Tuesday, January 22, 2008


He was brilliant.

Nat's Movie Cringe-Worthiness Scale

After wasting two hours of my life at this movie yesterday (but the kiddo loved it!), I've decided to formulate a new movie Cringe-Worthiness Scale. Of course, it will be a work in progress, and I'll cross-post at my own blog.

For starters, each of the following factors will be considered cringe-worthy:

1. Jason Lee starring in anything besides a Kevin Smith movie or in My Name Is Earl.

2. The use of lame montage sequences.

3. Live-action films with CG characters, especially cutesy rodents, that aren't from Disney and/or Pixar.

4. The soundtrack is better than the film.

5. Big Corporation Head is a lying, scheming jerk.

6. Biggest laughs are fart jokes.

We're off with a bang, considering Alvin And the Chipmunks is off the scale in each category:

1. You know, Jason Lee showed so much promise as a comedic leading guy in Mallrats. Sure, he was a prick, but you loved him anyway, kind of his portrayal of Earl on TV. In Alvin, he seems to try to rise above the material, but, let's face it, that's impossible.

The Chipmunks got famous! Here's a montage to prove it!
2. Montage sequences? I counted three, including one within the first 5 minutes of the movie. LAME!

Jason Lee sleeps with the rodents.

3. Combining live action and CG or traditional animation rarely works for me, but at least when Disney/Pixar is involved, it's creative and funny. These little rodents were just plain cloyingly annoying.

4. The soundtrack sucked, but it was still better than the film.

5. We get it already, movie makers! When little guy vs. Big Corporation, Big Corporation is always evil and Big Corporate Head is a dick. In this case, Big Corporate Head was phoned in by David Cross. I respect that, though, since he always admits he does this lame crap for the money. Still, he sucked in the movie. Very flat acting.

6. And, finally, fart jokes. I appreciate a good fart joke. Hell, one of my favorite movie lines is "I fart in your general direction." And the bean-eatin' scene in Blazing Saddles is classic! But, face it, fart jokes get overused. We have a new low here, with a chipmunk fart. How cute! Oh, puh-lease.

And so, friends, Alvin And The Chipmunks is my first 10 on the new cringeworthy scale! Congrats, Alvin and company!

You can use this handy little tool before you even hit the theater, too, to get the biggest bang from your movie-going bucks!

Remember, it's a work in progress, and I'll consider other cringe-worthy suggestions.
Note: Photos are from my crappy cell-phone camera. No worries, I didn't record the movie or anything like that guy did in Seinfeld.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Countdown to March Movie Madness

One month, 11 days.

This year, 64 of the greatest comedies of all time duke it out for the coveted title: Film Freaks' Best

Scoring system has been completely revamped. Details to come. But you'll love it.

Get ready!

Friday, January 18, 2008

"A comedy about growing up
...and the bumps along the way"

Going to see tonight. Heard super good things. Hope it lives up!

Monday, January 7, 2008

The Water Horse: Legend Of The Deep

I have a 10-year-old son who begs to go to every kid movie that he sees advertised on TV. Most of them are crap, and in 2007, I got dragged to see films I'd never even watch when they arrive on HBO or Showtime. (In 2007, they included Underdog, The Seeker: The Dark Is Rising, and Firehouse Dog.) I was thrilled with Ratatouille and Enchanted, so sometimes I get surprised.

The Water Horse is one of those rare films aimed at the younger set that I actually liked. I'll break it down a little:

Acting: Good, especially Alex Atel as Angus, Ben Chaplin as Mr. Mowbray, and Brian Cox as The Narrator (he's always damn good anyway, even with a heavy Scottish accent.)

Effects: The water horse emerges from his egg looking nearly real and remains that way as he grows into a very large monster in the loch.

Story: Fairly believable and totally enjoyable. I had a tiny quibble with the WWII Brit. troops on the watch for German uboats as the "bad guys," and the end was predictable, since it's a kid movie. My husband even leaned over to me and said "Free Willy!" right before Crusoe (the water horse) jumped. Yes, you can see that coming a mile away.

Cinematography: Beautiful wide shots of Scottish coastline are impressive.

Friday, January 4, 2008

Jesus Camp

Say what you like about vacuously hip exercises in emptiness like Babel, at least they don't threaten to make society unliveable for free-thinkers. That's the job of extremist fundamentalists of whatever stripe, in America represented by right-wing Christians or the sort portrayed in Jesus Camp, a documentary which looks at a Pentecostalist crusade to fire up children with the right sort of theocratic and political views.

The film was shown on A&E at the end of 2007, I learn, but it's been available on Google Video for months. I got around to it last night, and made it about 20 minutes in before I had to stop. I'm sorry, it's just too disturbing.

It's not that the views held by these people are overly wacky. They're not especially. It's amusing, for instance, to hear American Christians guffaw about the 72 virgins in Heaven thing, all the while wholeheartedly believing the world was made 6000 years ago, or that man and dinosaurs both boarded the Ark. Clearly, nutcase beliefs are not the exclusive province of one religion or the other (do Christians who mock Scientologists even realise how nutty their own space-cadet ideas sound to outsiders?).

What's scary about Jesus Camp is the very real possibility that such people could get close enough to real power to touch the hem of its garment. As I write this, Mike Hucksterbee has won some kind of caucus to put him on the road to the presidency. All right, it may not happen this time. But this is a death-cult which worships a man who was nailed to a tree. If you cut them in half they grow back twice as strong. They will keep fighting. Look at the glint in some of those eyes. This movement is something to fear.


I sat through the two hours of this 2006 film on DVD knowing my life was seeping away from me never to return, but sweet merciful sleep would not come, and I didn't do the obvious thing and turn it off. So I suppose I only have myself to blame.

I'd been attracted by the trailer, like a fool, because it seemed somewhat similar in feel to Steven Soderbergh's Traffik, in having a multiple POV and being filmed asynchronously in different places.

Not a bit of it. Traffik was cohesive in narration and there was a point to showing the various POVs. This film, on the other hand, only has a single narrative strand: boys given gun to guard goats loose off a shot in the desert that actually hits someone. That random act has two consequences, one immediate and one delayed, which takes place elsewhere. But it's all very plodding and literal. And there's never at any moment the feeling that these events have a wider meaning.

And excuse me, but WTF is the significance of the Japanese segment? Aside from getting a schoolgirl out of her clothes (the actress is in her twenties, but still) what was the point?

Babel was made by Alejandro Gonzáles Iñárritu, and it's also the dullest film I've ever looked at. Though shot in Japan, Mexico, the US and Morocco, it offers not a single arresting image. The characters are cyphers, not real people. Even although it's two hours of unremitting misery (the Mexican band is cheerful enough, but you're waiting for one of them to be murdered at any moment, as I believe is current on the Mexican music scene these days) there's no reason to be particularly troubled: I hadn't been given a reason to care about any of them, though I suppose the children acted well.

Despite that, the film won a slew of Oscar nominations (it won an Oscar and a Bafta for the score), as well as a nomination for the Palme d'Or at Cannes (Ken Loach actually won, which I think is actually French law) and a director's prize for Iñárritu at the same festival. I can only imagine they thought he was being mildly anti-American in portraying the US border guards as slightly unpleasant, and nobody else that year was being more overtly anti-American. In addition, it's all done in local languages, which must have delighted the jury.

We don't give out star ratings on this site, but that's not the reason I'm not giving Babel any.