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A mixed bag

This week has it all – an Oscar-buzzing biopic (W.), a teensploitation gross-out comedy (Sex Drive), a women-power book adaptation (Secret Life of Bees) and a video game actioner (Max Payne). Some are gold, some are gruesome: but every ticket costs the same. This week we’ll break up our reviews along group dynamic lines. If you’ve seen It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia you know that classic teams of TV and film have four primary categories: The Brains, The Muscle, The Pretty Boy/Girl, and the Wildcard. Let’s see how our square peg reviewers do when put into these round hole roles.

First up, Oliver Stone’s biopic about soon-to-be-ex-president Bush (W. 61 %). While it’s a little odd to have a fictionalized history of current events, Stone’s directing and Josh Brolin’s performance have already generated some critic love. Personally, the only award I know it deserves is shortest title. First up, let’s hear from the Brains.

“By opposing the mob mentality that would hang Bush in effigy, W. imaginatively sympathizes with the most maligned president in modern history.” Armond White New York Press

Does this mean that right-wing pro-Bush-no-matter-what Republican fanatics will like this movie too? Or does W. show us the silver lining on the black cloud hovering over the man who ruined America? Let’s hear some tough-love courtesy of the Brawn.

“Since we’re dealing with Oliver Stone, a point worth making once is worth making a hundred times, in 100-point boldface type, until not even the dimmest bulb in the audience can possibly miss it.” Scott Von Doviak culturevulture.net

So W. is either a simple message about a simpleton President or a message movie where I’ll feel like I paid 10 bucks to attend a bad Poli-Sci lecture. Help?

“Oliver Stone doesn’t do comedy, intentionally. But perhaps he should: The half-baked, hayseed Hamlet he’s created in W. feels alive only when it ventures into the comically absurd.” John Anderson Newsday

So, it’s a comedy too? As the highest rated movie coming out this weekend, I’d hoped we’d end with a clearer sense of the movie. Oh well, if talking about Bush doesn’t inspire debate, you might be speaking to a rock. Take us home Wildcard.

“Never approaches the sometimes-hilarious horror of real life.” Matt Pais Metromix.com

What movie can? Or better yet: what movie should? Aren’t films meant to be escapism? Shouldn’t the hilarious horror of real life be the context through which we evaluate this piece of art/entertainment rather than a criticism of the film’s believability? Should I stop asking questions and move onto the next movie?

Next up, a raunchy teen-tries-to-lose-virginity road trip comedy called Sex Drive (45%). Let’s hear from the smarties.

“Maybe Sex Drive wouldn’t be such a slobbering excuse for a comedy if anyone involved had shown one iota of originality.” Mark Peikert New York Press

Ouch. The smart people say it’s dumb. People who support dumb people, what do you say?

“Another attempt at being the latest hip, raunchy comedy. And… it rises far above the other impersonators and rip-offs. This movie surprised me in every way.” Austin Kennedy Sin Magazine

Funny that a raunchy sex movie is endorsed by a magazine called: SIN. Quick, let’s hear from a brute.

“Sex Drive thrives on cruelty.” Ed Gonzalez Slant Magazine

Great, but I don’t know what that means. Wild card, help us out.

“This movie doesn’t contain ‘offensive language’. The offensive language contains the movie.” Roger Ebert Chicago Sun-Times

I can’t tell if that comment is crazy or Zen. Maybe it’s both, which would be Zen. Or maybe I’m crazy, which would be sad.

And speaking of sad, our next movie adapts a book about a young girl who goes to South Carolina in 1964 in search of secrets about her mother’s past and ends up learning about beekeeping in The Secret Life of Bees (52%). This movie can be summed up with one review.

“Oprah Book Club: The Movie.” Brian Orndorf BrianOrndorf.com

While I think I know what that means, I don’t like to give any one source supreme power (that’s my job), so here’s a few more that flesh out the pro/con debate.

“Isn’t it time that Hollywood took a sabbatical — maybe a permanent one — from movies in which black characters exist primarily to save the souls of white ones?” Owen Gleiberman Entertainment Weekly

Sure, but wouldn’t it be more problematic to only see white characters saving the souls of black people?

“A fable of black and female liberation in the sixties south so drenched in sugar that watching it may make your teeth hurt.” Frank Swietek One Guy’s Opinion

Guess we can save ourselves a trip to the concessions stand.

“…it’s almost impossible not to like it, in a pat-on-the-head, half-patronizing kind of way.” Jim Lane Sacramento News & Review

Maybe it’s just me, but ‘almost impossible’ sounds pretty likely. Wildcard, we need you.

“Is the sweetness worth the stickiness in this maudlin American Sisterhood of the Traveling Green Tomatoes?” Roger Moore Orlando Sentinel

A good question. Perhaps we can answer it by pulling a Palin and completely ignoring it and focusing on a bland Resident Street Fighter Evil Tomb Doom Hitman movie: Max Payne (23%). Another swing-and-miss for Hollywood adapting a video game to film. Cue the Brainiac.

“There simply has yet to be a decent film adapted from a video game. Why studios persist is a testament to the lobotomised throngs who encourage them by paying to see this type of gleet.” Jarrod Walker FILMINK (Australia)

All right Mr. Smartypants, I had to look up gleet (which is a thin, morbid discharge, as from a wound). You get points for being smart and angry. Let’s hear from people who are just angry.

“I never trust a film in which the protagonists have conversations or even arguments in the pouring rain — without umbrellas.” Andrew L. Urban Urban Cinefile

So the protagonists are stupid, the action is limp and the tone is the worst kind of emo-noir cliché. I have to tell you, it sounds so bad it might be good.

“A big nothing, not even hokey enough to watch for the sake of laughing at it.” Katey Rich CinemaBlend.com

Crap.

PDJ

Have a rockin’ weekend!

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