Big Picture: "Stone Soup"

Part 1 of 2.

ALSO: Anonymous comments are back on. The slightly lowered workload isn’t worth the downtick in traffic/visitors. We’ll see how that goes.

"Skyfall" Teaser

My problem with the rebooted James Bond movies isn’t that they purposefully yanked out the “signature” Bond stuff that defined the series for decades, but that they still haven’t found a new signature to replace it with. That worked out alright for the origin story in “Casino Royale;” but “Quantum of Solace” was a thuddingly-generic actioner distinguished only by Craig calling himself “James Bond.”

The new one, at least, makes the interesting move of putting things in the hands of Sam Mendes; which should at least make for a unique looking/feeling film. We’ll see.

He Has Risen

The makers of ANCHORMAN 2 know how excited you are for ANCHORMAN 2 – so much so that they’ve cut a teaser for ANCHORMAN 2 even though ANCHORMAN 2 is still being written.


My only nagging concern about this is that we still haven’t seen any indication that Christina Applegate is back. To my mind, she was pretty key to how well the first one worked; and it’d be a mistake (not to mention darkly ironic given the story of the first one) for the original’s lone female lead not to return.

Hail The Terrible Wings Of Star-Lord Xenu!

Below, the cryptic but entrancing teaser trailer for Paul Thomas Anderson’s “THE MASTER;” a long-gestating project which is based-on that is absolutely not at all in any way, shape or form honest really no-fooling a fictionalized account of L. Ron Hubbard and the rise of Scientology. Philip Seymour Hoffman has the Hubbard part – the titular Master – but doesn’t appear in the trailer; which seems to show Joaquin Pheonix as a sailor undergoing some sort of pyschiatric-interrogation.

This will probably end up being one of the big ones this year; but the real interest will be in seeing how the notoriously-litigious, cartoonishly thin-skinned extremely reasonable and clearheaded Church of Scientology reacts to it.


Until further notice, anonymous commenting is no longer available on this blog. I don’t like it, but there’s been too much bad behavior as of recent and this is the only way to curb it while still allowing the majority of readers to still post. Google and/or OpenID registrations are free, and while I understand and sympathize with those who don’t want to register in some way to post online there really is no other way.

Some Memories Should Stay Buried

Someday, someone is going to write an AMAZING book about just how hillariously, disasterously stupid the “pop-culture tie-ins” side of the Reagan/Bush era “War on Drugs” push was.

For now, here’s the finale of “The Flintstone Kids: Just Say No!;” with Michael JackSTONE belting out a re-worded anti-drug cover of “Beat-It” for toddler-versions of Fred Flintstone and friends – yes, complete with animated crotch-grab at 0:58. You’re welcome.

Silly Season

Below, a trailer for “2016: Obama’s America,” a political-propaganda documentary that alledges to explain the “real motivation” behind all the sinister things paranoid dumbfuck white people conservatives were sure that Barack Obama was going to do but didn’t do so now they’re sure he’s just waiting to do in his hypothetical second term. The bulk of this particular theory is coming from one Dinesh D’Souza, whose supposed “eureka!” concerning Obama is that he’s not a socialist but rather an Africa-centric anti-colonialist who wants to dismantle American/Western power to the benefit of nations/peoples who previously suffered under Western colonialism – the “between the lines” on that, of course, is “White people, look out! Obama is going to take your stuff and give it to brown people!”

D’Souza, incidentally, is the author of “The Enemy At Home: The Cultural Left and It’s Responsibility For 9/11;” which argued that secular American cultural exports like feminism, abortion-rights, atheism, gay-equality etc. are to blame for making Islamic Fundamentalist terrorists decide to attack the United States. So… yeah, charming guy.

Does the Republican Party power-structure (who, let’s be clear, would CRUSH this thing if they didn’t think it would help) buy D’Souza’s batshit psychoanalysis? Probably not – but that’s not the point. The point is it offers a faux-reasonable excuse to juxtapose images of the President with footage of black people rioting violently. Y’know, because this is ALL about the economy and has absolutely NOTHING to do with race.

Incidentally, observe the (seemingly) out-of-context, near-subliminal shot of a black family squabbling flailingly over a game of Monopoly starting at around 0:51. You stay classy, GOP.

REVIEW: "The Dictator"

Sacha Baron Cohen is a great comic talent and a good actor with a lot of potential, so it’s encouraging to see him trying to move beyond the “ambush-interviews-as-a-wacky-character” genre that initially made him a sensation. Let’s just hope that the next “something new” he tries sticks better than “The Dictator” does.

The main problem at work is that while Cohen has wisely abandoned the “interview real people” routine, he’s really only made a lateral progression – once again inhabiting a broad, purposefully-offensive cartoon caricature like Borat, Bruno and Ali-G but this time dropping said caricature into the leading-man spot of a formula fish-out-of-water comedy.

The persona in question is Admiral General Aladeen, dictator-for-life of the fictional North African Republic of Wadiya. He’s basically a pastiche of every “crazy leader” Western audiences have become recently familiar with – a little Saddam, a little Kim-Jong Il, a little Ghadaffi, a little Ahmadinejad, etc; – plus a smattering of broader riffs on Middle Eastern cultural-stereotypes (he’s a sexist, an anti-semite, you get the idea.) This is actually the funniest stuff in the movie – it’s a riot watching Aladeen go about his psycho-supervillain routine; and you start to get the sense that a “Spinal Tap” style mocumentary JUST on the running of Wadiya might be funnier than the rest of the movie.

Along with brutalizing his people while spending absurd amounts of national wealth on his personal fetishes and fixations, Aladeen has also begun seeking nuclear weapons which has pushed him to the brink of international military intervention; which he has been given one last chance to avert by addressing the United Nations in New York. While there, he is betrayed by his uncle (Ben Kingsley) and left for dead – the betrayers planning to replace him with a double and initiate a “transfer to democracy” which will actually involve Wadiya and it’s oil fields being taken over by a cabal of corporate power-players. There’s a lot of potential for smart pitch-black satire in this premise; the idea of a corporate-“democracy” being equal to or even worse than a murderous dictatorship, but other than a well-intentioned but leaden speech at the very end it doesn’t go anywhere. Instead, we follow the (not dead, as it turns out) Aladeen through a bad guy version of “Coming to America,” as he schemes to get himself back into power while hiding in the guise of a Wadiyan refugee and falling for Anna Farris as the boss of a hippie Brooklyn food co-op.

A lot of this is pretty funny; I liked an extended bit where Aladeen visits a restaurant catering to Wadiyan refugees, and you can see a better movie struggling to escape in a subplot where The Dictator turns Farris’ struggling food store around by applying his governing “expertise” to small-business. But it just can’t rise above the level of barely-connected comedy sketches that can’t even bother to maintain some consistency of character: Sometimes Aladeen is a wily schemer, then he’s an idiot manchild, then he’s a derranged butcher (a bizzare laugh-free dialogue exchange is dedicated to him having raped the members of Menudo.) That kind of “whatever’s funniest right now” approach worked in “Borat” and the rest, where the whole point was that the interviewees were only meeting him for that bite-sized moment and the audience is in on the gag; but when it’s a full-fiction movie and Aladeen is playing off other made-up comedy players it’s just tiresome and disjointed.

It was probably innevitable that Cohen was going to stumble in a “transitional” movie in between his original schtick and whatever he grows into, but “The Dictator” is still pretty disapointing. Granted, I laughed hard and I laughed often – but then I forgot that I’d laughed at all.