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A joke without a punch line

A spy, a leper, a football icon, and a perpetual optimist walk into an underground bar. The bartender says: “You picked a hellovah time to visit.” Everyone looks at each other uncomfortably.

The spy says to the leper “Is it safe?”

To which the leper replies “Duh, no. Don’t touch me unless your health care covers flesh-eating rabies.”

“I’m out of here,” says the football player as he bolts towards the door. But the door is locked. Then the lights go out.

“Cool. Slumber party!” says the optimist.

To everyone who is completely confused, the above was a fictional meeting of this week’s movies. Not all of the reviews are in and I’m trying to get a jump on my roundup before I head out of town; That being said, let’s introduce you to the players.

First up, the spy. Director Ridley Scott pits Leonardo Dicaprio against Russell Crowe in Body of Lies. Even though the title could easily be for an erotic thriller, this movie’s about mercenaries shooting at terrorists while desk jockeys yell at both of them. In short, it’s Spy versus Spy without the cartoon influence.

“If you’re looking for a high-tech, old-fashioned racist B-western, you’ve come to the right place, pilgrim.” Frank Lovece Film Journal International

Believe it or not, that was a positive review. Sorry Frank, you kind of self-described yourself as an idiot. Generally, racist westerns with John Wayne morals and science fiction technology aren’t good. Then again, I can’t think of an example, so maybe I’m the idiot. Next.

“Working from a screenplay by William Monahan, Scott takes rusty ’80s clichés from the days when we were playing nuclear chicken with Russia and retrofits them to the post-9/11 world. He exposes how weary those old spy tropes really are.” Owen Gleiberman Entertainment Weekly

The more I hear critics try to describe Lies, the more out of focus it gets. It’s an 80’s cliché, playing off cold war ideas and post-9/11 racism, mixed with westerns and nuclear chickens. Did I get that right? Anyhow, let’s hear one more and move on.

“What distinguishes the book with compelling insight may not be so apparent in the cinematic context. Still, for spy calculus, action, and character realization, I assign you to see it.” Jules Brenner Cinema Signals

Wait, now there’s calculus involved. Also, who is this Jules guy and why is he assigning me homework? Unless this material is going to be on the test. And if not, do we get extra credit? Man, I’ve been living in a college town too long.

Next up is the killer-rabies leper-horror Quarantine. It’s Blair Witch filming with Outbreak’s plot: a building full of people get infected with killer rabies and the government traps everyone inside and quarantines the building. Screaming ensues. The votes still out, but from the few people in the know, it sounds like either good-bad or bad-bad. For example:

“Actress Jennifer Carpenter of Exorcism of Emily Rose fame surely deserves some kind of award for giving the most hysterical over-the-top performance in a horror movie since Marilyn Burns in the original 1974 Texas Chain Saw Massacre.” James O’Ehley
Sci-Fi Movie Page

I think they already have over-the-top-acting awards (they’re called Razzies – past winners include Lindsey Lohan and Madonna).

Next up, the football icon. In The Express, we learn the story of Ernie Davis (the first black athlete to win a Heisman) and his coach. Since football movies tend to play off the same concepts (triumph against over-whelming odds, personal achievement, hard-and-team work rock, etc), we pretty much know the plot. The acid (or drug) test is how it stacks up against everything else in the genre. Game on.

“In the past few years, we have seen lots of football films, and this is by far the best. I might even be so bold to say that this is the greatest football movie of all time.” Austin Kennedy Sin Magazine

Slow down Mister, some of us cry just thinking about Rudy.

“Rob Brown’s performance in the title role is solid and static, but Dennis Quaid’s portrayal of coach Ben Schwartzwalder provides a convincing metaphor for a nation going through a crisis of conscience.” John Anderson Variety

Why do we need a metaphor? Open your window and you can see that the world is hip deep in real crisis.

And speaking of crisis, the underground bar in our little intro story comes from City Of Ember, a young-adult book about an underground city kept alive by generators. But, when the generators start to go out, only the kids think it’s a good idea to try to solve the problem. Sounds very young-adult-literatury. Kids rule!

“Kenan’s palpable affection for his central creation is so strong that once we’re gasping fresh air, we want to dive back in, get to know Ember’s intriguing denizens better and properly explore its claustrophobic hinterland. Something we’re sadly denied.” Dan Jolin Empire Magazine

However, not enough reviews are in to know if we should hope the lights stay on or go off forever.

Onto the final flick, an indie of undeniable quality that speaks to me on a very personal level: Happy-Go-Lucky. Currently clocking in at 97% positive (w/38 reviews), it’s the pick of the week. Too bad it won’t come to Pullman. Telling the story of an unwavering optimist and her daily life, just about everyone digs the character study/cheerful comedy.

“Indeed, playing someone sunny without making them totally irritating might be more of a challenge than portraying Lady Macbeth, and Hawkins makes Poppy’s good cheer pragmatic and personable.” Alonso Duralde MSNBC

I’m smiling as I read these. Hit me with another.

“A film that should be required viewing nationwide. A good blast of fresh air that sweeps you off your feet.”Holly Grigg-Spall Channel 4 Film

Giggles abound. Last call for happy thoughts.

“Fresh, funny and uplifting. A zingy, irresistible sorbet of light-footed comedy and everyday humanity. Only hardened churls will roll their weary eyes at Hawkins’ gusto. Leigh’s most open and optimistic film since Life Is Sweet.” Andy Lowe Total Film

Sweet. Stay happy everyone.


Unchecked optimism gets 10 out of 10!

2 Responses

  1. So when are we purchasing the Audian so that movies like Happy-Go-Lucky WILL come to Pullman (and we can gouge people on popcorn?)


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