Tyson (2008)

Should I see it?

I won't pretend to know the first thing about boxing. To me, it is nothing more than gladiatorial lunks pummeling one another for profit. I see no art, no finesse, no inherent worth. In other words, I have no reason to find any interest in this documentary about the career of boxer/media punching bag Mike Tyson. It is interesting however. Tyson, for all of his ominous reveals himself to be a broken, essentially scared man.

As far as portraits are concerned, this documentary does well to show its subject, warts and all. Tyson is a bad guy, but he is at least willing to acknowledge his sins. He manages to present himself as sympathetic while admitting his troubled nature and shameful path.

This is far from a balanced film, but it does offer some insight into the all-too-common duality of the abused becoming the abuser. I think his openness and seeing how his weaknesses has themselves in his behavior is the film's hook.

If you are interested in the film, chances are you will find it compelling enough to track it down. If you're on the fence, this is a good portrait, but not a masterful one. If you skip it, you won't be missing anything. If you pick it up, you won't regret it.

Armageddon (1998)

Reviewer: Scott Nehring

Armaggedon movie reviewShould I see it?
Yes. I say that while not looking you in the eye.

Short Review: It turns the stupidity up to 11 and keeps it there.

Director: Michael Bay
Written by: Jonathan Hensleigh and JJ Abrams
Starring: Bruce Willis, Ben Affleck, Billy Bob Thornton, LivTyler, Owen Wilson, Steve Buscemi, Michael Clarke Duncan, Peter Stormare and William Finctner

Rated PG-13 for sensuality and language.

Buy or Rent This Movie HereArmaggedon movie review

Michael Bay is the Spielberg of crap. and this loud, brainless Mountain Dew commercial with a narrative is his masterwork.

The plot of this wasteful, culture-killer is simple, a big rock is going to crush Earth so in response, America sends up Bruce Willis to blow it up with nuclear bombs because...well, just because it sounds awesome, that's why.

It isn’t that the film is stupid, of course its stupid - it a film starring Bruce Willis and Ben Affleck directed by Michael Bay and written by JJ Abrams, it has stupid in its DNA. The fact that this is dumb doesn't mean much. The number of truly brain dead movies is legion. This movie is a momentous achievement because of the its ability to sustain its stupidity for the duration of its run time and does so at an extreme level. From the moment the lights dim to the second the credits thankfully begin to roll, the audience is assaulted with an unyielding dumb, a thought-smothering blanket of idiocy so thick that it can cover any struggle for logic. Michael Bay has managed to develop a redefinition of the moronic. From the plot to the dialog, every aspect of the script manages to avoid any not being completely dunderheaded.

Here is the kicker, despite the idiocy of every frame, this is a fun movie. It asks nothing from the audience but gives a lot of flashy lights and numerous moments of peril in return. The reason the film works is thanks to the two-dimensional character writing skills of JJ Abrams. He pens a gaggle of impressively thin characters and then Bay cast these shells with solid character actors to bring them to half-life. There's the cranky blue-collar dad (Willis), the virginal princess daughter (Liv Tyler), her handsome young buck (Ben Affleck), the down-to-earth sidekick (Will Patton), the frenzied genius (Steve Buscemi) and let's not forget, the black friend (Michael Clarke Duncan), tossed in for good measure. Across the board, the cast is given an easy job, play to the low expectations and recite some snappy lines that really make no sense, even in context. Its a heck of a living these people make.

I could keep going on make unspecific attacks on the film but I think I've made my opinion clear. Allow me to sum this up and we'll all move our separate ways. To sum this up, it has Ben Affleck in it and it suits his skills.

Click on Bruce to see the trailer
(it has the same intellectual depth as the whole movie
so its a bit like seeing the real thing)
Armageddon movie trailer

Related Reviews:
Scott Nehring Good News Film ReviewsBruce Willis movies
RED (2010)
12 Monkeys (1995)

Scott Nehring Good News Film Reviews

Girl 27 (2007)

Should I see it?
Sure. But only if you love feeling miserable.

With the news of confessed rapist Roman Polanski being arrested for his drugging and raping a 13 year-old - let me say that again so all of you Polanski defenders can get that through your amoral, thick skulls, DRUGGING AND RAPING A 13 YEAR-OLD - again, 13, not even old enough to go see one of his movies in the theater by herself.

I'm already off subject...let's start this again.

With the news of confessed rapist Roman Polanski being arrested for his drugging and raping a 13 year-old...

You know what? If you are defending this guy you really, really, need to reconsider the moral framework by which you run your life. Don't give me this nonsense about the judge or this crap about how it was so long ago, the woman has forgiven him - He was a forty year old man. He knew she was 13 - she wasn't a teenager for more than a few months. He intentionally offered her a part of a barbiturate and some alcohol. He intentionally forced himself sexually on her. Tell you what, if you're still not sure check out the Polanski plea agreement.

That done, let's start this again.

This is a riveting documentary about the rape of an underage dancing girl in 1930's Hollywood. Back in the studio era, it was commonplace to have teenage girls brought in to dance for various productions. In one case, the production was actually a party for the MGM sales force on Hal Roach's secluded lot. At said party one of the girls, Patricia Douglas, was raped by one of the salesmen. The story initially received huge press but was then squashed by the studio. Over the decades, the horrific story was forgotten.

David Stenn has done a great job of reviving this scandal in a thoughtful manner. He doesn't exploit the lurid details and handles the subject with care. He gets Douglas to come out of hiding to discuss the crime and cover-up that appears to have ruined her life. To hear her discuss the awful events is heart wrenching, yet compelling.

This may seem to be just another cheap true-crime documentary made to tickle the interest of the audience and move on. Stenn offers something more however, particularly in light of recent national scandals. The studio setting up the circumstances for the rape to occur and the rape itself aren't the whole story. It is the cover up, the way the studio was able to make this "problem" disappear so completely is what really makes this film notable. Douglas' rape is horrible, and I do not mean to diminish her pain. But it is her second rape, the publicity raping she receives that is the broader crime shown here. The film also does a fantastic job of explaining how society viewed women and female sexuality at the time and how those social mores were employed to put this story to rest.

The powerful influence of those who control media, who therefore control the message, is on display in this film and make this required viewing if you have any compulsion to believe the defenders of Polanski. When you hear people defending something in the media, it is important to stop and take a serious look at what they are actually defending, and why.

Related Reviews:
Other documentaries
Dear Zachary: A Letter to a Son About His Father (2008)
The Heart of Texas (2008)

Other Critic's Reviews:
Los Angeles Times
DVD Verdict

Movie Trailer: The Invention of Lying

It has Ricky Gervais, Louis C.K. (the best stand-up comic working) and Jennifer Garner - how could this stink?

Well, probably pretty easily. Let's see, the hook is simple enough, in a universe where everyone always tells the truth one man (Gervais) invents lying. This means the film is structurally about morality. Is lying wrong? When it is acceptable to lie? So on and so forth. Looking at the cast list, looking at the folks who developed the film, considering the film industry's track record on making definitive moral statements, I'm left thinking this probably isn't going to leave audiences with a good message.

But that's me. I could be wrong.*

Word is that there is a deep anti-religious message waiting for audiences at the end of the film. You know, cuz religion is all a lie - get it? Sure. You know, cuz a bunch of film makers and actors say so, cuz they got it all figured out. I know when I have complex metaphyscial questions I confer the closest actor, because someone who spends their life pretending to be other people is always a reliable choice.

Let's do a quick unpacking of their proposal. If religion is a lie and by extension God Himself is a lie, then the universe is a soup of random, nonsensical reactions with no inherent worth beyond the whimsical meanings we place on things. Therefore, all understanding is a matter of perspective rooted in our temporary perspectives. So, the concepts of telling the truth and lying are irrelevant given that there is no such thing as actual truth or actual falsehood. Since this is the case, Gervais and company have no grounds to attack my belief in God. Their non-belief negates their standing to have a voice given that their belief negates the relevance of their voice. If I believe in God, and there is no God, your contention that I'm wrong is meaningless since in your truthless universe my stating there is a God is as valid as you saying He's not there. So, shut up. Have a nice day.

Screenwriters: Ricky Gervais and Matthew Robinson
Directors: Ricky Gervais and Matthew Robinson
Actors: Jonah Hill (Superbad), Jennifer Garner (13 Going on 30), Jason Bateman (Smokin’ Aces), Tina Fey (Mean Girls), Patrick Stewart (Jeffrey), Jeffrey Tambor (The Hangover), Ricky Gervais (Ghost Town), Louis C.K., and Christopher Guest (This is Spinal Tap)

* - I'm not wrong.

...as I was saying

I am back. My first post back? All about me. Me, me, me, more me now.

Thank you to everyone who wrote letting me know what you missed my site. I will begin posting once again this week. Starting out I probably won't do too much as I get back into the swing of things and reestablish my routine. If I know myself however, I will have multiple posts up before too long.

As I begin rebuilding my post schedule and how I do things around here, I would like to ask my remaining readers for their input. What would you like to see on the site (other than proper grammar)? More reviews? More trailers? More film news? Commentary? Do you want the Carnival of Cinema back? Leave a comment or email me at carnvialofcinema (at sign) gmail dot com

This summer has been very productive. I have spent lots of time with my wife and kids (celebrating my 18th wedding anniversary tomorrow). I worked on my garden and had a huge harvest. I also managed to finish up my book. It has been a mostly relaxing time and I am very happy I decided to back away for a while.

Regarding the book, I am putting the final touches on things right now and expect a release in early January (we'll see). It is titled You Are What You See: Watching Film Through a Christian Lens and it offers a Biblical approach to movies and makes the argument not for cultural engagement by Christians, but for cultural renovation. I will give more news as I have it on the book front. I do know I will be starting up a new site http://www.youarewhatyousee.com and will have some other things I will be doing to to support the book. If you know of anyone who is any good at setting sites up and works cheap, let me know (email above).

Again, thanks to everyone for their kind words and messages encouraging me to return over the past few months. I do appreciate them.

Now, on with the bad grammar and under-educated cynicism
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