Operation Told You So
No one could have anticipated the Iraq disaster, except the 40% who did
Allan Uthman
Iraq or Iran?
Which are these pundits pushing to invade?
NSA's Big Rig?
Did the NSA help Bush steal the vote?
Bob Fitrakis
TV Highlights
Ian Murphy discusses "America's Next Top Model" with his penis
Gorilla My Dreams
The Monkey Does Drag.
The Nobel Nazi?
Scientist's Legacy gets Freedom Fried.
Kit Smith
Authorities Relieved Church Fires Were Joke
Josh Righter
Get Off Ma Land!
A BEAST Reader Opinion
Best of Buffalo?
Former Staffer Exposes Artvoice Reader "Poll."
Ready, Set, Gentrify!
Elmwood Village Hotel: Good Neighbor?
Erin-Go-Blah
What Adams Could Have Told Higgins.
Album Cover Reviews
A Skin-Depth Look at 3 New Releases.
Chris Riordan
Kino Korner
Ultraviolet, Failure to Launch, 16 Blocks, Hills Have Eyes, Block Party.
BEAST-O-Scopes
Your cosmic fortune told through harsh insults.
The BEAST Page 3 Improvised Explosive Cola
[sic] - Letters
Thievery, hoser supremacy, drowning retards and bad songcraft.

Stranger Danger
How I abandoned my principles and took over congress.
Allan Uthman
Arm or Leg?
John Stossel's Great Invisible Handjob.
Paul Jones
Spooks in the Machine
Rummy Zeroes in on the Internet.
Mike Whitney
Accidental Discharge
The Dangers of Playing Cowboy.
Stan Goff
This Much is True
The Impending Police State & Puppy Rearing.
Ian Murphy
F is for Fake
Payola Punks Flunk Science Reporting.
Kit Smith
From the Desk of Lucifer
A Complaint Letter from Hell.

 

Failure to Launch

If the holiday double assault of The Family Stone and Rumor Has It didn’t finish you off or at least have you stabbing your eyes out with a straw a few months back, you were one of the lucky ones—at least if you were aware of the pain you avoided. One of my friends intentionally boxed his own ears and sprayed his wife’s perfume in his eyes to blind himself an hour into The Family Stone. He held out as long as he could, but Sarah Jessica Parker was just too much for him. He was a tough bastard, but he choked on his own tongue ten seconds into the trailer for Failure to Launch.

If Sarah Jessica Parker’s science-experiment-gone-wrong face doesn’t raise a red flag that you should hit the bricks or get on a sign-up list for a mass suicide then you deserve what comes to you. Of course with Matthew McConaughey’s scummy appeal in the mix it’s sure to be a crowd pleaser. He plays a guy who still lives with his parents and Parker plays the dingbat wackadoo who thinks she’s going to be the one to change him. Yeah, yeah—a laugh riot in the purest sense of the words.

Failure to Launch is the kind of movie that single girls who work in offices go to see together after shopping at the mall and they’re too stuffed after eating at Friday’s—even though they got salads for starters. They go apeshit when they hear “My Humps” by the Black-Eyed Peas and are searching for the Holy Grail better known as that perfect pair of jeans. You know—the ones that minimize the dick rest/pooch/puffy underbelly right above the fine china, if you know what I mean. If Hillary runs for president, they’re definitely voting for her and in their eyes Sleepless in Seattle is the best movie of all time. The newest issue of Cosmo is always on the nightstand next to that Danielle Steele book their mothers lent them.

They never shave above the knee for a first date and whenever their sister has a kid, they talk about it as if they were the ones squeezing it out. Near their entertainment center you can always find a stack of underutilized workout videos. The red, ladybug Volkswagens they drive all have the flowerpot on the dashboard and if they get a chain e-mail that promises they’ll find true love by midnight, they always send it out to everyone in their address book. And there’s always at least two cats. Always.

So—even if you can find one reason to see Failure to Launch, you’ll have that kind of madness to wade through. This is in addition to a total lack of comic timing and attractive co-stars. We’ve got sassy parents and the Time-Life book of clichés working overtime to compensate for a dull story that has to resort to animal bites (dick jokes for chick flicks) for laughs. And the standard 90-minute romantic comedy running time of your life you will never get back.


The Hills Have Eyes

The biggest problem I have with remakes of classic horror movies is that they always feel the need to explain everything. A few years back when The Texas Chainsaw Massacre was remade, the filmmakers couldn’t merely accept that a 7-foot lunatic was chasing a girl around with a chainsaw. Nooooooooo—we had to explain why he was doing it. Maybe I’m alone on this one, but if someone’s wearing a mask of human flesh and dressed like a Mormon, chasing me down to kill me, I’m not stopping to wonder why.

What scares me about The Hills Have Eyes is not its characters, its bizarre situations, the convenient if not unimpressive explanations for said situations, its poorly-written characters, or even the fact that it’s a remake. Hell, seeing a classic horror film remade this point is like having your dipshit older brother jumping at your from around a corner with a grotesque rubber mask every five minutes on his breaks from his masturbation marathon on a Saturday night. If the rhythm and redundancy of his actions never tipped you off, the smell of Jergen’s and cheap rubber did.

But we’re watching a remake of a film whose main novelties were its shoestring budget, B-movie sensibility, and bizarre cast. Not to mention a budding director named Wes Craven. And it offered no explanation whatsoever as to why this family of screwheads were tormenting the picture-perfect American family. Aside from that, the original Hills Have Eyes really had nothing going for it. Oh, and Michael Berryman. The tall, freaky bald-headed fellow that you can see on the cover of the DVD.

The Hills Have Eyes was never meant to be a slick movie. It’s supposed to be a wrinkled t-shirt as opposed to a well-pressed dress shirt. Like a talented designer, working for and laying out a nutrag of a paper where 99% of its staff haven’t realized they’re not as interesting as they think they are, getting let go when the weight of her talent and general smoothness threatens to collapse said publication. A week later, the paper spunks out.

Whoa. Got lost there for a minute. Grieving for weasels and M-80s in purple plastic boxes throws your reality off considerably.

Unless you’re writing a thesis on the old vs. new versions of The Hills Have Eyes, I can’t think of a reason to see the new version. At least not voluntarily.


Ultraviolet

Let’s say you get an idea and, all good intentions aside, it turns out to be a really bad one. An idea for a derivative action movie so bad that not even the svelte and well-chiseled carcass of your leading lady/star can save the day. It’s always an action movie.  Sometimes the actress in question claims she’s doing it for fun, but in the case of Ultraviolet’s star Milla Jovovich it’s turning into a life sentence of sci-fi/action hell.

That’s presuming you’ve had it up to here with tales of hot kung-fu mutants and corporate cover-ups. Charlize Theron did it a few months back with Aeon Flux and she was present at the Oscars with a look of denial on her face that gave every indication that she didn’t star in that war crime, let alone ever hear of it. If the only reason you see movies of this nature is to see hot chicks in tight or skimpy outfits and a few asses kicked, you got what you came for. You dropped a few shots of baby batter before you fell asleep that night and you got what you wanted. You weren’t expecting the world. Congratulations, Tiger.

But there are those of us who were burned before, and if we don’t wise up will get burned again. There’s a faint glimmer of hope that this rusty rollercoaster we’re about to hop on will actually be enjoyable. Maybe that’s a fatal mistake on our part. The smart ones know to steer clear of turkeys such as Ultraviolet and Aeon Flux—and Cat Woman and Tomb Raider and Electra and Resident Evil— if they’re not looking for entertainment that should be packaged in grease-repellent wax paper. But there are those who just can’t stay away from crap, especially if it flows to a stock techno beat.

This reminds me of a trip I recently made to Taco Bell with Tom Maccio. He was hungry, we were low on funds, and it was conveniently nearby. We filled up for a reasonably meager sum, but were both overcome with a persistent loaginess that actually made us call the establishment and ask what opiate additives they’re seasoning the refried beans with these days. As a result, we shared maybe two or three minutes worth of conversation for the rest of the day. That’s the same feeling that Ultraviolet left me with. After all its empty calories and two-dimensional characters, Ultraviolet didn’t leave me with the overwhelming urge for self-familiarity, but rather a libido-killing self-loathing that could potentially win me a lawsuit.


Dave Chappelle’s Block Party

I’m going to start off by mentioning that I am a huge fan of “Chappelle’s Show.” I love how he’ll take shots at every race, color, and creed—even his own. The comedy’s edgy in that oh no he di’nt kind of way and doesn’t give you too little or too much of a good thing. Unless Comedy Central decides to rerun the same twenty some-odd episodes ad nauseum, leaving you with the ability to recite them verbatim in your sleep.

As a surefire sign that we’re going to have to wait even longer for the third season of “Chappelle’s Show, we are offered Dave Chappelle’s Block Party—a mishmash of Chappelle’s stand-up and numerous musical performances by artists such as Mos Def, Kanye West, Talib Kweli, The Roots, Erykah Badu, Jill Scott, Dead Prez, Bilal and the reunited Fugees. With a lineup like that combined with a roughly 90-minute running time, you can tell that Chappelle isn’t doing this gig in the name of selfish self promotion.

What Block Party is is exactly that—a block party. Or more to the point, a documentary about a block party. Director Michel Gondry (who is definitely a better visual storyteller than a documentarian) takes us through every stage of the party. There’s laughing, music and drunk people. I think I saw a dice game happening at one point.

If you love Chappelle, all the artists previously mentioned, and a disorganized manner of telling the story of a reasonably disorganized party, you’re going to love Dave Chappelle’s Block Party. However, if you’re used to a more linear documentary, couldn’t care less about the lineup and only want to see the comedy, then skip it. The comedy’s definitely funny, but if you’re going to hold your breath through some great musical performances for it, you’re probably going to be disappointed. Otherwise, go for it. Bitches.


16 Blocks

For as much fun as being a film critic is, it’s just like any other job. There are those days that you just absolutely do not under any circumstances want to get out of bed and do it. It’s an abhorrent prospect that can sully the whole thing for you quicker than you can say drunken cop with a sinister porn star moustache. Which brings us to 16 Blocks. I saw the preview a couple months back and after watching the feature length film, I felt like I was moving in slow motion. I wasn’t under the influence in any way, shape or form (well, not really)—the decision to see this movie was a bad one because I saw the proverbial fire, headed toward it and immersed myself in it face first.

It’s the story of yet another burned out cop played yet again by the burned out Bruce Willis. He’s a lush, of course. And of course he decides to take a moral high ground by fighting a bunch of dirty cops who want to kill the speed freak chatterbox of a prisoner played by Mos Def. After seeing the whole movie, it’s probably because he was sloshed. And he’s got 2 hours to get the detainee… 16 Blocks. Wow. Wowee, indeed. And don’t even think of leaving out the twist ending that makes the formula all come together so typically.

Still, I emerged unscathed. Not because I was saved by low expectations or free passes, even. Probably because I took advantage of one of the few perks this gig offers—every day can be Bring Your Friend To Work Day. And why not? Why should I have to suffer through this daunting mediocrity alone? Share the blame, delegate the suffering. Even Atlas shrugged for crissakes.

Captain Charlie pops into my life unexpectedly every ten years and disappears just as oddly as she appeared. The last I heard of The Dear Captain, she vanished after placing a stiletto heel into the temple of a Nine West manager who wouldn’t let her return a pair Manolo Blahniks. That one’s got a temper. Captain Charlie is what Gwen Stefani would look like if she didn’t dress like a mentally disabled thirteen year-old and sound like Kenny G scraping his nails against a blackboard and playing his entire catalog while suffering from amnesia. She acts like a mellow Tony Soprano—not in the traditional goomba way but because she can get kind of scary and she’s got a touch of sociopath to her. She’s got an energy to her that can suck you in against all better judgment, for good or evil. And if you’re not smart, you could wind up hitchhiking home from three states away. Don’t ask why she’s called Captain; it’s better not to. I have no idea anyway.

My whipped up dogs woke me up when she rang the bell that March afternoon and Captain Charlie said she’d been reading what I’ve been doing. She wanted to know if half the crazy shit I’d written about actually happened and wanted to come along for a ride. We got into her Escalade. She cracked open a bottle of Grey Goose and took a swig, passing me the bottle when she was done.

“So what are we gonna see anyway?” The Captain asked.

16 Blocks. That Bruce Willis one,” I answered as I brought the bottle to my lips.

“Gimme that,” she said as she grabbed the bottle before I could even smell its contents. She swigged for a good ten seconds before assertively placed the bottle to my chest and reached into the glove box. She grabbed two Cubans and handed me one.

“Jesus Christ,” she mildly exclaimed. “Nothing else up?”

Captain Charlie explained that she had a stop to make and asked if I ever drove anything “like this” before. I told her no, but I used to drive so recklessly that my former insurance company once set a tail on me after receiving several complaints. That was good enough for her.

We drove to a part of town I’d never been to and couldn’t ever hope to find again. There were a lot of industrial buildings with barbed wire fences and security gates we had no problems getting past. When we got to the… stop, she explained to me that I need to keep it running and not to touch the presets on her radio. She wasn’t gone more than five minutes and when she returned she had a leather backpack slung over her shoulder and an upset look on her face. She looked down at her hand as she rubbed her fingers together in concern. She got back in the truck, threw the satchel in the back and quickly dumped what I could have sworn were crimson-stained brass knuckles in the glove box as she told me that it would be in our best interest if we got the hell out of there Now.

I knew better than to ask Captain Charlie too many questions on the way to the show. Especially when she came back to a $60,000 vehicle and ditched a solid steel uglymaker under the dash. Because I drive like an asshole in vehicles that don’t belong to me, we got to the theater a little too early for my taste. And hers.

I admired Captain Charlie because she had the balls to do at theaters and in social situations what so many of us don’t. For instance, the kids who sat in front of us with the baseball hats and liked to swear because their parents weren’t around. She let it go for a little while until they started throwing bitch and the dreaded c-word around. She stood up and rested her hands on their headrests.

“Boys, this isn’t the locker room. Lose the hats and watch the language, please. There’s a lady present and you’re blocking our view,” she stated.

 “I don’t see no lady,” the one said before turning around and looking over at me. “Oh! Your girlfriend doesn’t like the word bitch?” he asked her. “Is your bitch gonna cry?”

The Captain quickly jabbed him lightly at the bottom of his throat with her index and middle finger, then slamming his head into the headrest in front of him. Then she crammed her knuckles behind his jaw, just beneath his ear. Little bastard actually started crying. She held his head and asked who was the bitch now. If he wasn’t gagging, he was squealing that he was, he was. She grabbed the hat off the injured one’s head and flung it into the garbage can at the bottom of the stairs.

I could tell Captain Charlie was getting agitated throughout the film, even though she managed to scare off the ushers. Maybe it was Mos Def’s jerky performance. Maybe it was seeing Bruce Willis take the same shit in the same phone book and calling it a pizza for the hundredth time in a row. I gave up on paying attention to the movie. I could tell by the cues the plot was taking that it would all be over soon and I asked for just 15 free and clear minutes.

“Motherfucker” came about eight seconds later. She grabbed my hand (it hurt) and stood up, whisking me down the stairs and out the door. I followed like forced prom date to the back of a dirty VW van—scared look and all. She stomped briskly, her head scanning the scene for the navy blue blazer and gold name tag that said manager. I felt sorry for the poor bastard that ran this joint, and had nothing whatsoever to do with the making of 16 Blocks. Charlie spotted the authoritative garb and bee-lined right at him.

“How you doing?” she asked.

“Fine,” the middle-aged man smiled, taken off-guard. He noticed the look of violation on my face that had either already taken place or was about to. “Enjoy the show?”

“I enjoyed it the first time I saw it. But that was about twenty years ago and it had a different name,” she smiled diplomatically.

“I’m…I’m sorry to hear that,” the theater manager offered. He was at a loss as to what to say. Movie theater management training school had in no way prepared him for Captain Charlie.

“So look,” The Captain began. “We didn’t stick around for the whole thing, we gave it a fair shot and this clearly was not Mr. Willis’ shining hour. Richard Donner is a better producer at this point in his career than a director. No offense to you personally, but we just want the money back. It was a bad movie.”

“I’m sorry,” the manager began after collecting his thoughts for a few moments. “But I can’t just refund your money because you didn’t like the movie. If the projector went down or—”

“Please…!” I jumped in on the verge of a nervous breakdown. “Just do as she asks. She doesn’t respond well to defiance.”

The manager looked at me. I couldn’t tell if it was a look of fear or pity on his face and I don’t know if it was for me or himself. Charlie was still on the edge.

“Follow me,” the manager said with feigned composure after a brief deliberation with himself.

After The Captain got her money back, she made the wise choice to drive the mammoth SUV. She asked how I was doing and said I looked a little pale. I shrugged it off to rock gut nachos and lackluster performances. She dropped me off and said she was leaving town that night. There was a fear that was equally mixed with exhilaration in my day with Captain Charlie. As I laid on the couch upon returning home, I wondered when she’d strike again with impromptu visit/assault on my nerves and blood pressure. She’s a rare and maniacal bird that Charlie is.

 

BEAST Blog

Idiot Box by Matt Bors
Big Fat Whale by Brian McFadden
Perry Bible Fellowship by Nicholas Gurewitch
Bob the Angry Flower by Stephen Notely

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Piano-Gate: Tickling Ivories at Amy's?
10 Questions for Scott McClellan
Ask Dr. Cruise
Guide to Post-9/11 Opportunism
Ask a Horrible Human-Monkey Hybrid
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