Friday, June 27, 2008

Summer Blockbuster Movie Marathon Retrospective Extravaganza Netflix Festival!

With Adrienne out of the country I've been able to shift our communal Netflix queue to all the big, dumb, lowest common denominator movies that I've missed over the last couple of years. It's not that Adrienne doesn't share my love for movies of questionable taste, but for some reason she wasn't interested in seeing any of these iffy, big budget releases with me.

Plus, when she's in control of the queue we end up getting twelve depressing documentaries in a row about the plight of goat herders in Bangladesh and one can only take so much human suffering before they have to turn to mindless tales of transforming robots or 300 ft. monsters.

Here's my thoughts on the first batch of recent viewings:

Transformers - I was looking for a straight-up, no plot, all action movie with explosions and big fucking robots that transformed into cars and shit, but all I found was a pastiche of studio production notes smothering an already devitalized premise.

I can hear the studio executives now:

Can we make at least one of the Autobots more, you know, "street"?

Optimus Prime should have some flames painted on his sides to be more extreme; the kids like extreme. . .

I know that Bumblebee was a VW in the cartoon, but we got all this money from Chevy to pimp out their new Camaro, so. . .

We have to work a young, attractive girl who happens to be a computer hacker/nerd in the plot, it tested well with 18-30 year old males.
. .
That's the downfall of most of these big budget flicks, too many people with no clue having inputs on the production because they shelled out the big bucks.

I stopped paying attention about halfway through. I occasionally raised my head from behind my laptop to see what was going on, but I rarely kept watching for more than a few minutes at a time. It was actually pretty tedious to make through and I kept waiting for it to end. The dialogue was atrocious and there was way too many failed attempts at comedy.

I should have expected it from a Michael Bay movie, but I always seem to forget how awful he truly is since I only see one of his movies every three years or so. The overblown, turgid excess that plagues Hollywood suits him to a tee (and it's also what made him a millionaire, by the way, so take notes kids).

I was also reminded how crappy of a storyline the original cartoon had and it amazed me that it got made into a movie at all. I guess they were banking on no one actually remembering the plot from when they were kids. I certainly didn't, although I'm sure it didn't help that I watched the original cartoons in Italy, dubbed in Italian. Oh, and I was five years old and didn't really yearn for good character and plot development quite just yet.

The story goes something like this: rival shape-shifting robot gangs from outer space fight over some alien substance in order to rebuild something or other to regain control of their planet or the universe or something. Oh, and sexy, sweaty human teenagers get in on the action somewhere along the line. And Marines. And secret government agencies. And there's special glasses that see secret shit. And lots of product placement.

It was really a big waste of time and no one should have to watch it for any reason whatsoever. So, of course, the sequel will be out next year and it will certainly make a billion dollars on opening weekend.

Cloverfield - I had no expectations for this Godzilla-inspired, cinéma réalité, internet hype-machine of a movie, and that's probably why I enjoyed it so much.

Now, I must preface my review by saying that I love any story involving catastrophic events that force characters to rely on basic survival skills to make it through alive. Love that shit. It's why I liked Aliens, Predator, 28 Days Later, Dawn of the Dead, Children of Men, The Descent and countless others. I think we all unconsciously wish to be rocked out of our daily grinds by a cataclysmic, society-breaking event or plague that forces us to prioritize down to our basic survival skills. It's an innate primal instinct that will always reside in our reptilian brain and it's what really drives my interest in those movies; I fully embrace the survival mentality.

And personally, I can't wait for the day that we're all going to be pushed back to our original scavenging existence. Unfortunately, most of you won't make it, but it's a necessary sacrifice and maybe you should have been a little more keen on your personal fitness and vestigial wit.

You think I go running five days a week for fun? I'm just keeping prepared. I treat Survivorman and Man vs. Wild as instructional videos. And no matter where I go, I've always got an escape route worked out in my head, just in case. When the shit hits the fan, my friends, I'm gonna be okay. Will you?

The movie's premise is simple enough and doesn't try to do anything but present you with a first row seat to some really disastrous events caused by a 30 story high monster rampaging through the streets of New York City. There's no backstory, no intricate explanation on the monster's origins or how to defeat it or a convenient resolution. Just the fun stuff. I could have done away with the film's first fifteen minutes or so of character setup and romantic conflict and dove right in the destruction, but that's just me being a bit nitpicky.

The visuals are great. They're at times reminiscent of the brothers Jules and Gedeon Naudet documentary, 9/11, which was a powerful first person video witness account of the Twin Towers collapsing. I'm sure it was referenced to make the shots realistic, especially for documenting the chaos at the beginning of the onslaught. The shaky camera work made me glad that I saw it on my television instead of a nausea-inducing big screen, but it really wasn't too bad.

The open ended concept makes this movie tailor-made for a sequel documenting a different point of view on the events and I'm sure we'll see it soon enough since the movie was a success. Let's hope they don't take it overboard though.

Overall, it was entertaining and it satisfied my subverse hunger for wreckage and fulfilled my apocalyptic fantasies. If only it were true.

I Now Pronounce You Chuck And Larry - I haven't been interested in an Adam Sandler production since Billy Madison and Happy Gilmore but this one got my attention because the screenplay was written by Alexander Payne who also wrote and directed Election and Sideways, two movies I liked very much.

This one didn't really live up to his earlier work. I didn't hate it or anything. It was fine and had a few chuckles here and there, but overall it was stuck between a gag-filled farce and a sentimental morality tale, never fully committing to either and therefore detrimental to both.

A definite redeeming factor, if I'm allowed to regress to a typical, one-dimensional male interest, is Jessica Biel's stunning body that's featured numerously throughout the flick. She is pretty magnificent. I'm a fan.

Semi-Pro - All I can say about this one is that Will Ferrell needs some realigning of his comedic talents. He walks a very fine line. I have to admit that both Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy and Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby were pretty funny and I've probably quoted them both numerous times, but Blades of Glory and Semi-Pro were quite abysmal in comparison.

I know that it's pointless to treat these films individually since they're pretty much all about one ridiculous character existing in different settings, but I think some were executed with more attention and care than others. I guess it comes down to the script (if they actually stick to one) and it's clear that the more recent examples are lacking in this department.

Comedy is hard and requires diligence and loads of trial and error. Will Ferrell should take the time to choose his projects more wisely, although I suspect he'll keep cranking them out as fast as he can until people stop watching them. Hey, I'll probably see Step Brothers at some point this year. You win again, Ferrell. You win again.

That's enough for now, I've gone on a bit too much. Here's to hoping that Hot Rod, Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End, Spider-Man 3, Feast and Super High Me will be equally as discussion rousing! They're next on the queue. I'll chime in with my thoughts if I deem it necessary.

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