, true love, reincarnation of sorts – and it made me believe – strongly – in them all.  That’s the power of love, son.  That’s the power of cinema.  And I was skeptical too.  I’ve always liked the Wachowskis but I’m not as high on THE MATRIX as so many are (although, weirdly, I liked the sequels better than most), and I haven’t seen a Tom Tykwer move that really resonated with me since RUN LOLA RUN.  Most of all, without having read David Mitchell’s original novel it was hard to tell in advance what the hell this movie was going to be about.  Answer:  It’s kinda about everything.

It’s a 19th-century nautical drama involving slavery and other human cruelties.

It’s a period piece about the creation of classical music and an impossible romance.

It’s a 1970s political thriller about an intrepid reporter (co-starring THE THING‘s Keith David as SHAFT‘s Shaft!).

It’s a whimsical farce about an attempted escape from a nursing home.

It’s a science-fiction anime action-movie love-story.

It’s a post-apocalyptic future-tropical tribal-warfare-slash-horror-movie that turns into a campfire fable.

It’s like no other movie I’ve ever seen before, which for the record is exactly why I go to the movies:  To see things I haven’t seen before.  The performances are surprising and exhilarating, the score is clever and moving, the cinematography is colorful and absorbing, the scope is bold and ambitious.  Does it matter too much that some of the storylines are more affecting than others?  You think I care about anybody’s stupid little quibbles over some of the makeup effects?  This is a movie that shoots for the moon and more than once hits the stars.  This movie didn’t just surprise me with what it is – it surprised me about ME.  It’s sad that more people haven’t embraced it yet, but believe me, I’m happier loving this movie than you are disregarding or ignoring it.  Feel free to come over to this side anytime!

I wrote this for Daily Grindhouse and reposted it here because CLOUD ATLAS is out on DVD & Blu-Ray today. Now’s your chance to remedy the mistakes of the past…

@jonnyabomb

DAILY GRINDHOUSE BANNER

Daily Grindhouse would be pretty much my favorite website even if I weren’t writing for them, but since I am, here’s a collection of all my work so far.  It’s some of my very best stuff. Enjoy!

25TH HOUR (2002) 48 HRS. (1982) 52 PICK-UP (1986) 88  THE ACT OF KILLING (2013) ACT OF VIOLENCE (1948) Alex Cross (2012) ALIEN (1979) ALIEN ZONE (1978) ALPHABET CITY (1984) american sniper  AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON (1981) ANACONDA (1997) ANTS (1977) The Apple (1980) ARMY OF DARKNESS (1992) ARTISTS & MODELS (1955) Assault on Precinct 13 (1976) BADLANDS (1973) BAIT (2012) A Band Called Death (2013) BASKET CASE (1982)  BATMAN (1989) BATTLE ROYALE (2000) The Baytown Outlaws (2013). Beetlejuice (1988) BERBERIAN SOUND STUDIO (2013) BEST WORST MOVIE (2009)The Big Lebowski (1998) Big Trouble In Little China (1986) BLACK CHRISTMAS (1974) BLACK DEATH (2011) THE BLOB (1988) BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN (1935) The Brides Of Dracula (1960) brothers-2009 BUNNY LAKE IS MISSING (1965) untitled CARRIE (1976) CB4 THE MOVIE (1993) CEMETERY MAN (1994) Charley Varrick (1973) CHEAP THRILLS (2013) CHOPPING MALL (1986) class-of-1984-poster The Colony (2013) COMPLIANCE (2012) CON AIR (1997) Conquest (1983) THE CONTRACTOR (2013) Creature (2011) CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON (1954) CRIME WAVE (1954) THE CROW (1994) DARKMAN (1990) DEAD & BURIED (1981) DEADLY FRIEND (1986) deranged-1974-movie-review-jpeg-35312 THE DESCENT (2005) THE DEVIL’S EXPRESS (1976) dillinger-1973 DIRTY HARRY (1971) Django (1966) Django Unchained (2012).  DOG SOLDIERSDOUBLE INDEMNITY (1944) DRACULA (1931) Dredd (2012) DRIVE (2011) Drive Angry (2011) End of Watch (2012) EQUINOX (1970) Escape From New York (1981) Evil Dead (2013) THE EXORCIST (1973) Eyes Without A Face (1960) FACE-OFF (1997) Fast Five A tumblr_n2u9s565B11rscnczo1_500 Fist Of Legend (1994) FRANKENSTEIN (1931) GANJA & HESS (1973) the-gauntlet-1977 Get Carter (1971) ghostbusters GHOSTBUSTERS 2 (1989) ghosthouse 1988 GI Joe Retaliation (2013) THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO (2011) GOD TOLD ME TO (1976) GONE GIRL (2014) THE GOOD, THE BAD, AND THE UGLY (1966) The Great Silence (1968) Gremlins 2 - The New Batch (1990) The Grey (2012) Halloween (1978) Hannie Caulder (1971) Hardbodies (1984) Hardware (1990).. Henry (1990) High Crime (1973)  THE HILLS RUN RED (1966) . IMG_8699 THE HIT (1984)Hit Man (1972) hobo with a shotgun HOMEFRONT (2013) The Horror Of Dracula (1958) the host - no words HOUSE (HAUSU) (1977) The Iceman (2013) The Imaginarium Of Doctor Parnassus (2009) IN A LONELY PLACE (1950) THE INNOCENTS (1961) THE INSIDER (1999) The Invisible Man (1933) Iron-Man-3-2013 I SAW THE DEVIL (2010) Island-of-Lost-Souls-19331 Jackie Brown (1997) jaws jennifers body  JUAN OF THE DEAD (2011) The Keep (1983) KILLER JOE (2011) The Killers (1966) Killing Them Softly (2012) The-King-of-Comedy-1983 LADY IN CEMENT (1968) LADY TERMINATOR (1989) THE LAST CIRCUS (2010) BERRY GORDY’S THE LAST DRAGON (1985) Lawless (2012) LAWRENCE OF ARABIA (1962) the-leopard-man-movie-poster-1943-1020199765 Leprechaun (1993) A LIFE LESS ORDINARY (1997) LINK (1986) Liz & Dick (TV, 2012) Lockout (2012) The Lords of Salem (2013) Lost Highway THE MAGIC BLADE (1976) MAN OF STEEL (2013) THE MAN WHO KNEW TOO LITTLE (1997) The Man with the Iron Fists (2012) Maniac Cop (1988) THE MANITOU (1978) MASTER OF THE FLYING GUILLOTINE (1976) men-in-war-1957 MIGHTY PEKING MAN (1977) MILANO CALIBRO 9 (1972) MULHOLLAND DR. (2001) MY BLOODY VALENTINE 3-D (2009) My_Darling_Clementine_1946 NakedSpur-1953-MGM-one navajo-joe-1966 NEAR DARK (1987) NEON MANIACS (1986) night of the comet NIGHT OF THE CREEPS (1986) THE NIGHT OF THE HUNTER (1955) Night of the Living Dead (1968) NOSFERATU (1922) NOTORIOUS (2009) OF UNKNOWN ORIGIN (1983) ONLY GOD FORGIVES (2013) OUT OF THE PAST (1947) PACIFIC RIM (2013) pet-sematary-1989 Phenomena (1985) POOTIE TANG (2001) POSSESSION (1981) PREDATOR (1987) Premium Rush (2012) PRIVATE SCHOOL (1983) PULP FICTION (1994) Pursued (1947) q-the-winged-serpent-movie-poster-1983-1020195479 quick-change-poster BERANDAL (2014) RAVENOUS (1999) RAW FORCE (1982) Raw Meat (1972) RE-ANIMATOR (1985) Rear Window (1954) RED RIVER (1948) RED ROCK WEST (1992) Relentless (1989) RIDDICK (2013) tumblr_njo3upN5tn1sy67obo1_540 the road  ROBOCOP (1987) ROBOCOP (2014) SCANNERS  Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (2010) SCROOGED (1988) Shaft (1971) Sheba, Baby (1975) SHOCK WAVES (1977) shogun_assassin SORCERER (1977) source-code Spring Breakers (2013) SQUIRM (1976) STARSHIP-TROOPERS-1997 story of ricky  STREET TRASH (1987) Streets-Of-Fire-1984 THE STUNT MAN (1980) SUDDEN IMPACT (1983) Super (2011) SUSPIRIA (1977) switchblade_sisters_poster_02 (1) TAXI DRIVER (1976) The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974) Texas Chainsaw 3D (2013) THE THING (1982) THIS IS THE END (2013) thriller TORQUE (2004) touch of evil The Town That Dreaded Sundown (1976) TREMORS (1990) TRICK ‘R TREAT (2007) THE TWILIGHT PEOPLE (1972) THE UNKNOWN (1927) Under The Dome VAMPIRE’S KISS (1988) VERTIGO-1958-649x1024 Vigilante (1983) vigilante force THE VISITOR (1979) WHICH WAY IS UP (1977) WHITE HUNTER  WHY DON’T YOU PLAY IN HELL THE WICKER MAN (1973) winters-bone WITCHBOARD (1986) worlds-greatest-dad-2009 ZODIAC (2007) ZOMBI 2 (1979) ZOMBIELAND (2009)

Make Daily Grindhouse your daily destination for genre movie news, reviews, and interviews — there’s a ton of truly great content over there, beyond just the parts with my name on ’em.

And follow me on Twitter for updates!: @jonnyabomb

In 2010, British horror director Christopher Smith released BLACK DEATH, which in my opinion was one of the best-made and least-recognized films of that year.  BLACK DEATH was only his most recent film, though.  2004’s CREEP was his first.  I was very surprised that I hadn’t heard of or seen CREEP before I went actively looking for it, since it’s right up my alley.  If you like movies about scary subways and homicidal underground maniacs, it’ll be up yours too.

In crafting CREEP, Smith was inspired by the legendary tube attack scene in AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON, so much that he made an entire horror movie set in the London Underground.  Of course, this genre had origins with 1973’s RAW MEAT, but Smith hadn’t seen it before making this movie.  The first sign that Smith isn’t your average exploitation filmmaker is that he centered his horror movie around a smart female protagonist played by a strong actress:  RUN LOLA RUN‘s Franka Potente plays a trendy city dweller who falls asleep in the station and gets locked in overnight.  There’s something down there with her.  And the chase begins.

This movie is simple but effective.  True to its title, it’s creepy.  It’s also got a great look to it — the bright yellows of the cleaner parts of the station (and the lead character’s blonde hair) are a sunny contrast to the dim greens and dingy darkness of the environment that she proceeds down into.  It’s a much more visually appealing film than RAW MEAT or even AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON, a real eye-catcher, which isn’t an easy virtue for a film centered around public transportation.

Smith has a knack for adding interesting character strokes to his movies, where most horror directors don’t usually bother.  It makes a huge difference.  The way that Franka Potente’s character is kind of self-centered, the way that she hesitates to run in to help other characters, the way that she nudges other characters to go forward when she’s afraid, the way that she still has her soft spots and sympathies — these all make an otherwise basic fright ride that much more interesting and recognizable.  You may wish you’d act differently in her shoes, but chances are, you suspect deep down you wouldn’t.

CREEP is not a perfect movie.  Once the main “villain” is introduced, we’re given a little more backstory than we probably need.  (Less explanation is almost always scarier.)  Also, there are a few too many digressions from the main chase, once some extra characters are introduced.  But as a feature horror debut, this is so very much better than most, with a terrific lead performance and a consistent sense of atmosphere and dread.  Having seen this movie, it’s no surprise that Christopher Smith was able to develop into a director who could make a movie as unusual and challenging as BLACK DEATH.  Which I will get to soon enough.

For now, check CREEP out and get creeped out.

And really, marvel at how much cleaner British subways are than their American counterparts.  Trust me, my British friends, even if it’s an exaggeration, it’s still the truth.

@jonnyabomb

 

The Creature From The Black Lagoon wasthe last to arrive of the major Universal monsters. CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON was released in 1954, over twenty years after Universal introduced Frankenstein’s Monster, his Bride, the Mummy, the Invisble Man, and Count Dracula, and over ten years later than the Wolf Man (longer if you count the Werewolf Of London).  The Creature, or the Gill-man as he’s often called, is the only Universal Monster to have arrived after World War II.  As such, he has a much different, maybe weirder thematic significance than any of the others.

Frankenstein is the Promethean myth, about the things man isn’t meant to mess with.  The Bride Of Frankenstein is about bad dates.  Dracula, like all vampires, is about lust and corruption.  The Mummy is about lost love and how creepy it can get.  The Invisible Man is absolute power corrupting absolutely.  The Wolf Man is about rage.  I can keep going with this stuff (and I have).  Zombies are about our fear of death.  King Kong is about the way that chicks dig jerks.  Godzilla is about post-war atomic anxiety.  And so on.  But back up for a minute — that last one’s gotta be important somehow.

GODZILLA, released in 1954, is widely acknowledged to be a film that reflects a nation’s very understandable reaction to the atomic bomb.  GODZILLAis literally about how American nuclear testing created this horrible (eventually lovable) mutant monster.  One of Japan’s most iconic film characters was inspired, in a way, by Japan’s greatest tragedy.  But check this out:  Look at Godzilla.

Now look at the Gill-man.

I’m not saying they’re identical twins or anything, but ya think there’s a distant family relationship there?

Released into theaters the same year.   Both reptilian (or amphibious).  Both up from out of the aquatic depths.  Both angry.

There are as many differences as similarities, but it is interesting to note that the Creature, like Godzilla and unlike most other famous monsters mentioned thus far, has origins more rooted in science than the supernatural.  Specifically, CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON (the movie) begins at the Big Bang!  As a narrator intones “In the beginning…” a explosion appears on screen, many times over.  This movie is based in science, explaining quite literally that when the earth was created, all sorts of creatures developed — while still allowing for the fact that an earth covered in water surely has some creatures as yet unseen.  The humans in this movie are on an ichthyological expedition down the Amazon, searching out rumors of a creature which bridges the evolutionary gap between land and sea.  They’re expecting to find fossils, however, not a six-foot-tall Gill-man with a yen for the lead scientist’s girlfriend.  Yup, somehow this cold-blooded fish on two legs gets all kinds of warm-blooded when he’s horny, so much so that he’s willing to kill.

The Creature could never be a truly American film legend without violence and awkward sexuality.

CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON is a fairly direct story, owing more to BEAUTY & THE BEAST or KING KONG than to any ancient legend (a la vampires, werewolves, or zombies).    Dr. David Reed brings along his girlfriend Kay, and for the first segment of the movie her main purpose is to smile and look terrific in short shorts and a one-piece.   Concurrently, the Gill-man is making the standard monster-movie roll-out — first he appears only as a webbed hand, retracting back into the lagoon.  Later, he assaults some local guides in their tent, in a scene which must have been far scarier in 1954 (these guys have comically oversized Prince Valiant hairdos that detract majorly from the suspense).  The Gill-man appears in full in a shock cameo, where the two lead male characters first venture into the lagoon.  For the first half of the movie though, he’s mainly been observing the expedition from a distance.  Things really change once Kay goes for a swim, and this still-remarkable scene happens:

The “underwater ballet” scene is weird, magical, ominous, bizarre, and eerie all at once.  It plays like a love scene, even though the Gill-man is essentially an underwater stalker.  We have to cut him some slack on his method, though — I mean, this is the first time he’s even seen a woman.  And imagine if the first woman you ever saw was Julie Adams!

Julie Adams may never have become a huge movie star, but maybe all some actors and actresses ever get is one iconic movie, and if that’s the case, then she sure shines brightly here.  Looking like a 1950s Jennifer Connelly, with an irresistible smile and an expert way with that wardrobe, Julie Adams is the thing most people remember about this movie, directly after the iconic make-up design of the Gill-man.  Nearly sixty years later, I guarantee Julie Adams is still inspiring crushes every time a young fella (or gal) sees this movie.  I’m not advocating the way the  Gill-man chooses to handle his crush, mind you — I’m just saying I can understand.

More back-and-forth ensues between the Gill-man and the expedition, but the movie’s end run begins when the Gill-man abducts Kay, and her human admirers have to rescue her from the deranged beast.  Unlike Ann Darrow and King Kong, there isn’t as much romantic chemistry between Kay and the Gill-man.  Maybe it’s because the Gill-man isn’t as tall.  (Chicks dig a tall guy.)  Eventually, of course, the human beings win out, shooting down the Gill-man and leaving him to the depths of the lagoon.  Since they never retrieved the body, the door was left wide open for sequels, and those of course happened.  CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON was a huge success, owing much of its appeal to having been released in 3-D.  The first sequel, REVENGE OF THE CREATURE, is most notable for being the first screen role for one Clinton Eastwood Jr.  (I’ve seen the movie but I don’t remember much of it besides Clint’s cameo), and the second sequel (which I haven’t seen) is best known for having the Gill-man wear clothes.

Now I kind of want to see that!

The Gill-man is actually one of the most influential screen monsters in history, having made semi-official appearances in movies like THE MONSTER SQUAD (where Stan Winston’s make-up design had a bit in common with Winston’s own creation of the Predator), and unofficial appearances in movies like the HELLBOY films.   According to Wikipedia, failed remakes have been mounted several times over the last thirty years, including attempts by John Landis, John Carpenter, Ivan Reitman, and Peter Jackson.  Newer productions continue to be set up and dismissed all the time — it seems inevitable that it will happen, but personally I’m not clamoring for it.  The Gill-man is my favorite old-school monster, next to the Wolf Man, and I kind of like the way he currently wanders the wilderness of all of our imaginations.

I love the Gill-man for all sorts of reasons.  I love the look of the character.  I love his roots in science, pseudo- as it may be.  I love the fact that he’s a horny bastard, and it makes him cranky.  And there’s one more thing:  If he has atomic origins, in a way he’s a son of Einstein.  And between that and the name, I have some hunches about his heritage.  I mean, I went to Hebrew school with at least three kids with the surname Gilman.  “Gill-man” is less refined, but it still looks mighty Hebraic from where I’m standing.  I’m gonna go with it.  I mean, there are plenty of Christianity-laden vampires and demons out there for the goyim to enjoy; couldn’t just this one monster share some heritage with us Jewish kids?

More ethnic pride every day on Twitter:  @jonnyabomb

If you live near New York City you can see CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON all week at Film Forum, in its original 3-D no less!

In the realm of faceless people writing about movies from the safety of the internet, I like to think I’m one of the more reasonable you’ll find. But I could be wrong. (See?) It’s a point that’s come up before, but it bears repeating: Unlike most people who write about movies online, I’ve spent A LOT of time working in all corners of the film and television industries in virtually every position there is. I know well how hard people work, around the clock, to bring every show to an audience. I try not to take that hard-earned knowledge lightly. Besides, I have friends who still work in film and TV, and I’m not even all the way out myself. I try mighty hard not to put anything on a computer screen that I don’t feel ready to say to someone’s face. On top of all of that, I grew up with movies. I love this stuff as much now as I did when I was young — if not more. It doesn’t make me happy to be unkind. I’m in this to share my enthusiasm, plain and simple.

All of that said, and try as I might, it’s way harder to find new ways to be nice. It’s certainly harder to be funny that way. And sometimes, a movie is put in front of me about which I just can’t find much nice to say and still remain honest.

These are the movies that forced me to be unkind.

_______________________________________

This is from August 5th, 2010:

It’s true.  I’ve seen Cats & Dogs: The Revenge Of Kitty Galore.  It really happened.  I was on a pretty good streak of seeing really solid movies there for a while, and such streaks are inevitably made to be broken.  The real reason why this occurred is that I am uncle to an adorable niece and I am bound by my will to honor her every request, within reason.  Hopefully the rest of you love the children in your lives significantly less.  Just this once, love is not the answer.

This Cats & Dogs movie is nominally a sequel to the previous movie called Cats & Dogs, but I’m not sure that there’s any kind of story to follow.  The first movie came out in 2001, which makes the gap between movies comparable to the time James Cameron took between Titanic and Avatar.  But whereas Cameron spent all that time working on new technologies and designing a movie that would appeal to the widest audience possible, Cats & Dogs does the opposite.  If anything, it seems like the makers of Cats & Dogs spent nine years accumulating all the crappy dog and cat puns in the world.  Seriously, I haven’t seen a movie with this many crappy puns since Batman & Robin, and we all know how that one went.

I’m not even going to bother recapping the plot for you, because… who cares?  The dogs and the cats are in some secret war, where this one police dog (voice of James Marsden) gets recruited by the dog side to stop this one evil cat (voice of Bette Midler), but it’s really all just an endless, crappy, James Bond riff.  Now there’s an original fount of comedy; no one’s ever spoofed James Bond before.  (Besides only Our Man Flint, In Like Flint, Fathom, the original Casino Royale, The Pink Panther, Get Smart, For Your Height Only, The Cannonball Run, Austin Powers, just about every cartoon ever made, and probably every third episode of Family Guy… just for starts.)  Can you possibly feel good about yourself as a creative person if you’re doing sustained James Bond spoofs in the year 2010?  Do you realize that kids, your target audience, don’t get the joke?  Do you realize that kids don’t actually find animal puns all that funny?  No, they don’t!  But more on that in a second.

Some of the voice cast is done by actors who I actually like (usually), such as Christina Applegate, Nick Nolte, Neil Patrick Harris, Michael Clarke Duncan, and comedian Katt Williams, but let’s face it, they’re all just cashing paychecks here.  And those people who complain about cartoons being aimed too much towards adults these days might be reassured by this movie.  There was nothing for me here.  There is nothing here for any fan of these performers.  Having Christina Applegate in a movie doesn’t do any good if I can’t look at her.  Having Nick Nolte in a movie doesn’t do any good if he doesn’t growl, “Damnit Reggie!” every once in a while.  Having Katt Williams in a movie will surely disappoint his many fans if he’s not allowed to use the N-word.  I mean, you see the name Katt Williams in the credits, and it’s fair to expect that the N-Word is going to happen.  I’m not saying that it’s right, or that anyone should feel good about it, but devil’s advocate:  Would this movie be any better if the pigeon voiced by Katt Williams was running around saying the N-word?  Well no, but it couldn’t have been any worse either.

So grown-ups will be miserable; that’s a given.  Then again, this movie isn’t not really for kids either.  It leans heavily on butt-sniffing humor, which seems to be leaning dangerously close to gay-panic humor at moments.  (The Bette Midler fans in the audience won’t dig it.)  The movie comes close to insinuating an interspecies romance. There’s a scene with stoner cats.  Good luck explaining that one to your kids.  The human performances are wincingly bad, particularly Jack McBrayer, who really better hope, employment-wise, that 30 Rock stays on the air for as long as possible.  But I’d rather cringe at human behavior than have to ponder the questionable morality of putting words in animals’ mouths.  It’s one thing if we humans decide to act like dickheads – at least that’s a choice – but these dogs and cats are not being given the option over how they’re portrayed.  I know it’s a big-philosophy question, but if this movie doesn’t have a brain in its head, that doesn’t mean I have to turn mine off.

Besides all that, here’s the only review you need.  On the way into the theater, my niece tugged at my hand and smiled, “This is going to be the greatest movie I ever seened!”

After twenty minutes or so, the fidgeting started.  Then it turned into full-blown roaming.  Somehow we made it through the whole thing.  But.

On the way out, she turned to me and said, “I don’t want to see Cats & Dogs again!”

This is a kid who can tolerate more hours of Dora The Explorer than even the toughest guy in the county (her uncle) can handle, and this one she couldn’t stand.  I think I just inadvertently told you that we’d both rather watch Dora The Explorer.  There can be no more dire condemnation of a supposed kids’ movie than that.

Happier news, usually, at: @jonnyabomb

 

 

In the realm of faceless people writing about movies from the safety of the internet, I like to think I’m one of the more reasonable you’ll find. But I could be wrong. (See?) It’s a point that’s come up before, but it bears repeating: Unlike most people who write about movies online, I’ve spent A LOT of time working in all corners of the film and television industries in virtually every position there is. I know well how hard people work, around the clock, to bring every show to an audience. I try not to take that hard-earned knowledge lightly. Besides, I have friends who still work in film and TV, and I’m not even all the way out myself. I try mighty hard not to put anything on a computer screen that I don’t feel ready to say to someone’s face. On top of all of that, I grew up with movies. I love this stuff as much now as I did when I was young — if not more. It doesn’t make me happy to be unkind. I’m in this to share my enthusiasm, plain and simple.

All of that said, and try as I might, it’s way harder to find new ways to be nice. It’s certainly harder to be funny that way. And sometimes, a movie is put in front of me about which I just can’t find much nice to say and still remain honest.

These are the movies that forced me to be unkind.

_______________________________________

From July 20th, 2010:

Cop Out stumbles into stores on DVD today.  In case you are still harboring any interest in spending your valuable time with one of the laziest, crappiest movies of the year, I urge you to do just about anything else.  I hated being so mean about it, because I know how hard it is to get a movie made.  Then again, I don’t think anyone involved tried all that hard at all, and I paid to see this one.  So until I get my twelve bucks back, I reserve the right to complain.

Here’s my appraisal of this sorry mess:

Cop Out isn’t Kevin Smith’s worst movie, for those who are keeping track.  His worst movie remains Jay & Silent Bob Strike Back, that celebrity-studded, laugh-free, self-absorbed in-joke of a movie.  Jay & Silent Bob Strike Back is about as funny as Scary Movie, or Epic Movie, or Disaster Movie, or any of those other lazy parody parades – but at least those other junkers tend to reference movies that most everyone has seen.  Jay & Silent Bob Strike Back expects that you’ve seen low-budget critical favorites like Clerks and Chasing Amy, which could reasonably be considered to be an arrogant assumption on the part of its makers.

Cop Out isn’t quite as bad as that.  Cop Out at least had the good sense to cast action-movie veteran Bruce Willis and comedy savant Tracy Morgan, rather than the line-mangling Jason Mewes and an endlessly mugging Kevin Smith (nepotism!), but in this case the improvement is only marginal.  Bruce Willis looks drowsy, bored, and even a little sickly throughout the movie.  He looks like he’s stuck on line at the bank, just waiting to pick up his paycheck, and some loud fat lady in front of him keeps making a lot of noise to the manager.  Meanwhile, Tracy Morgan is that loud fat lady.  He shouts every last one of his lines and shows very little of the self-awareness and charm that his fans (myself included) have come to expect.

Cop Out is a buddy-cop comedy, intended to have the charisma and care-free fun of the 1980s cop movies that made the genre so popular.  Kevin Smith directed the movie, but he didn’t write it.  That’s kind of like inviting Alex Rodriguez up to the mike to do stand-up comedy.  Kevin Smith is a talented writer who very possibly could have come up with a fun buddy-cop story.  What Kevin Smith does not have is the sense of visual stamina or momentum that the genre needs (nor does his longtime DP Dave Klein).  What Kevin Smith could also have used is a sense of history – or do I really need to point out that the reason why those ‘80s cop flicks were so great is because they started with solid scripts and energetic participants?  Always remember that 48 Hours was written by Walter Hill, that Lethal Weapon was written by Shane Black, that Fletch was written by Andrew Bergman (Blazing Saddles), that Beverly Hills Cop starred Eddie Murphy at the height of his comedic powers.

By contrast, Cop Out began life as a script by Robb & Mark Cullen, TV writers who may yet prove to be very talented but who surely haven’t done so on the basis of this evidence.  It wouldn’t be fair to blame Kevin Smith for the awfulness of the story – the blame begins with the Cullen brothers, continues with whatever studio people thought this script was worth producing, and ends with Kevin Smith, who somehow thought it was worth making as the first film he has directed but didn’t write.  Kevin Smith always struck me as a savvy guy – since when did he become the kind of cynic who is lazy enough to hang a movie on a plot where a cop causes remarkable havoc trying to get back a valuable baseball card from a Mexican gang, so that he can sell it and pay for his daughter’s wedding?

That is the actual plot of Cop Out, for the record.  Bruce Willis drives up a significant body count trying to track down a baseball card.  It’s the only way he can think of to pay for his kid’s wedding – which makes his character seem obnoxiously prideful, by the way, since her step-father was intending to pay for the wedding in the first place.  Sure, the step-father is a bit of a prick, but he’s also played by Jason Lee, and if you’re a long-time Kevin Smith fan, like I have been, it’s tough to hate Jason Lee.  (This wasn’t what I meant when I suggested that Smith work with Lee again.)  In a convoluted turn of events, a Mexican gang comes into possession of the valuable collectible, so Bruce and Tracy (as his partner) have to go on the rampage.  Since when does Brooklyn have Mexican gangs, you might ask?  Hang on to that question, because just wait until I tell you how retarded Tracy’s subplot is.
Tracy Morgan, in this movie, is married to Rashida Jones, the adorably wry actress who’s most famous for her roles on The Office and Parks & Recreation.  I have nothing but love both of these actors, really and truly, but still:  There is no comedy on earth broad enough to convince me that Rashida Jones could ever fall for Tracy Morgan.  So maybe it’s understandable that he spends the entire movie snooping around on her, convinced that she’s cheating on him with the next-door neighbor.  What isn’t understandable is what this subplot is doing clogging up a cop comedy.  We’re supposed to be taking our inspiration from ‘80s cop movies here, not ‘80s sitcoms.  At least there’s a teddy bear with a camera in it; that’s what I was hoping to see when I bought my ticket.

Along the way, Bruce and Tracy cross paths with Seann William Scott as a parkour enthusiast who robs houses and craps in their bathrooms during the robberies.  Seann William Scott can be terrific at driving comedy plots (see Role Models or American Wedding), but he is not terrific here, and that’s as nice as I can be about it.  Bruce and Tracy also rescue a hostage along the way, a cute Mexican girl who doesn’t speak a word of English.  Her one running joke is that she says “hi” a lot, and that she is the second woman in the movie who falls improbably in love with Tracy.  This character does at least bring us to the movie’s one great jaw-droppingly racist scene, where the two cops need to know what she knows but they can’t take her to the precinct, so instead they take the girl to a Mexican restaurant for the maitre’d to provide translation.

There’s plenty more wrong with Cop Out.  There’s the way it totally wastes great stand-up comedians like Curb Your Enthusiasm‘s Susie Essman, and most egregiously, Jim Norton (who doesn’t even get in an attempt at a joke.)  There’s the way it was just clever enough to hire composer Harold Faltermeyer (Fletch, Beverly Hills Cop), yet not clever enough to notice that his score, sadly, is atrocious – grating and relentless.  There’s the way that Bruce and Tracy’s characters, supposed police veterans, have a weird habit of pulling loaded guns on unarmed suspects and civilians.  (If you made a drinking game out of how many times this happens in the movie, you’d die.)

This movie was horrible, and not in a fun way.  If you need to pay good money to see Tracy Morgan punch a ten-year-old kid in the nuts, this is your movie.  But if you like laughing, it isn’t.  (Admittedly, I did laugh one time, but at a reaction shot of Tracy Morgan at the climactic wedding – something I can see for free on 30 Rock, for the record.)

What makes Cop Out so depressing is that Kevin Smith was the one ultimately responsible for it, not some forgettable talentless director.  Kevin Smith is so far from untalented, but you’d never know it if you were to watch Cop Out, a movie that is best described as sluggish, unfunny, and mean-spirited.  He’s capable of so much more than this movie, but he settled for doing it, and that’s disappointing and sad.  Let’s face it:  The sun will rise and set on Kevin Smith regardless of what I think, but I wish that this time around he’d seriously listen to the people who didn’t like Cop Out, because many of them – myself included – used to be counted among his fans.

Come at me if you must, Kevin Smith army:  @jonnyabomb

And now here’s a picture of Rashida Jones, just because it makes me feel a little better:

This collection has been much-requested and a long time coming.  To get at the reviews, just click on the movie poster of your choice.  And be sure to bookmark this page, because it’s bound to get updated frequently!

         Age Of The Dragons (2011) Alex Cross (2012)          Assault On Precinct 13 (1976)      A Band Called Death (2013)  The Bay (2012) The Baytown Outlaws (2013).        Big Fan (2009) The Big Gundown (1966)    Black Death (2010)          The Brides Of Dracula (1960) Bring it On (2000) Brothers (2009)               Cloud Atlas (2012)   Conan The Barbarian (1982) Conquest (1983)    CREEP (2004)  

The Dark Knight (2008) The Dark Knight Rises (2012)       Days of Thunder (1990)         Django Unchained (2012)           EQUINOX (1970) Escape from New York (1981) Evil Dead (2013)         Fist Of Legend (1994) Flight (2012)       The Gauntlet (1977) Get Carter (1971)    gi_joe_retaliation_ver30 THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO (US, 2011).          The Grey (2012) Halloween (1978)       Hardbodies (1984) Hardware (1990)   The Haunted World of El Superbeasto (2009)    Hit Man (1972)          The Iceman (2013)     THE INGLORIOUS BASTARDS (1978).   THE INSIDER (1999)  The Invisible Man (1933)  Iron Man 3 (2013) Island Of Lost Souls (1933)      The Keep (1983)   Killer Joe (2012) The Killers (1966) Killing Them Softly (2012)          LadyTerminator                Lincoln (2012)   The Lords of Salem (2013)      The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962) Manborg Maniac Cop (1988)  THE MANITOU (1978)  MEN IN WAR (1957)      MULHOLLAND DR. (2001)     NEAR DARK (1987)      Night of the Living Dead (1968)          Peeples (2013) A Perfect World (1993)      PLAY MISTY FOR ME (1971)        THE PROFESSIONALS (1966)      The Raid (2012)       Red Tails (2012) Relentless (1989)    SALT (2010) Bill Hicks Sane Man (1989)   SCROOGED (1988)  Severance (2006) Shaft (1971)       Southern Comfort (1981)    Spring Breakers (2013)  THE SQUID &THE WHALE (2005)  State of Play (2009)              Teddy Bear (2012) The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974) Texas Chainsaw 3D (2013)    This Is The End (2013)