A Crappy Week in the Middle of Summer [July 1, 2011]

HO-LY SHIT! I was totally on the money with Cars 2. Honestly, I thought most critics were still gonna love it. After all, they have a tendency to gargle Pixar’s balls like Scope, so why would this movie be any different? Thank you, Richard Roper, for pointing out what I always thought was the fucking obvious: “Of all the great Pixar films and franchises, Cars is, perhaps, the most difficult to embrace, mainly because the characters are, well, cars.

A.O. Scott agrees with me, too, but he's kind of a d-bag who doesn't like movies.

This just further proves the frivolous nature of being a real movie critic. You guys don’t need to go to Rotten Tomatoes; you’ve got me, and I’m batting a thousand without even stepping foot in a theater.

If it seems like there’s really nothing coming out this week, that’s because Transformers: Rise of the Machines scared away most of the competition. Since I covered Transformers last week, there isn’t a whole lot for me to talk about. That won’t exactly shut me up, though…

Larry Crown or The Biggest Hit of 1994

Did I miss something? Did we suddenly jump back in time fifteen years? I just checked, and I definitely still have pubic hair, so it can’t be the 90s. If that’s the case, why the hell are Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts in a romantic comedy together? For that matter, why are they in a romantic comedy at all?

Granted, in the 90s, these were two of the biggest stars on the scene. Hanks started off the decade with two Oscars and didn’t slow down from there, starring in Apollo 13, Toy Story, Saving Private Ryan, and The Green Mile. He was among the most talented actors in the business, and I can’t figure why he didn’t ride that wave into this millennium.

Oh. Right.

Julia Roberts was nothing to scoff at either. She was in…Stepmom? Well, that was a piece of crap. Dying Young? Mary Reilly? What the fuck are these movies? Michael Collins? Okay, so, she didn’t have the acting chops of Hanks, but we all really adored her back then.

Because we couldn't look away from her giant, soul-sucking smile.

Point being, I’m sure every major studio would have killed to get these two into a romantic comedy back then. In fact, I was really surprised that they had never shared the screen together in their heyday, considering Julia Roberts had been in a romcom with practically every other star in Hollywood.

Including this guy.

Now, it’s 2011. A whole fucking decade has come and gone since either were viable romantic comedy stars. And I don’t mean that because they’re old. I mean that because we don’t pay attention to them anymore.

You see, romantic comedies are used for four main purposes. First, established actors will use romcoms in between serious roles to maintain a sense of approachability with wider audiences. A good example is when an actor does a movie where he plays a gay character, and he wants to let people know he’s not really gay, so he makes a romantic comedy. The result is pretty much always Friends with Benefits.

Second, they’re made when established comedians or comic actors want to prove themselves in more serious roles. In this case they’ll end up using the romcom to bridge the gap. This often has positive results, as can be witnessed in When Harry Met Sally, Roxanne, Sleepless in Seattle, and, more recently, The 40-Year-Old-Virgin.

Sometimes, the results are less positive...

The third and, perhaps, most common romcom usage is found with young stars who are new to the scene and want to have a number of movies out in close proximity to keep their names familiar. Julia Roberts tried to do this with Pretty Women, but it turned out she wasn’t much of an actress, so she fell into the fourth romcom category…

People who can only do romantic comedies. See Hugh Grant, Meg Ryan, Sandra Bullock, Rachel from “Friends,” and, most of all, Julia Roberts. Eventually, audiences grow weary of these actors as the novelty of their roles ages simultaneously with their bodies.

To be fair, some people can't even do romantic comedies.

Did you notice something that wasn’t on the list of purposes-for-being-in-a-romantic-comedy? Reigniting your career. That wasn’t on the list. When it’s been nine years since an actor’s last strong film, he or she should probably look to a different venture.

You probably want to know something about the trailer. Well, Tom Hanks takes on his most disconnected, unbelievable role yet, and Julia Roberts stars as our second shitty-educator character in as many weeks. Like Cameron Diaz in last week’s Bad Teacher, there’s even a shot in the trailer of Julia Roberts sneaking a drink, just to show how undedicated she is to this job. And by “this job,” I mean acting, not teaching.

Hanks was fired from his job at some megastore, supposedly, because he never got a college degree. Last I checked, places like Wal*Mart don’t even require a GED and keep people on as long as they show up to work sober, but whatever.

Hell, even the sobriety part is optional.

Point is, Hanks needs to go to college. Julia Roberts is a teacher who has lost hope. Hanks’s character makes her care about teaching, and blah blah blah…

Hanks has blown audiences away with performances as a homosexual man dying of AIDS, a WW2 soldier, a southern prison warden, a crazy man on an island, and a fucking mentally handicapped person, yet he can’t seem to pull off a schlub who works at Wal*Mart. There isn’t a single aspect of his character in the entire trailer that is at all believable. There just isn’t enough for him to work with. Which is really surprising considering he wrote the material.

Hanks directed and produced the film as well. The last time he wore the triple hat he made a little gem called That Thing You Do. I watch That Thing You Do every year or two, and each time I find myself asking why Hanks has never picked up the camera again. Now I know.

You let me down, Tom. You let me down.

Monte Carlo or Who Are All of You?

About two minutes into the trailer, there’s a title card that says “Selena Gomez.” It is at this moment I go, “Oh, that’s who I’ve been watching on the screen for the past two minutes.” I have heard of this Selena Gomez before, but, whenever I hear her name, my mind does that thing it does when someone starts talking about the weather – it just ignores everything else that follows.

Of course it's sunny in LA. It's a fucking desert.

If I went my entire life without knowing who Selena Gomez was or hearing about her relationship with that kid with the hair (which would be considered statutory rape if he weren’t obviously gay), I think I’d be okay. Sadly, the media seems to think otherwise. I have finally been thoroughly subjected to this girl’s existence, and I gotta say…eh. I dunno. She’s not uncute or anything. It’s just an overly forgettable face. I probably still couldn’t pick her out of a lineup.

Avoiding being generic is the leading cause of ex-Disney stars making really stupid life decisions.

Which is actually the point of the movie, Monte Carlo. Gomez and a couple other people (who I should probably recognize but don’t) have saved up for a vacation in Paris. They get there to find Paris really isn’t all that grand when you don’t have any money. Instead of walking the streets, attending public concerts, and going to free museums, they apparently just bitch about how much it sucks. Before long, they have a run-in with a royal rich bitch who has they exact same (forgettable) appearance as Gomez. So Gomez and her friends swap places with the rich bitch by shooting her in the face and tossing her in the Seine (this part isn’t exactly covered in the trailer, but I’m pretty sure that’s accurate).

No one, of course, notices that rich bitch is now decomposing in the sewage of Paris, and they all accept her doppelganger as the real thing. They also accept all of her new American Friends, too, because it’s not like royalty is overly worried about classism. Gomez and her friends get to have a fantastic vacation. In Monte Carlo.  Which was not their original destination, but, sometimes, you have to adjust. And, then, they really have to adjust when the reanimated corpse of the rich bitch rises from the Seine and seeks revenge on them all.

A possible still from the movie as I imagine it.

This is definitely gonna be a good movie, though. Anytime there’s a movie about Americans in Europe, and there’s a scene where one of the leads somehow manages to do such a shitty job of plugging an American appliance into a European outlet that they knock out the power for an entire building, you know it’s gonna be good. It’s like the clapper. Good for a laugh every time.

No wonder Europeans hate us.

The Perfect Host or Niles Crane’s Flips Out

The movie (trailer) opens on Clayne Crawford, who has just robbed a bank and is fleeing the scene of the crime. In an effort to evade the cops, Crawford invites himself in to the house of an unassuming man by pretending to be a friend of a friend. But this unassuming man isn’t just anyone. This is unassuming man is Niles Fucking Crane, and, in this movie, Niles Crane is fucking insane.

We always knew the insanity was boiling under the surface.

Crane turns the table on Crawford by drugging him with Rohypnol (in a scene I imagine plays something like the crazy doctor in Human Centipede). He then proceeds to have a dinner party…only there are no guests at this dinner party. All the guests are simply a figment of Niles Crane’s demented imagination, and, in his imagination, they all want to torture the shit out of Crawford.

I’m somewhat on the fence with The Perfect Host. The trailer is definitely confused as to what exactly the movie is. A brief summary of the plot would clearly describe TPH as a psychological thriller, yet the trailer portrays the film as a twisted comedy. Comedy and horror go beautifully together, but is this a horror? It doesn’t really seem to have any true horror elements, unless you’re one of the morons that considers torturing people a form of horror.

Yes, Tom Six, I'm referring to you.

Even then, Crane doesn’t seem to do any gross-out torture. This is all really about Crane’s insanity, and I’m not sure if we are supposed to find it funny or if we are supposed to find in terrifying.

My pre-viewing consensus leads me to believe that this film is not benefited by a trailer, or at least not the trailer it has. Without reading anything else about the movie, I would be willing to bet that this is mainly a psychological horror with natural humorous elements; if we were to watch the feature, every time we laugh at the psychosis, it would simultaneously be terrifying to us. The problem is, you don’t really have time to set up such a complex reaction in a trailer.

Moreover, the trailer wasn’t sure how much of Crane’s insanity to reveal. On one hand, Niles Crane going insane is what the film is about, so you have to show the psychosis to sell it. On the other hand, the movie’s suspense is based on watching what he’ll do as he goes crazier and crazier. The more the trailer reveals, they less fun the movie will be. It was difficult for the trailer to illustrate that the dinner guests are not, in fact, real people, and the producers and editors didn’t make it any easier with their reluctance to make this point clear. In my opinion, they should have left it obscure and not clearly pointed out his schizophrenia. In fact, the person who is going to enjoy this movie the most is the person who enters it without knowing anything about the premise.

On a side note, there are some major homosexual undertones to this film. In 99% of horrors, torture-porns, or psychological thrillers, one of the characters is a woman, typically the victim. 1% of the time, it’s two dudes, and, this time, one of those dudes is Niles Crane. While Niles Crane isn’t gay, his alter-ego David Hyde Pierce is.

The jury is still out on his alter-alter-ego, Alton Brown.

I don’t think Perfect Host is going to be a Nightmare on Elm Street 2. In fact, I’m sure the filmmakers were fully aware of their homo-erotic subtext while they were producing it. For me, this only adds to the intrigue. While the trailer was a bit of a muddled mess, I actually see through it to an intelligent film that’s worth watching (once it’s streaming on NetFlix).

Or maybe it will be exactly like Nightmare 2. Either way, still good.

Love Etc. or My Blog’s First Disqualification

Little known fact about Physoo. I actually kind of worked for a trailer editing company when I first moved to New York. It was a little place called Wheelhouse Creative, and, even though I have four years experience in the industry, I interned with them for $50 a day. Sometimes that’s what you have to do in this business.

It's worse if you're a woman.

I was surprised to find that their entire office consisted of three people – a producer, an editor, and an intern – all in a space that was about the size of my old office in LA. There was one phone line, and it was really awkward when I answered it as there was no way to put the caller on hold. Instead I just had to put my hand over the receiver and whisper, “Jeremy, do you wanna talk to this guy right now?”

Point being, while I was there, Love Etc. was one of the jobs that they were working on. I never saw the trailer, but I did watch the movie when I was helping one day. Because of that, I feel like it would be unethical for me to review this trailer. After all, I already know how it all works out.

The old lady is the killer.

That being said, because Jeremy and Rob never got back to me about my money after I very abruptly left them for a full-time job, I’ll just say the trailer sucks.

Terri or John C. Reilly Becoming a Serious Actor Again

All right. I take back what I said. Wheelhouse Creative is pretty damn good. In addition to Love Etc., they also gave us the trailer for Terri — my favorite spot this week.

I can’t pin point exactly when or where it happened, but, somewhere along the line, we completely lost John C. Reilly. From early on in his career, the man was a master at balancing comedy and drama and finding depth in even the shallowest of roles. He played characters that were often closer to caricatures, but he managed to ground them and keep them believable. If you only know the recent incarnation of John C. Rielly, watch his opening monologue in Magnolia, and you’ll see what I’m talking about.

Inevitably he decided to go the comedy route (which is sensible because you make bank there), but, after his streak of Walk Hard, The Promotion, and Step Brothers, it seemed any chance of a serious acting career was a thing of the past. That’s probably why he dropped off the radar for most of the past 3 years.

Cirque Du Freak didn't help matters...

This is Reilly’s second Sundance Film Festival movie in as many years, having premiered Cyrus there in 2010. It looks like Reilly is really taking time to rebuild his career, and it looks like it’s going to pay off with Terri.

Terri doesn’t have a ton of story. There’s a fat kid (Terri, played by Jacob Wysocki) who is having what most schools refer to as “behavioral problems.” Generally speaking, a Hollywood film would make the fat kid lash out and have a bunch of over-the-top bullshit to show his struggling, but this is a movie where the writers actually remember what high school is like. Instead of some ridiculous form of rebellion that would get you arrested in most states, Terri just wears pajamas to school. That’s all. His teachers find this unsettling, and this gets him into counseling with John C. Reilly’s vice principal character. A relationship blossoms, and everyone grows from it. Throw in Creed Bratton as Terri’s crazy uncle, and that’s all that happens. (By the way, Creed dies. Sorry to ruin that for you, but they showed the funeral in the trailer, so… yeah. I’m pretty sure that’s who dies).

This really isn’t anything that spectacular or groundbreaking. The story is very predictable and the characters are familiar. That’s okay. Sometimes, all you have to do is flick the reality switch and let everything unfold naturally. It’s amazing how pretty much everyone has been to high school, yet no one can seem to make a movie about what high school is like. In recent years shit like Glee and High School Musical has made us think it’s just a giant show choir where everyone overacts, the drama is all superficial, and people’s reactions are ridiculously near-sited and polarized.

We miss you John Hughes.

Terri is a breath of fresh air filled with strong performances. I see a positive future for both of the leads.

Or maybe it really sucks, and the guys at Wheelhouse are just that good.

Aurora or Blah Blah Blah Romanian Something

According to all the little blurbs that pop up during the trailer, this is a mystery movie not about finding the killer but finding the killer’s motive. An intriguing concept, but all I get from the trailer is a Romanian guy wandering around and looking at stuff.

Delhi Belly or India Makes Fun of Itself

I typically make it a point not to cover Bollywood or Indian films in general. I hate to say it, but I am extremely unfamiliar with their cinematic history, and I am not educated enough to give their trailers a fair review. India’s movie industry is a completely different entity from the rest of the cinematic world, and it is so entrenched with their culture that most of it would simply go over my head. Plus, a majority of their films seem like really long episodes of Glee, and I hate that show.

Dear Ryan Murphy, go fuck yourself.

I’m sorry. Jokes like that are in really bad taste (no one deserves to be compared to Glee). That’s exactly what I’m trying to avoid. Most of what I do is making fun of things, and if I reviewed Bollywood trailers I would make the same stupid jokes over and over. None of them would be funny, and all of them would only highlight my ignorance of Indian culture.

But, when they make fun of themselves, I’m all for it. The Delhi Belly trailer is pretty much that. I don’t want to give anything away, but it is a clever trailer that shows they don’t always take their movies too seriously. In my opinion, there’s pretty much nothing better than when producers consciously realize they’re making a shitty comedy (or especially a shitty horror film), and they don’t shy away from that fact in advertising.

I will pre-purchase tickets for the possible 3-D sequel.

…And that is simultaneously the first and last Indian movie (trailer) I will ever review.

First Dog or Best Fucking Movie Concept EVER

This is a movie about the President’s dog. I shit you not, that’s what this movie is about.

And it’s really, really good. I mean, just look at these title cards:

World record for the longest unnecessary ellipse goes to..............

You know how most movie trailers run anywhere from one minute to two and a half minutes? Well this movie is too fucking awesome for that. It needs five minutes. If you’re familiar with filmmaking, there’s an old adage that says, “never use children or dogs.” This movie stars both. And Forrest Whitaker, it’s time to meet your match. There’s now an even larger black man on the scene, and he has an even lazier eye.

Sorry. That was a pretty low blow on my part.

So, here’s the story: this kid finds the President’s dog, and he runs away from home to return the dog to the President. No one seems to realize that the President is missing his dog, especially not this kid’s parents, who yell at him for coming up with the idea in the first place. In the real world, if the President’s dog went missing, the media would go into a giant frenzy, accuse the President of being fascist bastard, question his ability to negotiate tax reform based on his inability to watch a fucking dog, and his approval rating would drop 90%.

According to Glenn Beck, losing a dog would be the moral equivalent of selling the country to China in exchange for a Tootsie Roll pop (which we're doing).

Also, you’d think the dog would have tags on him saying something like, “I belong to the President.” And by tags I mean his own personal secret service agent.

Obviously, this isn’t the real world as the President in the film is some white guy who can’t even keep track of a dog. Anyway, this kid goes on a long cross-country adventure, in which he is plagued by bad acting and terrible editing.

When I started this blog, I didn’t intend to make fun of the shitty little movies. My goal was to attack Hollywood for pumping out crap so formulaic you can give it a complete review without ever seeing it. I wasn’t supposed to walk all over the little man. But when the little man makes a movie like this, I can’t just sit back and let it happen. Maybe this is just interesting enough to hold a kid’s attention for almost the length of the movie, but that doesn’t make its existence acceptable. There are companies that pump out crappy features like this non-stop because parents are looking for “wholesome” family entertainment. If the parents actually watched these movies with their kids, they might find that the movies’ messages are, more often than not, twisted, close-minded, short-sighted, and stereotypically one-dimensional, but that’s besides the point. The point is that movies like this make kids hate movies. I know, because I was one of those kids.

For all those parents who love crappy movies like this, take from me: it’s only a matter of time before your kid sees a movie about a guy bleeding to death on the floor for an hour and a half, at which point he’ll suddenly realize every other movie you’ve ever shown him is utter bullshit.

Though grandma always wonders why I cry when she sings "Stuck in the Middle with You."

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