Mother Russia comes out with the mother of all mixed movies.
My relationship with foreign films, like my relationship with single women, is complex, ill defined, and a mixed blessing. A the same time I love them and hate them. Some movies take on a new approach that no one in our culture would ever consider and open my eyes to the perspectives of the world (Save the Green Planet). Other films go back and do something so retro cool it reminds us of how movies are supposed to be done as opposed to the inane glitz and gimmickry that is the current Hollywood norm (the Raid: Retribution, the Killer). Still others are just surreal and fun in dopey ways that delight the creative soul (City of Lost Children, Man Bites Dog, Delicatessen).
On the other side of the coin are movies that are just bad imitations of the Hollywood aesthetic and would have been better done (or not done) here in the US (The Warrior’s Way (<–one of my first reviews. See if I have evolved as a reviewer!)). The weird thing is Stalingrad manages to be both the good kind and bad kind of foreign movie at the same time.
On the good, you will never see a war movie like this come out of a Western studio. In our movies the heroes are always better trained, armed, equipped, and motivated than whatever unwashed rabble they are sent against. Even in the rare circumstances where a group of soldiers is cut off from support and grossly outnumbered they are still able to kill dozens of enemies for each one of theirs killed (Black Hawk Down, Lone Survivor, Saving Private Ryan). The best ones are where the enemies are not even human and can be mowed down with impunity.
In this film, at least for the first half, the story follows the reality of the Battle of Stalingrad in that the Wehrmacht is better equipped, trained, and tactical. Hundreds of Russian soldier die horribly in the first ten minutes in ways that make the Normandy assault scene from Saving Private Ryan look like a drive to your local mall. There is no glory in this film; the war is presented as horrible and awful as possible.
Unfortunately once the first 30 minutes are done the director starts channeling Hollywood, letting five guys take on the entire German army and hold them off. Once the stage is set the clear influence of Hollywood infects this film like a plague; super soldiers mowing down Germans left and right, two romance stories, and a villain so cartoonishly evil that they could have substituted Snidely Whiplash and I don’t think I would have noticed a difference. Then in the last 10 minutes the film stops being Hollywood and turns into the grim Russian war movie I was expecting to see the whole time.
So you understand my difficulty in reviewing this film. I would like to bitch about a very poor directing choice however. The movie rips off Saving Private Ryan almost completely including the flashback framing device. However in Private Ryan it made total sense and gave us an awesome reveal and in this film it was one of the most worthless and unnecessary devices I have seen in film in a long time. The whole movie starts off in Japanese and is about the rescue workers trying to save people after the big tsunami. I spent the first ten minutes not sure I was even in the right theater and if it hadn’t been for the Cyrillic lettering on the screen would have gotten up to check the marque and bitch to the theater manager. Then the actual movie starts and you more or less forget about it until the last five minutes when it returns with a vengeance and drops you out of the story with the abruptness of falling into a punji lined tiger trap.
By the way, it is my belief that you can often tell what the interests and fetishes of director are by what he or she keeps showing on the screen and it is apparent that director Fedor Bondarchuk has a thing for human beings being burned alive. That is pretty much what is shown for like the first half of the film (or so it seemed). Also since IMDB doesn’t have any photos for most of these actors I will have to skip my usual habit of identifying each one after mentioning their character. Honestly I couldn’t tell most of them apart during the film anyway and most of them don’t have any other credits. My apologies.
The movie starts off with foreign rescue workers volunteering to help in Japan. A Russian crew finds five teenagers trapped under rubble and the one guy who can speak German starts talking to them to keep them calm. He tells the girl that he had five fathers and once she questions that he launches into telling the story of his mother and five fathers at the battle of Stalingrad.
(Incidentally I found it more than a little weird that in order to calm down a hysterical German girl this guy is going to tell a story of horror and war wherein tens of thousands of Germans were killed or captured, only to be worked to death in Soviet prison camps. Of the 170,000 Germans in Stalingrad eventually only about 5,000 came home. Would you tell a trapped Native American stories about how your grandfather was an American soldier on the Trail of Tears? How about next time you tell a story about a little dog you had as a kid?)
Then the real movie starts with the Red Army advancing across the Volga. Their target seems to be three giant fuel depots and in order to keep them from falling into German hands the captain in charge orders them blown up. This causes most of the assault force to catch on fire but due to their strength of the Russian character still charge forward into the face of German machine guns while on fire (kind of dopey, and if this had been an American film I think I would have been rolling my eyes at that one. The Spirit of the Russian Soldier is a drum that gets beaten pretty regularly in this film. The Hammer and Sickle image is off of one of our funny political t shirts BTW).
Anyway, after getting their assault force obliterated five assorted soldiers and sailors take a building near the river. They are ordered to hold it at all costs. In the building lives Katya, a young girl who was abused by the Germans. She refuses to leave her home and hangs out with the soldiers. Meanwhile across the courtyard the Germans need to take the building and the captain is charged by his laughable evil colonel to do so.
There is a humanizing sub plot for the German captain where he loves a hot Russian girl but honestly that’s the rest of the story in a nutshell. The Germans attack, the Russians beat them back. The Germans set fire to Russian civilians. The five soldiers all come to love and care for Katya and one in particular may or may not have slept with her (little vague on this point). Meanwhile the German captain is obsessed with capturing the building while the colonel breathes down his neck and he does what he can to save Masha, his girl. I’m not going to spoil this one but remember this film is Russian so if you were looking for a happy ending skip on to the next movie.
WWII movie. One star. It was nice to see something from the Eastern Front. Most Americans assume we won WWII but in truth it was the Russians who did all the heavy lifting and lost 20,000,000 people doing it. The main motivation for invading Europe from the West was to keep Russia from taking over all of it. One star. I liked the different approach to war films. It was a true team effort and the grimness of the Russians in the face of the better equipped and trained Germans was cool. One star. I actually really like the ending. Not all heroes have to ride off into the sunset with the girl on their arm. One star. Aside from the charge of the Burning Men (haw! That joke is way funnier if you live in the Bay Area) most of the action was cool and well done. One star. If you ever want to see how grim warfare can be, especially in an urban environment, this is the one for you (unless you saw Enemy at the Gates). One star. I liked the humanization of the German captain, and the effort to show that decency can exist in even the worst conditions. One star. In general a decent film. One star. Total: eight stars.
The black holes:
The flashback framing device was kind of idiotic, as well as derivative and completely unnecessary. It felt like we were watching two different movies. One black hole. I’m never a fan of villains who are evil just for evils sake. It makes them comical. One black hole. The Hollywoodification of this film was greatly to its detriment IMO. One black hole. The 3D and IMAX added nothing except for a motivation to write in some dumb crap in order to showcase it. Special effects should be used to enhance a story, not motivate it. One black hole. Total: four black holes.
So a grand total of four stars. A better than average score but on the B- side of the bell curve. It could have been a lot better. Worth seeing? It’s certainly a better WWII movie than Monuments Men, which should say something to studios who let actors pleasure themselves on the studio dime. I’d say yes, it’s worth seeing. It’s a pretty solid R and fairly brutal so no kids and probably no date. A romance in a film doesn’t add much to your dates enjoyment when most of the cast ends up dead. Bathroom break? That’s pretty easy. The scene where the five Russians throw a birthday party for Katya could be missed entirely, although in a perfect world you would have been able to skip the opening and closing bookends.
Thanks for reading. If the girl I’m supposed to hang out with tonight blows me off (a good likelihood in my experience) I will go see Son of God (that sentence taken out of context looks a little weird) although there is a big piece of me that is dreading it. Look for that review (plus more bitching about my dating life) tomorrow. Follow me on Twitter @NerdKungFu. Mostly I just post new reviews plus the series I am doing on Star Trek, although the other day I found a couple of funny photos. If you have a comment on this film or my review scroll down and leave it here. Also my SEO guy says I need more Facebook likes so click the little button on the top right. Off topic questions or suggestions can be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks again and have a great night.
I often find in myself certain animal characteristics. In Warhammer I combine the vicious savagery of a tiger with the cleverness of a monkey (tonkey?). When faced with obstacles in life I usually charge forward ignoring them confident in my bull like ability to batter them aside with my horns and thick skull. I tend to look like a giant bear (size, not body hair), am stubborn like a mule, and (apparently) have all the sex appeal of a rancid roadkill armadillo.
When it comes to movie reviews I think the animal I most channel is the coyote. For those of you who did not grow up in an area with coyotes let me tell you they are not dogs or wolves. They are something in between. They can attack when desperate enough but really only go after animals that are mostly dead already. Scavengers, basically. I, like a coyote, often salivate at the sight of a wounded movie that has already failed to meet studio expectations and will in all fairness truly suck. Sure it’s painful to watch but afterwards I have a whole smorgasbord of dead animal parts to fill my critical tummy.
This is why I sometimes go back and see films that have been out for over a month. It has been a little slow (and I think I need to steel myself to see Battle of the Year) so this is the perfect time to drop back and pick up any scraps I missed. Thus we come to Planes. If you were stupid enough to think this film was going to be anything other than Cars with wings then I’m pleased to announce you have won an ocean cruise that starts when you stick your head into your own toilet and flush yourself to Acapulco.
This film wasn’t so awful that I found myself looking for the door to the projection room in order to do bad things to the projectionist, but I was definitely eyeballing the exits. I actually see this film as a sign of the contempt that certain studios have for their fans. It seems to be pretty clearly designed to suck money from the hapless parents of kids while providing nothing in return except 91 minutes of peace and quiet (maybe. Some of the kids in the theater were pretty rambunctious. On a side note, I purposely saw a late showing in order to not be up to my ass in rug rats. Why are you parents taking your children to see a movie at 10pm? Shouldn’t your kids be locked in their sleep cages by then?). When I imagine the executives of certain studios discussing their fans I imagine them treating us like the robots treated humans in the Matrix.
There was one thing that bugged me about this film (and the whole Cars franchise) and about halfway through the film the answer struck me like a tornado touching down in a trailer park. The main character, Dusty Crophopper, is a crop duster (see what they did there? Clever.). He spends all day dusting crops of corn and has done so his entire life. His older buddy has done it for decades. Yet no where do we see anyone capable of eating and digesting the corn. There was some discussion of corn oil being used as a new kind of fuel but it looks like corn has been raised centuries so that is no explanation. Why are they growing corn???
Once I notice that I started seeing a bunch of other stuff. At the airports they kept running into giant commercial passenger planes, complete with the row of windows for passengers to look out of. There is a whole network of passenger planes and yet no sign of passengers. One of Dusty’s sidekicks is selling souvenir whistles, yet most of the cars and planes don’t really have arms to put the whistle up the their grill. Why would anyone need a whistle if you were created with a horn? The mystery of no humans yet stuff that only humans could need really ground on me until finally the answer struck me.
Sentient, autonomous machines? No sign of humans yet the vestigial remnants of human society? Machines mimicking human behavior? All of a sudden I realized that what we are seeing in the world of Cars is the post-human world in the wake of the robot revolution! This is the world after Skynet has won! It’s really the only explanation, and as cute as this movie is I’m sure at some point during his racing Dusty was flying over mass human graves and the broken battlefields filled with bones crushed under mighty robotic war machine treads. Is this really what you want to show your children?
(Obey Robot image courtesy of the Funny Political T Shirts category)
Also, what is the deal with forklifts? You see, cars and planes lack anything resembling limbs, so forklifts are now the only functional working machines in this society, and there are a lot of them. Way more than you would imagine in proportion to other vehicles. I had a job at a warehouse once and while the parking lot had 50-60 cars in it we only had two forklifts. Also, in the movie when you see the viewing stands at the race finish (no double very expensive seats) they are filled with cars and planes but you only see forklifts when it is time to do some form of technical task or labor. Clearly the forklifts represent the post-human proletariat. Karl Marx would have a field day with this movie. Power to the Forklifts! Join the Forklift Revolution! Study the Bourgeois Automobile Intelligentsia’s Methods of Struggle Against the Forklifts!
Anyway, the story. Just rent Cars and stick magnetic wings onto all the characters if you want to skip my recap. Good to go. Dusty Crophopper (Dane Cook-Mr. Brooks, Dan in Real Life, My Best Friends Girl) is a crop duster who dreams of being a racer. He is aided by his dopey gas truck buddy Chug (Brad Garrett-Everybody Loves Raymond, Ratatouille, Finding Nemo) and his forklift mechanic (and possible revolutionary. The concept is never really explored) Dottie (Teri Hatcher-Tomorrow Never Dies, Coroline, Desperate Housewives). He enters a local qualifying race and barely squeaks in. He seeks training from local war hero Skipper (Stacy Keach-American History X, the Bourne Identity, the New Mike Hammer), a Corsair (which, in my opinion, was the coolest looking aircraft of WWII) with a troubled past.
Honestly just grab the kids movie cliche checklist and start checking stuff off. Dusty makes friends with a Mexican lucha libre plane (Carlos Alazraqui-Happy Feet, Reno 911, Toy Story 3) who acts as his goofy sidekick in the air. The Mexican also has a sub plot of unrequited love with a Canadian plane (Julia Louis-Dreyfus-Seinfeld, a Bug’s Life, Deconstructing Harry). There’s the obligatory love interest for Dusty (can someone tell me how planes actually have sex, and to what purpose? I’m honestly curious) in the slightly-less-than-racially-sensitive plane Ishani (Priyanka Chopra-Fashion, Barfi, Don!). There’s the stuffy British guy (John Cleese-A Fish Called Wanda, Monty Python) just in case you hadn’t quite filled up on stereotypes yet, and of course the obligatory reigning champion and all around jerk to what he considers a lower class working plane (aha! More less-than subtle Communist rhetoric!) Ripslinger (Roger Craig Smith-Wreck It Ralph, Resident Evil 5, Assassins Creed).
Just write it out the story your head before I type this. Dusty starts off sucking, but over time starts winning. Ripslinger feels threatened by him and does him dirty with the help of his two hench-planes Echo and Bravo (obviously counter-revolutionaries, the both of them. Anthony Edwards-Zodiac, Top Gun, Revenge of the Nerds and Val Kilmer(WTF???)-Real Genius, Heat, Top Gun). I don’t want to spoil the ending but if you thought you were going to be surprised, prepare to be surprised.
As per usual for kids movies I won’t dissect it with my stars/black hole rating system. I judge these films by how the kids in the audience are reacting and to be honest, it seems like a lot of the kids were more than a little bored. They were climbing all over the seats and running up and down the stairs more than I see in most kids films. I guess I’m going to have to unrecommended this film for your beloved tikes. They will get as much or more out of a viewing of Cars at home and you yourself won’t be subjected to this mind numbing cliche pap.
So I guess that’s it for this movie. Based on the trend I’m sure it’s only a matter of time before we see another movie set in the Cars world involving some other type of working class vehicle that dreams of being a racer. Perhaps a tug boat or garbage scow in a movie with some kind of watercraft related name? However, there is some promise for this franchise in that I would really, really want to see either the Cars prequel featuring the destruction of the human race or the film of the inevitable forklift revolution (Lifts?). I dream of a world where studios develop the sack to take fun chances like that (also a world where I’m surrounded by hot women who play Warhammer topless and there is bacon on every form of food).
Thanks for reading. There are a couple more movies out this week that I will try to grind through but I am not looking forward to them. Follow me on Twitter @Nerdkungfu. Post comments on this movie or my review here, or send me an email at email@example.com if you have an off topic question or suggestion. Talk to you soon. Have a great day.
Pretty damned funny, but if you are easily offended or super patriotic you might want to give it a miss.
I am indeed a Sasha Baron Cohen fan. I find his style of humor, while cringe inducing, to be both clever and mind expanding. Borat and Bruno were both genius, and I laugh my ass off whenever I watch Da Ali G Show. (None of the Above image courtesy of the funny Political T Shirts category)
Dictator, the third in his series of one word title movies, contains much of the same humor but also represents a significant divergence from his norm in that instead of injecting one of his established characters into situations with Americans he is now working from a script. On the one hand this provides a nice framework upon which to craft a decent movie rather than trying to put it together in the editing room, but on the other hand it somewhat restricts his movement and also has the issue of allowing the situations to get so wild that they take away from the appealing reality of the situations.
By that I mean in Borat and Bruno Cohen was dealing with real Americans Alan Funt style and therefore had to present situations that, while extreme and ridiculous, were also within the realm of possibility. If things had gotten too weird or out there the people he was working with would have figured it out and not kept acting naturally. For me that “real possibility” is what worked and made it so funny. In this movie the few times he went really off the rails (the birthing scene, for example) of reality gave the film the taint of surreality, which did not work.
That being said, those moments were few and far between, book casing long swaths of brilliant and non PC comedy. Sasha Baron Cohen (Bruno, Borat, Da Ali G Show) plays Admiral General Aladeen, the brutal and eccentric dictator of Wadiya, an oil rich country in Northern Africa. His interest include sleeping with Western celebrities, gold plated Hummers, and executing anyone who bothers him even a little (there is a really funny montage of people he has sent off to death for things like finding the prize in his box of cereal). He is pushing his nuclear weapons program and is about to get sanctioned by the United Nations. He travels to NYC to address the UN but while there is kidnapped by a racist redneck. He escapes only to discover he has been supplanted by his double under the thumb of his Prime Minister Tamir (Sir Ben Kingsley-Ghandi, Sexy Beast, Hugo). He takes refuge with local granola girl Zoey (Anna Faris-What’s Your Number, Scary Movie, Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs) who runs some kind of organic hippy store (let me say that for some reason I found her character here as the short haired, hairy hippy chick way more appealing than the fake seeming shallow blonde in What’s Your Number. Maybe it’s because I live in the Bay Area and meet more women like that). Some of the funniest scenes occur when Aladeen is telling her she is a boy and giving her grooming tips.
Anyway, he also hooks up with Nadal (Jason Mantzoukas-Baby Mama, I Hate Valentine’s Day, Please Give), his former head scientist whom he ordered executed for arguing with him about the shape of the nuclear missile. It turns out all the people he ordered killed were smuggled out of the country and now live in Little Wadiya. Nadal agrees to help him regain power. At that point if you have seen Coming to America and Trading Places you have seen the rest of the film. However, both of those movies are pretty good so I don’t think plumbing them for story points is a bad move. Comedic fish out of water stuff ensues. Some truly amazing comedy scenes happen, along with a few dead weights.
The stars. For the majority very funny. Two stars. Very non-PC and insulting to pretty much everyone. Two stars. The helicopter scene was some of the funniest stuff I have seen in years. One star. Sasha was typically brilliant. One star. All the supporting cast very well done, especially Jason Mantzoukas. I hope to see him in other stuff soon. One star. A really nice political message about the nature of a dictatorship towards the end had me laughing very hard. One star. The ending, which at first seemed to be ramping up to a dumb Disney-like happy ending, turned out to be well done and funny as well. One star. Overall a good movie. Two stars. Total: eleven stars.
The black holes. There were a couple scenes that felt really fake, not funny, and/or dragged on. One black hole. Some of the funniest lines from the trailers failed to make it into the actual film. One black hole. Some of the gross out humor was just not even necessary or well done. One black hole. Total: three black holes.
A grand total of eight stars, a most excellent score. If you are a fan of humor or Sasha Baron Cohen then by all means see this film. Try to see it in a theater. Every dollar it gets means more chance of another great Cohen film soon. On the other hand, this is probably a terrible date movie. Gross humor, nasty sex, and just not the right style of film IMO. Your date might laugh and enjoy it, but she will most likely not be inclined to take off her clothes afterward if you know what I mean. Bathroom break? That’s easy. The scene where the woman gives birth. It’s five minutes of disgusting and disturbing humor just to deliver one joke. If you are looking for a second bathroom break the Aladeen masturbation scene definitely qualifies.
Thanks for reading. I have two movies in my sights for this weekend, Battleship and What to Expect When You Are Expecting. One looks like it is based on a really dumb concept, and the other is about ships. I kid, I kid. Seriously, they both look pretty suckstastic so let’s see who plays out. I’m also running a booth at the Big Wow Comicfest, a comic book convention in San Jose. If you are in the area stop by my booth and say hi. Follow me on Twitter @Nerdkungfu send an email if you have off topic questions or suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org. Feel free to post here if you have a comment on this movie. Talk to you soon.
Yes, I’m back on the movie kick. I had planned to see Furious Five in hopes it would both suck and blow, but turns out it’s insanely popular and sold out. The only thing out there I thought even worth considering was Water for Elephants, which appeared to be a movie about water and elephants (there’s a circus in there somewhere too).
I was surprised, as I knew it was based on a book everyone tells me was amazing and I expected the movie to turn into one of my boring “the movie was decent” reviews that I might not even write up the next day. The surprise was not that it wasn’t great or even that it wasn’t bad but that it was painfully bland. Throughout the course of the movie I wasn’t motivated to leave the theater but if the film had broke or aliens broke in from another dimension forcing us to flee the cinema I don’t think I would have been really at all upset. It was kind of like flipping playing cards into an open hat; you gain nothing from doing it, and even if you get skilled enough to hit it 100% no one on the planet will be even remotely impressed.
I was also surprised in that it has been a while since I saw a movie that was such a blatant rip off of another, more successful movie. The movie in question was James Cameron’s Titanic. Does any of this sound familiar? An elderly person finds an excuse to tell a story from the first part of the last century about a star crossed romance between a lower class pretty boy and the married (or engaged. My Titanic knowledge is somewhat limited) wife of a complete jerk on a vehicle that is headed to a disaster of some kind. The only difference between the two movies really is James Cameron had the integrity to let the movie end on a down note, while Water for Elephants drew it’s inspiration from the Disney school of movie writing.
Anyway, the story. SPOILER ALERT: I will probably give away more details of this film than usual for this one, but in a very real sense I am giving away nothing as the story is as predictable as watching a digital clock advance. Trust me when I say there are absolutely no surprises in store for you. Anyway, an old man is found wandering around a circus and finds the flimsiest pretext to tell the manager the story of how he joined the circus back in 1931. Pretty boy, national spokesman for eyebrow growth, and perennial bad actor Robert Pattinson plays a character ironically (or stupidly) named Jacob who, while starting his absolute, final exam at Cornell to become a veterinarian and have a good life and career, is pulled out to be told his parents, whom he had just seen like 10 minutes ago, were killed in a car wreck, leaving him destitute and homeless during the Great Depression. He finds his father bankrupted the family paying for his education and then, instead of going back to Cornell and getting the piece of paper that would get him a life, decides to see what being a hobo (that’s an old fashioned word for being homeless) was like. He jumps a train that happens to have a circus on it. After dealing with some local color he is hired by the owner, played by the awesome Christoph Waltz (Inglorious Basterds) to be the circus veterinarian.
Waltz’s policy, apparently in order to avoid the hassle of dealing with unemployment claims, was to toss men he wanted to fire off the train while it was moving. No joke. During one night he tosses nine guys off. You would think the trail of bodies would eventually lead some kind of authority to the circus, but it looked like the police were far more motivated to enforce Prohibition laws. Anyway, just an aside.
Jacob meets the wife of the circus owner (played by Reese Witherspoon) and, during the course of the movie, proceeds to fall in love with her in one of the worst on screen romances I have ever seen. Seriously, there was much better chemisty between Reese and Christoph at the start of the movie (possibly because Christoph can act). The romance between Reese and Pattinson looked as natural and real as a little girl making her Ken and Barbie dolls kiss.
Anyway, Waltz buys an elephant named Rosie, who is easily the most appealing character in the whole film. Jacob is given the job of training her, which August, Watlz’s character, seems to think can only be done by beating the hell out of her in a couple scenes that will make you want to vomit if you have any love of animals. Jacob, in yet another phases-of-the-moon-like predictable scene tries love which, low and behold, works. Actually, it works when he discovers Rosie apparently only responds to commands given in Polish (???). I guess there was some kind of connection between Polish speakers and elephant training. Also I guess elephants can’t be retrained to listen to commands in any other language once they learned one. Not known for their memories, apparently.
Oh, god. I just did a little research to see if August was at all a common male name in America and have discovered that the most common baby name for boys in 2009 was Jacob. Some days I hate America. Twilight sucks.
Anyway, circus hijinx ensue. Guys get tossed off trains. Love finds it’s awkward way onto the screen in spite of Reese and Roberts attempt to convince you that they both reproduce asexually. A million minor characters are added for color and then disappear like flatulence on a windy night. The big disaster alluded to at the beginning of the movie strikes, leaving the star crossed love birds free to pursue their dreams of a tepid marriage. Jacob finally does what he should have done in the first five minutes and gets his veterinary degree and a career. I won’t give it totally away, but the final conclusion is so insipid and dumb that the movie would not have at all been damaged if alien invaders had landed and probed all the main characters (in fact, it would have been dramatically improved).
First the stars. Watching the HBO show Carnivale has given me a liking of circus themes. One star. Christoph Waltz. Two stars. Rosie the elephant. One star. The depression era scenery and clothing were all pretty good. One star. Reese Witherspoon is hot. One star. The filming and pacing were decent. One star (can you tell I”m reaching here?). Total: six stars.
Now the black holes. Jacob doesn’t get his degree like a moron. One black hole. Romantic chemistry similar to mixing two glasses of tap water together. Two black holes. There is no established motivation for anyone to do anything, especially August to not chuck Jacob off the train first thing. One black hole. A lot of effort is spent trying to establish that the circus performers and roustabouts are all one big family, right before August tosses a bunch of them off the train. One black hole for discontinuity. Titanic rip off. One black hole. I should give one black hole for every seemingly interesting supporting character who disappeared after two lines, but will restrain myself. Two black holes. The plot device of firing people by tossing them off the train when simply saying “You’re fired ” (Trump) would have sufficed really bugged me. One black hole. Animal cruelty, even in cinema, really puts me off my feed. One black hole. There was a distinct lack of grime and despair that one normally associated with Depression era films (see Carnivale if you haven’t). One black hole. Total: 11 black holes.
Grand total of five black holes. Not great. Not even worth seeing in a theatre (I Hate Theatre image courtesy of the funny political t shirts category). Honestly, if you have two hours of you life with nothing better to do watch it on NetFlix streaming. Your mom would probably like it, so if you are looking for something to do with her that won’t cause your brain to shrivel up too much, take her to a matinee.
Incidentally, it does give me a warm feeling to help contribute another nail in the coffin of Robert Pattinson’s career (Twilight sucks), although that wasn’t my intent when I saw the movie. I just wish I didn’t also have to hurt Christoph Waltz’s in order to do it.
I have been on quite the positive roll lately, in my humble opinion, with some really good posts about online dating and movie reviews, most of which I am very happy with. However, today I feel the need to purge myself of some negative energy and so turn to my blog for the purpose that blogs were originally conceived; an old fashioned nerd rant. I figured I could get into my like/hate relationship with Pandora.
I, like most reasonably up to date (I refuse to use the word hip) adults listen to Pandora for music on my computer or iPhone. For those of you not familiar with it, Pandora is a free internet radio that allows you to pick genres of music and then either thumbs up and thumbs down on specific songs, theoretically giving you the ability to only listen to the music you want to.
“Wait a minute, Dave!” I can hear you saying. “If it’s a free service how can you then justify bitching about it? Isn’t that kind of ungrateful?” Well, yes it would be if Pandora were truly free. It is, however, actually a commercial endeavor in the most literal sense possible as they literally play commercials like old fashioned radio. Not only that, but they don’t play a variety of commercials. That would prevent them from driving their sponsors message into your brain like a railroad spike made of frozen nitrogen. Instead, what they do is get a single commercial and play it OVER AND OVER AND OVER AGAIN. It is enough to make you want to throw whatever poor device is broadcasting it into the nearest sewer. Therefore, since I am paying them for the service in brain cells I feel I have the right to point out their major flaws.
It’s not the repetitive commercials that has my boxers in a bunch. I run a commercial web site and understand the needs of everyone to get paid. What is rubbing me like a sandpaper bicycle seat is the algorithm they use to select the music they subject you to.
You see, you start a station by seeding it with a few of your favorite bands. They then play those bands and other bands they feel you would like, kind of like how Amazon tells you stuff like “People who bought Sarah Palin’s book also enjoyed See Spot Run.” Sounds good in theory, and upon occasion they manage to come up with a new band or song that I quite enjoy.
The thing is, if any of you have read more than a few of my blogs you should have realized by now that I am a contrarian (yes, that is a legitimate word and correctly spelled. Microsoft, you also suck) by nature and tend to respond negatively to most forms of peer pressure to the point that if someone said to me “Dave, the ship is sinking! Get on the lifeboat! Everyone else is doing it!” I would lay even odds on my going off to try to find my own flotation device. My musical tastes are pretty varied and tend to be more about what I don’t like than what I do, although if I had to pick a genre or two it would probably be old school or harmonic punk rock.
Therefore, I never developed a taste for “classic” rock. Led Zeppelin sucks in my opinion, as do all their contemporaries (with the exception of a few songs by the Rolling Stones. Paint it Black, for example). Yet somehow Pandora has decided it is patently impossible for someone to not love Zeppelin and insists on playing it for me all the freaking time in spite of the fact that I have given it nothing but thumbs down. Not just Led Zeppelin, but all the classic contemporaries like Pink Floyd (acid tripping losers), the Who(?), the Beatles (ever want to watch someone have an apoplectic fit? Find a Beatles fan, look him straight in the eye, and say “The Beatles ruined rock and roll.” Not necessarily true, but always funny), the Eagles (did these guys ever have a point?), the Grateful Dead (peace, love, and smoking tons of pot), AC/DC (about as heavy as aluminum IMO), Van Halen (the Frankenstein monster of rock), the Doors (I’ve read Doors of Perception. It sucks), Def Leoppard (oonder gleepin gloopin gropen), ZZ Top (beards!), and any number of other bands who should have never made it out of the 80’s. I think the mistake I made was once expressing an interest in Tom Petty, who I find a great singer and has amazing lyrics. Petty has turned out to be patient zero for infecting my Pandora station.
The thing that really gets me is the fact that in spite of my giving them thumbs down over and over again they still keep trying. “Hmm. Dave has given a thumbs down on the last 18 Led Zeppelin songs we have played for him. But you know what? I think this 19th song, Good Times/Bad Times Live at the Hollywood Bowl, will remind him that all humans are genetically predisposed to loving this band. It is significantly different from the studio version of Good Times/Bad Times we played for him two hours ago.” If it were me in charge, if someone gave a thumbs down on three songs by a particular band in a row, that band would be deleted from his play list in it’s entirety.
The final straw on this rant is the fact that Pandora likes to run songs in sets. This is normally cool in that if they play a Bad Religion song for me odds are the next three or four songs will be Rancid or something similar. The problem is they get into a classic rock set for me and once I do thumbs down on AC/DC, Def Leoppard, CCR, Buffalo Springfield, and Deep Purple all of a sudden you hit the limit of the number of songs you can skip (according to their licensing agreement. Can anyone explain how that works?) and you are forced to listen to the Eagles Hotel California. Either that or turn it off and write a bitch blog post about it.
Yes, I know I could just create a new station but really, that isn’t the point. I shouldn’t have to deal with this and if they had applied a little more thought to their service the issue would be more or less self correcting. I still use Pandora and am happy about 80% of the time. However, that is at best a B- and if I could find a better graded service I would do it.
Anyway, sorry about the complete self indulgence of this post. I actually feel a lot better all of a sudden. I should have started a blog years ago.
Yesterdays post asked what would happen if Tyler Durden’s fantasy fight with Abraham Lincoln were to become a reality (understanding that the entire conversation took place in the movie Fight Club, another fantasy). I think Tyler had a lot more fighting experience and tolerance for pain. However, I believe Abe Lincoln was one of those never-say-die guys. Therefore I am going to go with Lincoln on this one, but it would be long, drawn out, and bloody. (Lincoln image courtesy of the funny political t shirts)
Since I indulged myself with my rant today I will continue to indulge myself with my who-would-win question. This one is less about an actual fight and more about wanting to see a character I dislike intensely get gutted. Who would win, Riker from Next Generation versus Giger’s Alien (no phaser)?
This is the last I am doing on this sub-category. I think I will try to get a movie review or something else tomorrow to break up the flow.
Guidance Councilor. Sorry, but if a chance to bag on these guys comes along, I can’t let it go by. I remember fondly taking an aptitude test from provided by the school councilor and being told I was best suited to be a farmer. Sorry, I don’t do dirt if I can avoid it. Also I am to much into instant gratification to wait a whole season for payment. Anyway, these people are like high school teachers in that they deal with smart assed teenagers on a daily basis. The difference is they have a lot less power than teachers over the kids in that they can’t actually fail them in anything. This tends to make them either total dicks or floor mats. Also every time some kid asks “If you know so much about career choices why are you a guidance councilor?” they want to kill themselves. I’d say spare yourself the pain.
Contractor. This is a job description guys who are construction workers use in order to convince you they are more than nail pushers. It is usually followed up by “Well, I’m working for another contractor friend of mine, but I have my own contractors license.” They always drive a freaking huge crew cab pickup truck (most often red). If you are into beer drinking, football watching, wife abusing hijinx than by all means date him. There are no straight female contractors. Incidentally, if you should happen to date one and then find out he is a roofer, run away as fast as you can. All roofers are insane. It must be the tar fumes and hot sun all day. Now that I have said that I had better hope I never have to rebuild something. Good thing I rent.
Blue collar worker. This can be almost anything, be it sanitation engineer, factory worker, bus driver, etc. For the most part good guys, in a boring salt of the earth sort of way. Usually they are grateful to even have someone attractive into them. Generally not the most stimulating intellectually, although occasionally you meet one who is a total conspiracy nut whacko, and they are endlessly entertaining.
Performer. This is kind of a broad descriptive for anyone who makes money (or claims to) by entertaining people. It could be a comedian, a street guitar performer, a childrens birthday clown, a chainsaw juggler, smoke bubble blower, or a blog writer. With a few exceptions the best way to describe these people is kind of pathetic. They typically make just enough money to survive but not enough to get ahead. They feel frustration at not be acknowledged as one of the worlds foremost one man band performers, and need a girl or boyfriend to come to all their lame shows in the 3rd Street Promenade or where ever and collect the spare change from the jug you just passed around. The decent ones have a day job at Kinkos or something. The bad ones live on their takings. (By the way, if you should happen to find yourself dating a mime, do me and the whole world a favor by stapling a note that says “Learn the words you creepy bastard” to his or her forehead and pushing them off a cliff so they can work on their silent flying man act. I sincerely doubt any sane jury would convict).
Band member. Ah, the Crown Jewel of Losers. These guys (usually. Some girls but I find them to be a little more real) dream of a rock-n-roll lifestyle while performing for the same 9 people as the 7:30pm opening act at the local scum pit. If you want to spend every Friday and Saturday night listening to the same eight badly written, badly engineered, and badly performed “songs” in a bar that smells of stale beer and urine than by all means date him. Just know that if he and his band catches even the slightest whiff of success he will drop you like a live grenade in order to sleep with as many groupies as humanly possible. Even crappy garage bands somehow manage to attract any number of (really) dumb girls willing to jump in the sack with them, so you can expect to be cheated on pretty regularly. As for female band member, I actually went out with one and found myself spending a lot of time assuaging her massive self esteem issues and scraping her off the barroom floor about once a week. However, as far as I know she didn’t cheat on me. These guys inevitably have “day jobs” that somehow turn into “day careers”. Do the human race a favor and don’t give them the opportunity to procreate.
That’s it for today, and pretty much it for the job thing. Tomorrow I will break away from dating for a post or two but when we come back to it I will get into understanding pictures people post, or the “You can judge a book by it’s cover” article.
Yesterday’s question, Lincoln versus Reagan, is quite the puzzler. Lincoln was taller, and actually fought a major war. Reagan was more athletic, and invaded Grenada. Technically he did win the Cold War, but that says nothing about his martial prowess. I think that I will have to bet on Lincoln, unless the rumors of Reagan being the anti-Christ (Ronald Wilson Reagan, 6-6-6) are true, in which case I think he would prevail. (Lincoln image courtesy of the funny political t shirt category)
For today I propose a battle between a great (if stupid human) warrior versus an lame superhero: who would win in a fight between Aquaman and Beef Supreme (from Idiocracy)