Starving the Feed

I am taking a break.

With the passing of my father, having the house for sale, and the fact that I prefer tending to my garden outside over watching movies inside - its time to take a break.

Thanks to all of my subscribers and readers. I hope you will return when I do.

Idiocracy (2006)

Should I see it?

Short Review: This is the kind of film I’d recommend, but I won’t be able to look you in the eye when I do it.

The premise of this movie is fantastic. It is centered around Joe Bauers (Luke Wilson), an average guy - actually he's the average guy. Joe is cryogenically frozen by the military and, thanks to some bad luck, wakes up five hundred years in the future where he finds that due to reverse Darwinism, stupid people have out bred the smart ones. Joe is the smartest person in the world. This is solid groundwork for a comedy.

Mike Judge (Beavis and Butthead) wrote and directed this movie and his sharp satirical talents are clearly visible. While this piece isn’t as comfortable or quotable as Judge’s cable TV staple Office Space, it has the same insight. In essence, this film is a full frontal attack on the stupidity of modern American culture. Judge, who has been mocking the idiocy of this culture for almost twenty years, is dead on with many of his salvos. The overall culture is in complete free fall. We have come to embrace the lowest parts of human nature as treasures by celebrating the inept over the helpful. We are taking climatological advice from dimwit actors and considering moral advice from comedians. Our “intellectual” class couldn’t be more useless as they battle against free thought and embrace groupthink concepts like political correctness. Heck, we’ve dipped so low as to allow for journalists to decide what’s important. Face it, when low life, do nothing journalists are considered vital members of society, you’re in trouble.

To water this down, Judge argues that our culture is little more than a bunch of brain dead zombies giggling at nutshots and farts. We're a culture obsessed with the dumb, obsessed with stuff like this:

Okay, that's pretty awesome so its not the best example. Honestly, I can watch this loop for hours. The reaction of the guy holding the pogo stick is priceless.

To put it another way, this movie is a poor man’s Children of Men, which is a haughty examination of how vacuous Western Civilization has become. While Children of Men is an insufferable mess that is so intent of being smart that it smothers itself, this film travels the exact opposite direction. It goes out of its way to mock our stupid natures by trading in a long line of scatological punch lines. The intelligence hidden in overall point gets a muddled by the litany of butt jokes. To be fair though, the butt jokes are pretty funny.

As a comedy, this film isn’t hilarious but does manage some good laughs. It starts out very strong and fizzles out by the final act. This is due to a lack of a viable villain for the hero Joe to confront. In essence, Joe Bauer is fighting against the whole stupid world. While this may work on paper, it doesn’t translate to the screen. Judge is forced by his final act to devolve into a distracting resolution that feels clunky and certainly isn’t funny – its barely even interesting. This said, the satirical points forwarded by this movie make up for the thin script and by the time the final act rolls around the film has made enough good moments to cover for its lousy resolution.

To sum up, this should have been a funnier film but it couldn’t be more pertinent. Judge makes some strikingly salient points about the condition of our culture but fails to balance them with his usual biting humor.

I will end by pointing out that the best way to enjoy this film is to watch it and then quickly make your way to the closest Wal-Mart. The similarities are creepy.

Cautions: The film has plenty of foul language and sexual references - just like you get when you hang around real life stupid people.

For fun, here are some commercials for the very real energy drink Brawndo. I think they do a good job of summing up the humor of this film.

Related Reviews:
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Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy (2004)
Henry Poole is Here (2008)

Other Critic's Reviews:
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Movie Trailer: Sherlock Holmes

I haven't read all of Sherlock Holmes, but I fail to remember the one where he's fighting like a ninja and being handcuffed naked to a bed.

So, we're making Sherlock Holmes into Tony Stark with an accent?

Jude Law is Watson.

What part of this isn't freaking idiotic?


Screenwriters: Michael Robert Johnson, Anthony Peckham and Simon Kinberg (Jumper)
Director: Guy Ritchie (Snatch)
Actors: Robert Downey Jr. (Iron Man), Rachel McAdams (Red Eye), Mark Strong (Body of Lies) and Jude Law (Sleuth)

Movie Trailer: Food Inc.

I couldn't agree more about clear labeling on food and the need for people to take what they consume more seriously.

Notice the trailer however. The fat headed Southern hick, the obtuse reference to Bush - oh, its the mean, dumb Southerners who are to blame. I guess all those corporate farms in California and upstate New York don't count. Dragging out the republicans as the ones keeping people from outing those poisoning our foodstuffs is childish. Democrats are on the take too. The truth is that no one in Washington is really fighting back.

My guess, this film brings up some very valid points but screws them by smothering it all in agenda-laden nonsense.

Director: Robert Kenner (Russia's Last Tzar)

Movie Trailer: The Goods: Live Hard, Sell Hard

This trailer actually made me laugh. Trailers rarely make me laugh. Ken Jeong's expression during the Pearl Harbor bit kills me.

Screenwriters: Andy Stock and Andy Stempson
Director: Neal Brennan
Actors: Ed Helms (The Hangover), Will Ferrell (Land of the Lost), Jeremy Piven (The Kingdom), Ving Rhames (Pulp Fiction) and David Koechner (Get Smart)

Movie Trailer: The Untouchables

Its worth the price of admission just to hear Sean Connery try to pronounce the word "booze".

Yes, its a corny flick but it is a darn good looking one and David Mamet's dialog is wonderful. It even makes Kevin Costner's "aw-shucks" turn as Elliot Ness bearable.

Screenwriters: David Mamet (Redbelt)
Brian De Palma (The Black Dahlia)
Actors: Kevin Costner (Dances with Wolves), Sean Connery (League of Extraordinary Gentlemen), Robert De Niro (Raging Bull), Andy Garcia (Things to Do in Denver When You're Dead) and Charles Martin Smith (Left Behind: World at War)

Lethal Weapon 4 (1998)

Should I see it?

Mel Gibson Lethal Weapon

This is the cinematic equivalent to eating left overs of left overs.

Instead of South Africans, Riggs (Mel Gibson) and Murtaugh (Danny Glover) battle Chinese Triads. Other than fighting Jet Li, the partners whine about getting old...well, actually Murtaugh always complained about being old but in this outing Riggs joins him. Chris Rock is thrown in as a over pronunciating soon to be son-in-law to Murtaugh and Riggs shack up girl Lorna (Rene Russo) is knocked up. That's about it. A bunch of characters who have been kept on life support being shoved into convienent plot twists. You get the feeling like you've watched a movie without really watching one.

Related Reviews:
Mel Gibson movies
Signs (2002)
The Patriot (1999)

Other Critic's Reviews:
Roger Ebert
Christian Spotlight on the Movies

Lethal Weapon 3 (1992)

Should I see it?

Mel Gibson Lethal Weapon

It's all of the stupid from the first two Lethal Weapon movies without any of the fun. The poster for the film pretty much says it all. It's a Hollywood-kinda-dumb, directed from the balance sheet, McMovie. Riggs and Murtaugh are back and this time there's a cop girlfriend accessory!

Violent and appealing to the lowest common denominator, this is utter pap and not worth the bother.

Related Reviews:
Mel Gibson movies
The Man Without a Face (1993)
What Women Want (2000)

Other Critic's Reviews:
Roger Ebert
Jester's Movie Reviews

Lethal Weapon 2 (1989)

Should I see it?

Mel Gibson Lethal Weapon

I don't recommend this because I wouldn't be able to look you in the eye if I did. Privately, I might pull you aside, shrug, and admit that its a fun movie - but whoa is it stupid, and it ain't going to do you any good.

Mel Gibson and Danny Glover return as Riggs and Murtaugh. The cops work to bring down a South African drug runners. The pair are also stuck protecting a Federal witness named Leo Getz (Joe Pesci). Getz is a hyperactive, grating little man. Pesci, with his high pitched voice, is perfectly cast as the irritant but also makes the character likable. This is notable given how abrasive the guy is.

This is an effective sequel to the original since it takes what made the first film work, the relationship between the characters, the instability of Riggs in particular, and the over-the-top cartoonish action sequences and kicks it all up one more notch. The use of the South Africans as the villains played into the political events in that country at the time. You will also note other social marketing plots "We're boycotting tuna now, honey." All of the social marketing slips by easily as the amusement ride aspect of the film takes over.

Ultimately, I can't recommend the film because its really not that well done. Its a big, flashy piece of crap. But like the original, it is fun. There's plenty of rough language and violence, so those who are sensitive should take note. For the average, jaded audience member, you probably have already seen this one, if not you will most likely find it to be enjoyable in the same way getting a sleeve of fries from McDonalds can be a pleasure.

Related Reviews:
Mel Gibson movies
Million Dollar Hotel (2000)
The Patriot (1999)

Other Critic's Reviews:
Roger Ebert
eFilm Critic

Lethal Weapon (1987)

Should I see it?

Screenwriting legend Shane Black's first big gig. This fat, stupid movie about self-destructive white cop Martin Riggs (Mel Gibson) and his beleaguered black partner Roger Murtaugh (Danny Glover) is a vacuous, ridiculous waste of time - but still a fun way to waste it.

The film is an amoral carnival ride of stupid. Not a second of the film makes sense, its completely out of the realm of the possible and ultimately we're all along to have our brains tickled for ninety minutes. Black manages to manipulate all matter of elements into his film to elicit visceral responses. The film opens with a sexy whore dying, Riggs makes light of suicide, plenty of references to Vietnam, there's a silly bit about Riggs being an expert sniper (if he's a sniper then why isn't he on S.W.A.T.?) and carefully crafted scenes with Murtaugh's Cosby-lite family. All of this mashed together with a intruding saxophone soundtrack that may as well been loud fart noises. It's all so obtuse and it's all so dumb.

Gibson was a known actor prior to his turn as Riggs, having found success in the Mad Max films. It was his energetic performance launched him to wider fame. Gibson's wild-eye Riggs makes psychotic suicidal tenancies approachable and funny and gave him a place to showcase his natural humor and charm. Gibson turned a buddy film into a star vehicle.

This is a fun movie, there is no taking that away. It is also an utter waste of time and a obscenely moronic. Shane Black is a great screenwriter. He can take something idiotic and revel in the depths of its stupidity and pull out something that makes you not care that you're being presented vapid. This is not a small feat. Black makes crap, but it is impressive crap.

Related Reviews:
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Signs (2002)
What Women Want (2000)

Other Critic's Reviews:
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The Washington Post

Movie Trailer: The Last International Playboy

So, a black hole of a human being learns to love? Perhaps its just the way the trailer is cut but I loathe the lead character enough just from what I see here that I want to avoid the movie altogether.

If watching an STD infested, morally retarded man-child who drinks too much attempt to ruin a wedding is your thing, knock yourself out. Me? I've had enough with the loser as hero flicks.


Screenwriters: Steve Clark and Thomas Moffett
Director: Steve Clark
Actors: Jason Behr (The Grudge), Monet Mazur (The House Bunny), Krysten Ritter (27 Dresses) and Lucy Gordon (Spider-Man 3)

Up (2009)

Should I see it?
A weak yes.

Short Review: It's called Up but the plot never takes off.

It appears that Pixar’s quiver is just about empty. I’ve been praising Pixar for a long time and see them as one of the most consistent and reliable shops in business. Something that has always impressed me about Pixar’s films is how realized they all have been. From the carefully crafted scripts to the detailed visual designs, each outing up to this point has been worthy of the praise it has received. This film makes me worried that they have finally run out of ideas.

Like most other Pixar films, this movie centers on a journey. In this case, we are following Carl, an old man who straps balloons on to his house and flies away to a idyllic land in South America. He does this to fulfill the lifelong dream of his deceased wife Ellie. The set up for this works wonderfully and plays into the strengths of the story. Carl is a curmudgeon but we know he is a softy at heart. He remains in his home despite the developers and construction workers laboring literally right outside his door. Carl does his best to protect his home and by extension his memories of Ellie. This conflict works and is interesting, but it is a brief sideshow. In a moment of desperation mixed with inspiration, Carl hooks his house up to the balloons and he floats away in his house. This kills the conflict with the developer and sends the whole production down a dead end. The movie effectively ends at this point and it lingers on with no central conflict. XXX lands in South America and finds a villain that puts him in peril but the conflict is forced and illogical. It is there so Carl has something to do. Heck, the entire second half of the movie is there so Carl has something to do. There's no continual conflict from the beginning of the film to the end. This leads to a broken focus and a meandering storyline.

This is easily the weakest of all Pixar movies, including A Bug’s Life and Toy Story 2. This is a Pixar short stretched out to meet a longer running time.

The film isn't a complete loss. The visuals are pleasant to watch and there are moments that work. In particular the opening. The realtionship between Carl and Ellie is condensed into a tight review that is one of the best character summaries I've seen. It is truly moving.

I don’t recommend this film if you’re going because you trust Pixar. Its just not that good. If you’re going to entertain the kids, then this will work. It probably won’t be a huge hit with the kids but it should keep them quiet for a while.

Related Reviews:
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Cars (2006)
The Incredibles (2004)

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Movie Quote: Dumb & Dumber (1994)

What are the chances of a guy like you and a girl like me... ending up together?

Well, that's pretty difficult to say.

Hit me with it! I've come a long way to see you, Mary. The least you can do is level with me. What are my chances?

Not good.

You mean, not good like one out of a hundred?

I'd say more like one out of a million.


So you're telling me there's a chance.

Non-Film Related Post of the Day: Letterman

David Letterman is issuing a full apology to Sarah Palin and her daughters. Unlike many public apologies, he actually takes responsibility and is rather straight forward. There's people still protesting and calling for him to be fired.

He didn't intend to slur the underage daughter Willow. He was mocking the older daughter Bristol who is a public figure ever since she began advocating abstinence. He was low for going after her in my book because he's attacking a single-mom unprompted. This said, he did apologize.

Can this be over now?

Movie Trailer: Død snø "Dead Snow"

Even with my love for all things zombie, I still have my standards.

This doesn't meet those standards.

Something tells me Tommy Wirkola has a picture of Uwe Boll hanging somewhere in his office.

Screenwriters: Stig Frode Henriksen and Tommy Wirkola
Director: Tommy Wirkola
Actors: Charlotte Frogner, Ørjan Gamst, Stig Frode Henriksen and Vegar Hoel

Movie Trailer: The Twilight Saga: New Moon


So the series turns into a teenage girl version of Underworld?

Haven't read the books, don't care to. Primarily because I can read. I assume most of the audience has to have the books read to them. I get the concept, the chick falls in love with a vampire.

So, has anyone explained how its cool that since the vampire is undead that the girl is technically a necrophiliac?

Screenwriter: Melissa Rosenberg (Twilight)
Director: Chris Weitz (The Golden Compass)
Actors: Kristen Stewart (Adventureland), Robert Pattinson (Little Ashes), Taylor Lautner (Cheaper by the Dozen 2) and Ashley Greene (King of California)

Movie Trailer: Post Grad

Wealthy young woman gets out of college and has trouble finding work - BUT HEAVEN FORBID SHE STOOP TO WORKING TO SUPPORT HERSELF WHILE SHE FIND A BETTER OPTION.

Advice for the main character, you want to stay away from the sensitive lawyer guy who sings songs on his acoustic guitar - he's what is what is often referred to as a "douche bag."

Return to the movie trailers page

Screenwriter: Kelly Fremon
Director: Vicki Jensen (Shark Tale)
Actors: Alexis Bledel (Sin City) , Jane Lynch (For You Consideration), Michael Keaton (White Noise), Rodrigo Santoro (Redbelt) and Carol Burnett (Horton Hears a Who!)

Movie Trailer: The Answer Man

It looks like another film proposing soft nihilism. Life is meaningless, you're a cosmic mistake, but hey, try to be nice to each other and enjoy your vacuous existence just the same.

If this film does have some depth, the trailer does a good job of hiding it. The ad just makes it look like a reheated As Good As it Gets.

Screenwriter: John Hindman
Director: John Hindman
Actors: Jeff Daniels (The Crossing) and Lauren Graham (Evan Almighty)

Paycheck (2003)

Should I see it?
Not even on a dare.

Short Review:
This film is so horrible it’s given me post-stress disorder.

This movie was apparently made on a bet. I can’t believe sober adults came into this production with the intent of making a good movie. If John Woo keeps making poop cakes like this disaster he should be forcefully deported back to China. Let him dumb down their culture, why do we need to take the hit?

I usually try to find something I like in a film. With this waste, I honestly think I liked the ending credits best. They gave me a comprehensive list of people whose work I should avoid. That is a great service and I appreciate it.

Related Reviews:
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Hollywoodland (2006)
Armageddon (1998)

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Comment of the Day: God Prefer Judgment - In Particular JUDGING YOU, VILE SINNER

Normally, I get kicked in the knees by foul heathen trolls snitting and snorting about this and that. Today, I received a delightful blurb from a Christian reacting to my review to Gran Torino.

You know its going to be a long day when you wake up and find a comment waiting to be moderated by someone who goes by the name of GOD PREFERS JUDGMENT. You read that handle and you know you're in for something. Here is GPJ's comment:

"I have not used your service much but I always liked your frank answers on what we should or should not see, but today, as I looked for what you might recommend, I found out, not only are you no different then the rest of the "Christian" reviewers, you are in fact, (Because of this one review,) THE WORST! Like ALL other “Christian” reviewers, you have decided the one and easiest thing of God’s heart He asks us to follow, is not necessary, which only makes the rest of God’s Heart even more unimportant to today's apostate Christian majority.

From what we gather from other reviewers who seem to "like" this filth, there are some TWENTY PLUS disrespectful, God hating, worldly mockeries of Jesus’ name, along with six plus uses of God “damning” people and other things. (Even by a perverted imitation of a hollywood priest.)Despite that, most reviewers stopped trying to count the use of the F word after FIFTY and guess it was about 75. All in all, the Christians you send to this filth will hear on average 3 filth's per minute. Great food for all those spiritless Christians?

Despite all that, your idea that Christians should spend money to see how bad the world has become is yet another atrocity to the Kingdom. How about (instead) you simply tell them to go to their nearest city and watch the naked perverts sodomize each other in the streets, (LEGALLY) during one of their Pride Parades. They might even be treated by witnessing IDIOT parents who bring their children to see this abomination. THAT might begin to wake people up and force them to face the fact, THEY ARE LOSING THE BATTLE WHILE sitting on their collective rear-ends playing the sickening “tolerant Christian, while their children and grandchildren are recruited by the sodomite agenda and DIE of AIDS. GOOD NEWS? I don’t think so!

We research this filth, and YES CHRISTIAN, before your children and grandchildren are RECRUITED and KILLED by the sodomites; IT'S TIME TO GET ANGRY AND FIGHT BACK!"

Uh...fight back? We really need to define exactly what you mean by fight back.

Wow, this review of mine must really suck. Its so bad its erased all of the good I've otherwise done. That's one crappy review!

In regards to the language, I didn't go in with a clipboard and start counting the foul remarks. They are there, that's for sure. The use of g-damn and using Jesus' name in vein is a part of the dialog of the film. Should I warn people of these usages? Probably. Then again, I figured R-Rating may be a tip off that there's questionable material displayed. The use of cursing is in context, these people would use it in real life and while I find it unfortunate it is used here, it is realistic. I also don't expect non-Christian film makers* to adhere to Biblical laws. My viewing someone using curse words isn't sinful. Its not sinful for me to recommend the film either given that I believe it will not lead anyone towards anything disruptive. Under GPJ's logic Christians shouldn't approve of Shakespeare, Hitchcock, Spielberg or other artists who have produced works that are not in line with strict Biblical teaching. Now, one can argue that using the Lord's name in vein is a big issue given that its one of those Commandments and everything. True. Which is why I try not to use the phrases myself and expect my Christian brothers and sisters to refrain as well.

Where GPJ loses me is equating seeing this film with having children view men having anal sex in public. I like hyperbole as much as the next guy but methinks you've stepped out a tad too far with this one. You're nailing me on the whole g-damn thing and then you veer off into the gay guys giving kids A.I.D.S. and we're all going to hell in a hand basket because I liked a movie. I'm guessing you're not the kind of person who is fun to take along on long road trips.

"your idea that Christians should spend money to see how bad the world has become" Good point, because the Bible doesn't refer to hardships, personal issues and the difficulty of living in a fallen world.

I can't believe you think the portrayal of Father Janovich was offensive. He was perfectly drawn and Christopher Carley executed the role flawlessly. Father Janovich was patient, persistent and helpful - in other words, he was what all religious leaders should be. He's not perfect and the film shows that, but he is also shown in a respectable light. It has been a very long time since a religious leader has been given an accurate portrayal in film. I'm not sure what you're expecting. But from your comment it would seem you're wanting film to present the world and its inhabitants in some idealized light that has nothing to do with reality.

In closing, I'll repeat my opinion that Gran Torino is a fantastic and moving film. God gave humans the ability to create, to explore and discuss the world that has been made for us. Eastwood's film gives one of the most intelligent and poignant portrayals of race relations in this country in decades. His artistry with this film has not received nearly enough praise and I honestly believe it is worthy of being viewed by any adult. Will there be people who won't like the film for various reasons? Yes. But for the most part I think people will find this to be an enjoyable and more importantly a truthful film.

By the way GPJ, God does not prefer judgment - he prefers obedience. He also prefers love. God is love. Instead of wallowing in anger, why not try extending forgiveness and love? "Fighting back" is a worldly response - showing patience and love and guiding people to the Lord is the proper course.

* - I have no idea what Eastwood's theological viewpoint is. For all I know he's in line to be the Pope.

Paul Blart: Mall Cop (2009)

Should I see it?

Short Review: A bloated wanna-be finds himself in the center of a serious situation - so, its a bit like the story of Richard Jewell sans the porn and media malpractice.

Paul Blart

Kevin James is a one-trick pony, but that trick is pretty good. He is expert at portraying lovable, bloated losers. In this puffy Twinkie of a movie, he plays Paul Blart, an overly zealous mall cop who makes up for the vast deficiencies in his private life by overemphasizing his importance on the job. The movie is paint-by-the-numbers and the plot offers no inventiveness whatsoever. Paul is a chubby dolt with a Cliff Clavin-esque sense of occupational pride. Paul pines for the pretty girl who works at the mall and has a pen salesman as a rival. His moment to shine comes when the mall is invaded by a gang of multicultural thieves who take hostages. Paul is left inside with the hostages as the sole defender of the peace. In other words, we get Chris Farley meets Die Hard.

This isn't a bad film, but its certainly not a good one. A cheesy star-vehicle like this can only aspire to not being utter crap. With that goal, this film succeeds. James is a charismatic lead and his likability easily carries the movie until the final act. James is able to humor the audience for a while, but eventually his charm fades and we're left sitting through the resolution of a rather lame script.

For a time-waster, this isn't half bad and will amuse most audiences. As a piece of comedic art, it is lacking and should be dismissed. This is a cinematic trinket that has no value beyond its immediate use. This said, it is a good "family movie" since it promotes positive values and avoids dipping into filthy humor.

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Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story (2004)

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Drag Me to Hell (2009)

Should I see it?
You have to ask?

Short Review: Drag me to hell, just don't drag me to this movie.

Is this film is as good as Sam Raimi's Evil Dead films? Nope. Its not even close. Raimi goes back to his schlock horror movie roots with this straight forward horror story about a young woman who gets cursed by a gypsy and is then tormented by a demon on a mission to take her to Hades. There's hints of his humor, moments of his inventiveness, but its clear the youthful spark is missing. This is more of an ode to his earlier films rather than an addition to them. It is too clean and careful where his early films were kinetic.

Another deficieny is the lead. The Evil Dead movies largely succeeded because of the mixture of Raimi and his lead Bruce Campbell. Campbell's genius for camp combined with Raimi's quirky style worked beautifully. Here, Raimi's lead Alison Lohman (Matchstick Men) is too plain to add anything to the proceedings. While she looks the part of a country girl trying to make it in the big city, Lohman seems out of place with the humor. It is as if she wasn't in on the joke. Where Campbell could carry a scene with a well executed smirk, Lohman is doe-eyed and flat.

Looking at this divorced from Raimi's history, it still doesn't mount up to much. The story is simple and strong but Raimi doesn't take it as far enough. Its not scary enough to be a useful horror movie and its not funny enough to be a comedy. Since there's no other purpose for making a movie like this, we've run out of reasons to see it.

Related Reviews:
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Scream (1996)
The Shining (1980)

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Movie Quote: Office Space (1991)

Bob Porter
Looks like you've been missing a lot of work lately.

Peter Gibbons
I wouldn't say I've been "missing" it, Bob.

Miracle at St. Anna (2009)

Should I see it?

Short Review: The only miracle here is if you make it all the way though without yawning.

Spike Lee is a moderate talent who is given to moments of inspiration wedged into films swamped with misplaced righteousness and flagrant racism. He is no where as good as people want him to be. He's made one notable film, Do the Right Thing. The rest of his resume is little more than a list of disappointing could-have-beens. This isn't to say he's not important. Despite his blunt style and continual mishandling of simple narratives, for better or worse, and I think worse, he is the default voice of black American cinema.

One of Lee's biggest problems is that he seems overly concerned with making sure he makes a statement. He never just lets his stories do their work, his heavy hand is always visable, forcing the issues. He's the kind of guy who would do a remake of the Care Bears Movie and turn it into an allegory on how white make neo-cons are twarting black male happiness and freedom. He makes Oliver Stone seem nonjudgmental.

To be fair, Lee has a sharp eye for racist stereotyping in film, such as his view on the "Magic Negro" character. This is a lowly black who has some special wisdom or magical ability which is employed by the white hero. Examples of this character are plentiful such as the Oracle in The Matrix, Tia Dalma in Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest or the Blind Seer in O Brother Where Art Thou? Its racist because the otherworldly is personified in a lowly black character which suggests that blacks themselves are outside of the normal world. It also places them in a subservient position to the white hero who uses them and then discards the relationship when convenient. You can see this character be used with Asian stereotypes as well. The problem with Lee is that he reverts to racist characterizations himself. Watch one of his films and you'll spot the Seething Cracker before too long. The Seething Cracker is the dim witted white man who throws out racist bile even when its against his own good to do so. He will spit out words like "boy" and "nigger" without thinking and treat his black co-horts like he's commanding over unruly dogs. The black characters then retaliate either by usurping the evil whitey in secret (one character spits in another man's water bottle in this film) or by threatening him into submission. This whole presentation is a strange tradition in many films from African-American directors. It is as if black characters aren't allowed to be considered fully heroic until after they put some white guy in his place. Black heroes often aren't allowed to be heroic on their own, they have to be heroic in the framework of white racism. Lee may cry foul over racist depictions in film but retaliating by intentionally populating your own works with equally racist caricature is just as bad.

I suppose I should talk about the film.

The movie follows the black "Buffalo Soldiers" in Italy during World War II. The group of soldiers survives a devastating German assault. They hide out in a small village where they meet up with a group of partisans. As the Germans close in, the soldiers befriend a small boy and a local woman. Infighting ensues over the woman and the aforementioned Seething Cracker officer back at HQ who demands the soldiers capture a German for questioning.

The story isn't well told, it takes too long to set up and by the time all of the tumblers are in place it becomes apparent the stakes aren't high enough. The film builds to support a high climax but there's nothing there in the end. Its a letdown, and more importantly, a bore. I'll say it again, Spike Lee is a moderate talent. He lacks a gift for visual style and relies too heavily on social commentary (in particular since his commentary shows he's little more than a black Archie Bunker.) If you're looking for a quality war film you will need to look elsewhere. This is a distracted work that never develops into what should be a fascinating film. Honestly, the most interesting thing about this movie is that Lee is actually succeeds at making World War II boring. Amazing.

Related Reviews:
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Saving Private Ryan (1998)
Sands of Iwo Jima (1949)

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Combustible Celluloid
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