Cars Don’t Have Hands. Or penises. To my knowledge. [June 24, 2011]

There are some weeks where I write long, rambling introductions to my post.

Cars 2  or Pixar Jumps the Shark

We are entering dark times in the movie world. It appears Pixar has not only run out of steam but sold their soul in the process.

In the summer of 2006, Pixar released the underwhelming Cars, and I began to fear for the worst. For starters, the animation lagged behind what they had previously achieved in The Incredibles and Finding Nemo. Add to that a weak story set in a completely unrealized world (more on that in a minute), and you get Pixar’s’ poorest reviewed movie to date.

Thankfully, they proved me wrong by following Cars with Ratatouille, Wall-E, and Up!, three undeniably fantastic movies.  Then, they burned out, giving us an unnecessary and, at times, emotionally-cheap Toy Story 3.

How to make a theater of children (and adults) cry.

Still out of original content, Pixar decided to revamp yet another series for their 2011 release. That, in itself, isn’t such a bad thing. They’ve had so many fantastic ideas, it is understandably hard to pump out a fresh story year after year. This is especially true when you consider that all of their scripts are pretty much created within Pixar, and they hardly bring in anyone outside during the creation process.

Otherwise they would have totally produced the script

Sequelizing one of their good films could be fun! I loved Toy Story 2 (though 3 was pushing it). I was hooked with the Incredible family, maybe we can see them in another overtly hegemonic adventure? No? Well, Finding Nemo had a gorgeous setting and classic characters, maybe a Finding Dory? That’s a no, too? You’re gonna go with Cars? Fuck.

You see, there’s a fundamental problem with the Cars universe which prevents it, albeit subconsciously, from being wholly accepted by the audience: cars don’t have hands.

Another way to describe this problem is to say that humans do not exist in the world of Cars. Both really lead to the same question:

Where the fuck did all of this come from?

If you don’t have hands and you don’t have people, then who the hell built all of the buildings? I’m sure it seems like a dumb question, at first, but it is a necessary question if we are to relate to these…creatures…at all. They seem to live in the exact same world we live in, with the same country lines, the same landmarks, and the same infrastructure, but we’re not in that world. Instead, it’s inhabited by mechanical objects without hands.

Also, where do the other cars come from? Do the vehicles copulate? Or do they simply spring from the head of Zeus, like the rest of the shit in their world seems to?

Unprotected sex is what actually created the Nissan Cube.

The only logical explanation is that everyone on earth suddenly became a vehicle, and we all shrugged our shoulders and said, “Fuck it. It’s cool being a car.” But if that’s what happened, tell us! We need to know because your world will never make sense otherwise. Kids are arguably unaffected by this faux pas, but it is a subconscious road block for any freethinking adult entering into the movie.

And, now, we get to revisit it.

I think the worst part is that Pixar isn’t even trying. If you check out their iTunes trailer page, there are 29 videos posted for Cars, in the “give-away-everything-but-explain-nothing” vein.

And I fucking sat through all of them.

That includes three trailers, five clips from the movie, and a featurette. From all of that, this is what can be deduced of the movie:

1) This has nothing to do with the first Cars. The first Cars was all about slowing down and nostalgia and remembering our roots (back before the Great Wizard made us all automobiles). It was set almost entirely in Radiator Springs, off Route 66. The setting was one of the few things that worked in the original, and they abandoned that. Good job there.

2) The only characters we really see are McQueen and Mater. According to IMDB, the rest of the original cast is in the movie, but I don’t spot them in them anywhere in the trailers. Paul Newman voiced Doc Hudson, the mayor of Radiator Springs, and I suppose his passing could have led Pixar to change the location and characters. Still, that seems more like a reason not to make the sequel at all.

3) They make fun of Japanese culture. A lot.

4) Lightening McQueen is on an international racing tour, and he’s brought along Tow Mater, I guess because they’re friends. In the major race at the climax of the film, he must race against his nemesis, Francesco Bernoulli, who is a Formula 1 car. Now, I don’t know much about actual cars, but I do believe you would never see a stock car in a race against a Formula 1 car. At the same time, I would think that the world of Cars would find car racing about as interesting as our world finds track and field.

And Jamaica would kill everyone.

5) Some car voiced by Michael Caine thinks our heroes are spies, for some reason, and this all has to do with a hit on McQueen that’s gonna take place during his big race, and I think there’s something to do with an oil rig they keep showing. They’re probably going to make some message about our dependence on oil, which would be completely unavoidable in a world that is inhabited solely by vehicles.

6) They continue to fuck with the realities of their world.

Even the planes are alive!? Would a generator be a being as well, or do you need wheels?

This all brings us to the overarching point, which is why Pixar is remaking this crap in the first place. Pixar isn’t looking to make a quality movie. They’re looking to sell a bunch of fucking toys. That’s why they are introducing a whole new cast of characters, new locations, and making just about everything that’s mechanical a living being.

Because Hot Wheels sell better than this grumpy old dude.

And, if you think it’s gonna get better, it’s not.

Transformers: Dark of the Moon or Speaking of Movies Made to Sell Toys

This movie technically comes out on the 29th, because it’s one of those movies so bad ass it needs a Wednesday release date to boost it’s opening weekend numbers. I guess that makes this an early review of the trailer, but, if I review it in next week’s post, then it’ll be a late review, so… fuck you Transformers.

I remember four years ago when I went to Burbank Town Center’s AMC 16 to see the first Transformers (not to be confused with the Burbank’s AMC 6 that’s inside the adjacent mall, or the AMC 8 that is just on the other side of the mall). I thoroughly enjoyed the entire movie, and I even found the action and CGI not only tolerable but entertaining. When the credits rolled, I stood up, left the theater, and completely forgot about it. I remember finding it weird that I found the movie entertaining while I watched, yet it had absolutely no staying power. There was just nothing to hold my interest besides big, pretty special effects.

And constant cleavage.

I can’t really speak for the second movie. I’d seen the first, and I felt like I had no need to see it again, so I didn’t. And, now that I’ve watched the trailer for Dark of the Moon, I have to say…It’s actually a damn good trailer.

To be fair, a good portion of this has to do with Megan Fox’s absence. I know I mentioned her boobs’ role in the first movie only three sentences ago, but the rest of her is like a big, beautiful plastic-surgery wart on any movie she shows up in. After publicly flipping director Michael Bay the bird, Fox was kicked off the fucking set left the franchise on her own accord. According to LeBeouf, she was just upset with Bay’s misogynistic directing, but I find that hard to believe from a girl who had plastic surgery done as a teenager to make her look like a porn star. Anyway, she’s gone, and that’s nice. I wonder what she’s doing instead…

Dragging Mickey Rourke and Bill Fucking Murray down with her.

Michael Bay replaced Fox with some Victoria’s Secret model who looks better and hopefully keeps her mouth shut. That makes me sound pretty misogynistic, I guess, but this is a Michael Bay film.

Still, the main reason this is a great trailer is because Michael Bay movies are basically shot as a giant trailer. It’s all oversized special effects, slow motion shots, more special effects, and things exploding, usually in slow motion. In the end, there isn’t any substance there to make a movie, but maybe he can release an extended trailer. I’d watch that.

Bad Teacher or An Educational Video Detailing What is Wrong with our Edu- What? It’s a Cameron Diaz Movie? I Didn’t Know She Was Still Relevant….

After sitting through at least 15 minutes of material for Cars and a handful of trailers for Transformers, thankfully, our next feature is courteous enough to only have one trailer. Too bad I wanted to puke my eyes out after 25 seconds.

First off, may I just say the set for Bad Teacher had to be hella awkward?

"We used to date? Sorry, there've been so many. I'm sure you were great though, Carmen"

When I was in elementary school, I remember seeing Cameron Diaz in The Mask and simultaneously realizing I was a straight man. Not that there were any doubts.

That being said, this was 16 years ago, back when Jim Carrey was still funny, the economy was still growing, and before “the Beek” was a household name (he will be soon!). Now, I don’t have anything against Diaz, but she never really had any acting chops, and I just can’t imagine she still has the pre-pubescent draw she had back then. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to be a dick to Cameron Diaz. If Cameron Diaz from 1994 somehow traveled through time and into my apartment, I don’t want to give her any reason not to have sex with me. You know, besides my girlfriend and the fact I just suggested she might be a poor actress. I only bring all of this up because the producers are apparently banking on her name alone to draw people into the theaters.

Let’s just take a look at the plot of the movie. I should probably proceed with a spolier alert, but the trailer clearly describes everything right up to the second act twist.

Cameron Diaz is a teacher who doesn’t give a shit about school or about her students. She decides she “needs a man to take care of her.” Jason Segel’s character is not that guy because he teaches gym (how you could ever say “no” to Marshall Eriksen, I don’t know, but I digress). Then she meets JT’s character, who I believe is named “really cute, well-meaning teacher.” New goal! Win over JT’s love so she can have a man take care of her. Because even in a female driven comedy, it’s still all about finding a guy to give your life meaning (see any romantic comedy ever).

Alright, so Cameron needs to make JT like her. She sees a picture of his ex, notices his ex’s large breasts, then decides she needs to save money for implants. New goal! Raise money for implants! Did I mention this is a female driven comedy? Her friend from The Office tells her that she could pay for implants if she wins the bonus. “What bonus?” she asks. Why, the bonus the teacher gets for getting his or her class of students to test higher than any of the other students in the school district (for some reason I’m reminded of the non-existent Top Gun Trophy in Top Gun. Again, I digress). New goal! Be a good teacher to get bonus money to pay for breast implants to win over JT’s love so she can have a man to take care of her!

Then, a kid mentions how much money they raise from the class car wash. New goal! Forget the kids! Just strip down and wash cars and raise money for implants that way.

From there the trailer kind of lets us assume what happens next. Most likely, the movie has a half-hearted, half-witted attempt to redeem itself by making her kind of bond with the kids in her class. I don’t know, maybe she wins the bonus. In the end, I’ve got $10 saying she ends up with Jason Segel and not JT.

The movie itself has a giant relatability issue. To say that the humor is in bad taste would be unfair. I don’t believe anything is off-limits when it comes to comedy. I can laugh at fat guy jokes and black jokes all day long, but the fat guy and the black guy have to be laughing, too. Otherwise, they’ll probably beat me up. The point is that we need to laugh medicinally, keep everything in context, and take as many blows as we give. Because, trust me, there’s no bigger joke than a scrawny white boy like myself.

In Bad Teacher, our main character is just what the title says. She’s our protagonist, and we’re supposed stand by her side this whole movie. Yet, you can’t take more than a few seconds of this trailer before she’s too fucking annoying and horrible to stand. It’s not that we shouldn’t make fun of bad teachers or that doing so should be taboo. I would argue the opposite; we need humor to highlight all the shit that the bad apples get away with. But this isn’t the way to do it. By making the bad teacher the protagonist, it makes the movie a celebration of a broken education system. No one wants to relate to a character like that. It’s like rooting for the Yankees. Just watching the trailer, the character they’ve created makes you feel dirty. And not the way one wants to feel dirty about Cameron Diaz, either.

There is one redeeming aspect to the trailer, though:

Conan O’Brien Can’t Stop or Speaking of Scrawny White Boys

NBC told Conan O’Brien he couldn’t be on TV for 9 months after he left The Tonight Show. Conan O’Brien then turned around and took his show to the stage on a national tour, all the while filming a documentary of his actions. I can’t verify this, but I assume the guys who make Truck Nuts used Conan’s testicles for the mold.

Actual Scale

Honestly, I can’t see why this isn’t getting a wide release. Summer doesn’t seem like the best time, but, with a little promotion, I’m sure this documentary could get a good draw, just from the Coco fanbase alone. It’s an interesting dichotomy of narrative film and documentary. The general public rarely goes to the theater for documentaries or even purchases them on DVD, yet they devour reality shows, the television equivalent.  Perhaps it’s all a dependent upon our relationship to the viewing contjklasmzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.

Whoa. Sorry about that. I even put myself to sleep with that bullshit. Anyway, if you’re a fan of Conan O’Brien, you’ll probably like this movie. If you’re a fan of Leno, well…you’ll probably enjoy any asshole on screen.

The Best and Brightest or NPH in Another Disappointing Outing

Two How I Met Your Mother costars have movies opening this week. I wonder if there’s a friendly rivalry between Jason Segel and Neil Patrick Harris, maybe a small wager on which film fares better with the critics.

Hopefully something as epic as Slapsgiving.

Here’s how this movie was made: someone saw the documentary Nursery University and thought, “hey, this is funny, let’s make it a movie.” So, the basic premise is that Neil Patrick Harris has just moved to New York City, and he is trying to get his daughter into kindergarten. This is obviously extremely difficult to do, as public education in the City sucks, and it’s impossible to get your kid into a private school in the City unless they start out in a private nursery school (or they are Donald Trump). All of this is explained in the aforementioned documentary, and any parent with a young child would probably consider this before moving his family into the City, but that’s just the first act. It gets stranger…

So, then, NPH and his wife, Bonnie Somerville, hire Amy Sedaris to… I guess be their kid’s agent as they try to get her enrolled somewhere. Honestly, I’m sure those exist. In this city, that’s really not too ridiculous.

This is just a normal Monday morning in New York.

Does this really need a caption?

So Amy Sedaris says that NPH’s real job isn’t interesting, and it’ll be easier to sell their daughter to schools if he says he’s a poet. But, wait, there’s more! He then has to write a book of poetry and get it published. I imagine school is starting in a week or so, so he doesn’t have much time. Somehow, he takes his friend’s erotic text messages, and they get confused as his poetry. I’m really not sure how this plays out, but he passes himself off as a poet.

Honestly, I really want to like this movie. NPH is fantastically hilarious, as is Amy Sedaris, but they both have this chronic inability to find work on a good film (Harold and Kumar aside). It looks like there is potential here, but the trailer alone illustrates that the plot is going to quickly get out of hand. The premise should be built upon how hard it is to find a school for a five-year-old kid; instead, it spirals out of control with this text-message-poetry angle. If it was solidly making a comment about how craptastically bad modern poetry is, that would be one thing.

Instead, the film gets lost, and it ends up making no comment at all. In the end, I fear we have something not even a John Hodgman appearance can save.

A Better Life  or Modern Mexican Version of  Bicycle Thieves

Bicycle Thieves (or The Bicycle Thief, as it was known in my day) is a Italian neorealist film about a man who steals a bike in order to have a job, so he can support his family. He, then, has the bike stolen from him. This is a classic film that you can view instantly on Netflix; there is no excuse for having never seen this film.

Or so I've been told. I haven't watched it yet.

A Better Life is about an immigrant Mexican father who illegally acquires a truck to take care of his son. The truck is then stolen from him. Bam! I haven’t seen either movie, and I know they’re the same thing.

On a side note, I recently left North Hollywood, a mostly Mexican neighborhood, and I never met anyone who has this slow, stereotypical Mexican accent that Hollywood gives to every migrant worker. Moreover, why the hell is he talking in English to his son all the time? You have plenty of time to practice your English with everyone else in America who is too stubborn to learn your language. No need to speak English to your son as well.

A Love Affair of Sorts or A Movie With Nothing Going for It

So, the only reason this film exists is because it was shot entirely on Flip video cameras. I’m not sure if it’s a documentary, or if it’s kind of scripted, or what. Honestly, I don’t care. This might have been a boost for Flip cameras, if they still existed, but they don’t. Cisco killed that in fear of the smart phone. Therefore, my question is, why the hell would I want to go to the theater to see something shot on a crappy, discontinued, hand-held consumer camcorder?

Leap Year or For the Love of God Don’t Say Anything

Sometimes foreign films become too afraid to put any dialogue in their trailers. That’s probably because guys like me make fun of them for bad dubbing and for bad subtitles. But having no dialogue at all just leads to weird trailers like this one. Apparently, Leap Year is about a Mexican woman who sleeps with this guy. They have sex, look at each other awkwardly, look out in to the distance, open the front door, at one point, and never say a fucking word to each other. At the very end, the guy does ask her why she has February 29th marked on her calendar. She doesn’t respond. Between shots of them not speaking they put up quotes from critics, my favorite being “[Leap Year] stands comparison with Bertolucci’s Last Tango in Paris.” Unless that comparison is “this film is the fucking opposite of Last Tango in Paris,” I’m pretty sure Leap Year isn’t worth watching.

Ruining butter since 1972

Here’s the rest of the films opening (somewhere) this weekend:

General Orders #9 or If a Terrence Malick Film Had Sex with Baraka and Gave Birth to a Southern Documentary

At least, that’s what the trailer leads me to believe. I wonder who I can talk into eventually watching this with me…

Turtle: The Incredible Journey or Lucky Little Bastard

Filmmakers follow a single turtle from hatching to adulthood. It’s a cute little movie, until you think about how many of the turtles they initially followed died during the filming because a third of the babies don’t even make it off the beach.

The Names of Love or A Frenchie Rom-Com

It doesn’t matter what genre the French film is. Their films are still fucking French, which is why they tend to make most Hollywood movies look like on-camera defication by comparison.

17 Miracles or 18 Miracles, If You Include God Allowing Mormons to Drink Coke

Opening in theaters all across Utah.

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