God bless America, it’s Tuesday and that means we’ve got another batch of new films hitting DVD and blu-ray to dissect. The headliner this week is Olympus Has Fallen, but it’s not the only heavy-hitter waiting to take a spin in your DVD player. We’ve also got movies starring Robert De Niro, Katherine Heigl, Diane Keaton, Amanda Seyfried, Topher Grace, Susan Sarandon, and Robin Williams. Actually, they’re all in the same movie, but still, we’ve got plenty of other movies starring your favorite actors, especially if you like older dudes like Robert Redford or Tommy Lee Jones. We’ve got rock jocks and punk rockers. We’ve got emperors and Italians. We’ve got kids playing soccer and grown-ups playing basketball. We’ve even got a documentary that made Vince cry!
Olympus Has Fallen
The Big Wedding
The Company You Keep
A Band Called Death
What Maisie Knew
The Hot Flashes
Lost & Found In Armenia
One of these films stars a convicted felon. Continue reading and you’ll find out which one it is. Another one of these films has inspired me to write a poem, which I’ve included in this column. If that doesn’t make you want to keep reading, nothing will.
The White House is under siege and Channing Tatum isn’t around to save the day, so Gerard Butler’s weird mouth will have to do. Yes, this is that other action film about the White House being attacked by terrorists. Obviously the other film, White House Down, got more FilmDrunk love because of Channing Tatum’s starring role, but was it actually the better movie? As it turns out, no. Despite White House Down having fantastic storyboards, Olympus Has Fallen seems to be the greater work of art. Olympus made more money on its opening weekend (on fewer screens, no less), and also made more for its domestic and worldwide box office totals, and was shot for less than half the budget of White House Down. (In fact, White House Down’s worldwide grosses are still $25 million short of its budget.) Ouch. Granted, the number of tickets sold rarely equates to quality, but it might as well as far as Hollywood is concerned. So Olympus Has Fallen wins the financial battle, but what of the critical debate? As always, we turn to the scientifically accurate data compiled by the professors of numberiological stuff at Rotten Tomatoes. White House Down has a disappointing 47% rating. In contrast, Olympus Has Fallen has an impressive 48%. Oh. Obviously, both films are terrible. It’s a shame, too. I so wanted there to be a crossover in which Gerard Butler and Channing Tatum have to team-up to take back Buckingham palace from terrorists while both men are coincidentally and inexplicably simultaneously vacationing in England. They could’ve called it White House Down 2: Olympus Has Fallen Again. Rihanna was going to play the Queen, Macklemore was in place to be the Prime Minister, I had it all planned out. You guys would’ve loved the storyboards.
One look at the box art for this rom-com should tell you everything you need to know. Look at how they all laugh and laugh! And just look at who’s lauging: there’s increasingly-more-shameless paycheck cashers like Robert De Niro and Robin Williams (as a priest)! There’s even Ms. Terrible Rom-Com herself, Katherine Heigl. If I didn’t know better, I’d think this was the same old, generically inoffensive romantic comedy that Hollywood gives us every other weekend. But I do know better because I’ve read Vince’s enlightening “C-“ review. Besides featuring sex scenes that include Robert De Niro performing cunnilngus –shot from the point of view of the vagina- the film is also fairly racist. It turns out there’s a Colombian character who, despite being a Harvard grad, still has future in-laws mortified of being seen eating with him –because, you see, he’s brown-skinned. Which brings me to the next point –the character, Alejandro, is played by a British dude with a spray on tan. They didn’t even cast an actor of color, despite surely trying to make a statement about racism. Oh well. As I’ve said, I’ve read Vince’s review and am so forewarned. (Oddly enough, I now want to see the movie more than I would’ve had I never read his review.) But what about those precious few souls left who don’t turn to FilmDrunk for all their movie news and reviews? Where can they turn? As always, my FilmDrunk-averse friends have another website that is only looking out for their best movie interests; The Dove Foundation. Normally Dove avoids R-rated films, but surely they too were duped into a false sense of safety by the generic poster, title, and cast. Their trauma is our gain. This is probably the best Dove Worldview (0 out of 5 Doves) I’ve read in some time, and I present it in its entirety:
The Big Wedding is the story of a dysfunctional, blended family that is trying to reconcile and forgive one another for past indiscretions, and there are many! This is a comedy which is supposed to add a spoonful of sugar to help the medicine go down. This “medicine” however is debauchery, nudity, fetishes, fornication, unfaithfulness, misogyny, and profanity. No amount of sugar helps this medicine go down smoothly. The lesson learned from this movie was best expressed by an entertainment reporter on television when he said, “I can’t belive how naught this film is.”
There are sexual references, innuendos, and double-entendres galore, not to mention several not-so-subtle cries of passion by one previously married couple and a young unmarried couple. (Did I mention that the young man was a committed virgin until marriage before this encounter?)
Needless to say, this family story is not family-frinedly based on Dove standards.
The Content warnings are almost as delightful: “SEX: many references to illicit sex and lengthy organisms; two scenes of howling during sex. LANGUAGE: F-9; A-4; Christ-2; Jesus-2; slang for male genitles -3; S-11. NUDITY: full side and rear female nudity. OTHER: total disregard for the sanctity of marriage, a Priest used as a foil for comedy.” While I’m sure it’s just a typo for genitals, I’d like to think I’m not the only person who wishes it were a typo for Gentiles. Also, how dare the filmmakers use a priest as a foil for comedy? Priests are our friends and spiritual betters, even Jews and loose women know that! Finally, as much as I wish I could go on for paragraphs and paragraphs describing the horror the Dove reviewer must surely have felt upon seeing Robert De Niro “licking his lips like he’s craving a french dip sandwich with extra jus” while eating out Susan Sarandon (to quote Vince’s review), I will instead point out that at no point in the Dove review, which condemns the film for many many things, does it ever make any references to the racism of the characters or to the racism that may be inherent in the film itself. Unless that’s what they meant with the warning about two references to “Jesus”.
Robert Redford directs and stars in this political thriller about a former Weather Underground activist who must go on the run after a young journalist discovers his identity. The supporting cast includes Julie Christie, Nick Nolte, Chirs Cooper, Terrence Howard, Stanley Tucci, Richard Jenkins, Anna Kendrick, Brendan Gleeson, Brit Marling, Sam Elliott, Stephen Root, and even The Big Wedding’s Susan Sarandon. And they all have smaller parts than Shia LaBeouf, who plays the young journalist. I can’t be the only person disturbed by this development, can I?
The Japanese have surrendered, ending World War II, and now General Bonner Fellers (played by Matthew Fox) must decide whether or not Emperor Hirohito is to be hanged as a war criminal. Tommy Lee Jones plays General Douglas MacArthur with a bitchin’ pipe. Seriously, look at that pipe. It’s accurate, too. You can’t smoke a pipe like that anymore, at least not without being called a hipster, which would also be accurate because you’d only be smoking it because the pipe is so bitchin’ and you’d be hoping everyone who passed you by would be like, “Motherf*cker has a bitchin’ pipe. I bet his taste in music is better than my own,” because you would be a hipster and you would be terrible. Much like this movie is supposed to be. Still, it might be worth checking out if only because that bitchin’ pipe probably gets its own subplot.
A Band Called Death is the latest (and greatest?) rock-doc about a musical act that never made it big, even if they really should have. Vince has been cheering this film on for some time now: he gave the film an enthusiastic “B+” review, and he even got to interview the band members. (And yes, it is very similar to the Oscar-winning Searching For Sugarman, but Vince’s comments as linked to in the previous sentence address that topic quite adequately.) If you don’t already know, this film is about a band called Death. Hence the title, you f*cking moron. Death was comprised of David, Bobby, and Dannis Hackney, three black brothers (literally, they had the same parents and everything) from Detroit who were determined to be the best rock band known to mankind. They had a then unheard-of sound that quickly got them a recording contract, but they refused to change their band name, and as a consequence, their album was never released. Vince got to see the movie completely cold and he therefore didn’t know how the story would turn out, but by this point in the paragraph, you’ve probably figured that they get their day in the spotlight (I mean, they were interviewed by FilmDrunk; it doesn’t get much better for a 35-year-old punk band. Also you know, this movie exists, so they can’t have been forgotten by everyone.) The fun of the film, which I got to see last weekend, is in how they end up getting discovered. The decades roll by, the band dissolves, people move to different states, band members die, and Death really does get forgotten. Until it doesn’t. I won’t spoil the details for you, but as the movie progresses and things seem more and more dire for Death, you can’t help but wonder how things can possibly lead up to the enthusiastic and excited talking head interviews with Bobby and Dannis Hackney in the present day. When you see how they were rediscovered, it is at once one of those ‘I call bullshit’ turns of chance that you’d hate if it were scripted and also at the same time a plot twist you cheer because, by that point, you really like these guys and want them to succeed. It’s a story that can’t really happen anymore because, thanks to the internet, there’s no such thing as a lost band or musical artist. Even if you can’t get a record deal, you can slap your shit onto YouTube or iTunes and if nothing else, it has the possibility of being heard. By contrast, Death’s music was being kept in a drawer in an attic. Think about that. Think about how some of today’s music might’ve been lost if not for the blessing of YouTube. I mean, without it, we’d never have Justin Bieber. Hmm. Shit. Well this line of thought took a turn I hadn’t intended, but rest assured, the film’s very entertaining, and you might even cry. Vince did. Not me though -I never cry. In fact, I can’t. Birth defect. I was born with a strange growth that effectively sealed my tear ducts. That growth is called ‘balls’, by the way.
Julianne Moore, Steve Coogan, and Alexander Skarsgard star in this modern-day adaptation of Henry James’ classic tale of a child, Maisie, stuck in the middle of her parents’ bitter custody battles. I’ll be honest, beyond seeing the poster in This Week In Posters back in February, I’ve heard absolutely nothing about this film prior to seeing that it was hitting DVD today. So Maisie may know a lot about a lot of different things, but one thing about which she doesn’t know shit is marketing a film.
This Italian film is the story of Luciano, a simple fishmonger who is encouraged by his family to audition for Big Brother (well, Grande Fratello, but you know what I mean). When he gets his audition, and knows he did well, he becomes fixated on waiting for the word that he’s been cast on the reality TV show. As the days go by without a letter or phone call, he concludes that he is being secretly evaluated by the Big Brother producers and every choice he makes and every word he utters plays a factor in their decision. He becomes obsessed with being the best man he can be, as that must surely be what these mysterious producers want. (A funny idea in light of the personality ‘quirks’ of the current cast of the real life American version of the show.) I’ve seen this one, and I would recommend it, assuming you can handle a somewhat slow beginning, and of course, the usual pitfalls of foreign films: subtitles, pasta-making robots, and a dude dressing in drag for its inherent comedic effect. You know, the usual. What’s really nutty though, is that this is inspired by a true story that happened to the director’s girlfriend’s brother. He knew the director, Matteo Garrone, had industry connections and asked if he could get him an audition for Big Brother, and Garrone hooked him up. When things ended there, the dude lost it and ended up needing therapy and Garrone adapted the experience into this movie (while omitting himself as a character). The crazy dude even served as a consultant on the film. Nutty, right? Even nuttier? The actor who plays the main character, Luciano, is a convicted murderer who is serving a life sentence without the possibility of parole. For real. I have no idea (other than it not really having much to do with anything) why that isn’t included in the trailer as it is easily the most fascinating thing about this admittedly pretty decent film. The actor, Aniello Arena, was a member of the Camorra, the Neapolitan mafia, and was sent to prison for murdering three members of a rival crime family. While in jail he discovered acting and began performing with the prison troupe. The troupe drew the attention of Garrone and he initially wanted Arena to appear in his previous film, Gomorrah, which was about the Camorra –and he essentially wanted the actor to play himself. The powers that be forbade it, reasoning that it would be akin to endorsing his criminal behavior, but when Garrone asked about him again for Reality, they allowed his daily release (he went back to his cell at the end of each day’s filming) as a reward for good behavior and general improvement as a human being. Arena shot the movie and is now back in jail. I know most actors are shameless and greedy, but I gotta believe that there has never been one more desperate than Aniello Arena for a sequel.
Janeane Garofalo headlines this “black” “comedy” about the intense world of suburban child soccer leagues. Her character is the New Yorker who recently moved to the suburbs and is shocked at how intense everyone is about youth sports. Christopher Titus plays the overly competitive and mean soccer coach. Take those two comedians cast in those roles and imagine what you think this movie is like and stop –you’re exactly right. Yes, the tall lady from Third Rock From The Sun is in it making funny faces, and yes Cheri Oteri tries to f*ck her way into getting her kid on the team, and yes, that’s all in the trailer, because no, I did not watch this film. Shocking, I know.
Speaking of sports comedies starring women, The Hot Flashes is about a basketball team comprised of middle-aged women who have challenged the current state high-school champs to a game to raise money for breast cancer awareness or something. The Hot Flashes are played by Brooke Shields, Daryl Hannah, Wanda Sykes, Camryn Manheim, and Virginia Madsen, and again, this movie is exactly what you expect it to be. Every lady-stereotype seems to be represented: Madsen’s the sex-crazed nympho, Manheim is the husky one, Hannah’s the one who wears a cowboy hat, Shields is the well-balanced one who is bringing her old friends back together for one last shot at glory, and Sykes is black. Like I said, all of the lady-stereotypes get their due.Needless to say, they all have terrible southern accents and their coach is a midget veterinarian. Which is to say, he is a very short man who is also an animal doctor, and not that he is a doctor who sees little people as nothing more than animals, but nonetheless has committed himself to serving their medical needs, although I understand where there could be some confusion. I wouldn’t mind seeing that movie though. The midget veterinarian (who again, in this instance, would be a regular-sized man who holds little people in contempt but still wants to make sure they’ve had all their shots and/or have been neutered to help control the midget population) could be played by my personal movie hero, Eric Roberts, who just so happens to also be in this movie. He burps in the trailer, which must surely be the highlight of the film.
This week’s obligatory horror film actually has a bit of name recognition behind it, as it stars Heather Graham, Carrie-Anne Moss, Kevin Dillon, and Joe Mantegna. Graham plays an unstable woman who becomes obsessed with her new neighbor, an actress played by Carrie-Anne Moss. Kevin Dillon is Graham’s unfaithful husband, and Mantegna is the cop investigating Moss’s inevitable disappearance. The trailer looks fake, like if a late-night talk show tried to make a joke trailer for a fake horror film so you could roll your eyes at the clichés while delighting that Jimmy Kimmel got so many celebrities to participate. Except instead of Matt Damon and George Clooney pretending to be in a movie that looks terrible, Heather Graham and Carrie-Anne Moss really are making out in a movie that looks terrible. Now before I inadvertently cause you some curiosity, let me warn you that –SPOILER via an IMDb review– the lesbianism doesn’t start until the last 15 minutes of the movie, and apparently -as this was the main point of the review- it isn’t worth the wait. Also, the big twist at the end is that Graham has cut up Moss’s body and eats it while also serving it to Mantegna’s clueless detective. At least I think it’s a twist; with IMDb users, you can’t really tell if something is intended to be a surprise, or if it’s just surprising to them. Or even if it happens in the movie at all. These are the same folks who feverishly debate whether or not Robert De Niro’s scenes in The Godfather, Part II are supposed to be set in the present or in flashback, and how could he be playing the same character as Marlon Brando, when Vito Corleone died in the first movie and Marlon Brando and Robert De Niro are probably different people in real life. Still, Carrie-Anne Moss and Heather Graham as (possibly) lesbian (possibly) cannibals. This movie would’ve been huge in 1999.
Felicia Day continues her pandering to gamers and geeks (seriously, the tag-line for this is ‘Gamers. Geeks. Heroes.’) with this sci-fi comedy about a rag-tag group of government employees who work in a secret facility tasked with shooting down asteroids headed for earth. The cast includes that foul-mouthed Indian from The 40-Year-Old-Virgin (the old guy, not the one who tried to murder his girlfriend), and Jason Mewes. There’s also an alien, because why the hell not? I don’t consider myself a geek (I think Felicia Day is just ‘meh’), so I know I’m not the target for this movie, but for those of you who are, can you really tell me that this looks good to you? The last twenty seconds of the trailer is just Jason Mewes and Robert Picardo (both also cast for the sake of geek pandering) saying ‘motherf*cker’ a few times, and without any relationship to the plot -such as it is- from the previous minute and twenty seconds of trailer. IT’S SPOSED TO BE FUNNY CUZ THEY’RE SWEARING! I thought geeks were the dominant demographic these days; you poindexters can’t demand better from your entertainment? I love swearing and redheads as much as the next guy, but I like mine with a little subtlety and class. Just because they say ‘f*ck’ and have a ‘pretty’ girl doesn’t mean you have to give them your money. Respect yourselves as an audience and demand a higher quality product. At least demand some nudity from the cast. It can be tasteful; just a nipple here, maybe some bush there. Whatever that old Indian dude is willing to show us.
Jamie Kennedy stars in this comedy about an American who finds himself mistaken for a Turkish spy when he accidentally ends up in Armenia. There are bin Laden jokes in the trailer. As in, Kennedy’s character gets mistaken for him. This might be the embodiment of my cinematic hell. The knowledge that this film exists has filled me with a sensation that can only be called existential dread. After watching the trailer, I felt it necessary to write this haiku:
The bee stings but once;
Mortal, defiant action.
Yeah, I don’t know what it means either, but maybe we should all hold our loved ones a little closer tonight. After all, you never know if you’ll ever get to hold them again.