Monday, March 28, 2011

Another Classic

I saw Red Riding Hood this weekend, but even though it was weak, it isn't really worth writing about. We got free tickets and free popcorn from a friend. In the darkness of the theater, she also handed us chocolate balls from the depths of her purse. They turned out to be soaked in the grape essence of a leaking container of grape-scented moist towelettes, which are called "wipes" here in the 21st Century, but for some reason I'm still uncomfortable saying "wipes.

Anyway, I had two realizations about Red Riding Hood. First, that it takes place in the spikiest village in the spikiest sylvan locale in existence. Don't let your kids do any running in this village unless you want to collect them later shish-kabobbed. Second, I felt dumb that it took me more than an hour to realize I was watching, essentially, a Twilight movie—same sort of teen protagonists, same director, same lame. I haven't actually seen any Twilight movies, so how was I to know? 

Therefore, I offer a remastered classic from 2010:

Just watched the last half of a good candidate for Worst Movie Ever: The Next Karate Kid, with a toothy young Hilary Swank doing a lot of crotchy walking and hambone squirrely acting. I mean, it's exactly the sort of movie one wants and expects out of the CW on a Sunday afternoon, so I can only express my gratitude for the following lessons:

As a rule, the greatest wisdom comes instantly, after no experience, no suffering, and only minimal contact with Pat Morita.

The more of an old Asian man you are, the more you radiate unearthly peace and power.

If you rub your hands together, you can heal any wound with the warmth generated.

As far as I could tell, the movie was written by a committee of 4th graders who were asked to raise their hands whenever they thought of a heartwarming cliche or a scary high-school threat.

Highlights include:

Swank gets in trouble for killing a roach in the monastery, thus pissing on all of life's sacredness. Later, she finds a praying mantis in a field and all is forgiven. As bonus wisdom, Pat Morita tells her that mantises touch one knee to the ground before striking, so she tries it and explodes with radical new power. She can now kick while jumping in slow motion... and with great wisdom.

Monks swing burlap sacks of grain to hit a teen girl unawares: on the third try, Morita tells her to focus, and she attains a sort of sixth sense for unseen attacks.

Pat Morita and the other "Karate Monks" drive to a bowling alley in a VW bus and end up beating the pants off a cocky bowling team whose captain wagers a dollar per point and makes fun of the monks. Using unorthodox bowling styles, the monks reap many strikes. The other guys, who are serious enough about bowling to have their own shirts, bowl terribly and end up having to pay like 300 dollars to the monks, who accept the money with great mock-honor. How did they do it? "Bowling zen."

Swank and her boyfriend go to a high-school dance after Pat Morita buys her a perfect-fitting dress even though there's no way he would know her size. He also tricks her into learning to dance by showing her karate moves that emulate a waltz. She is very pleased to find that she is now a natural at romantic dancing.

In the middle of the dance, paramilitary teens careen down from the ceiling on cables and smash the decorations, apparently just to show Swank's boyfriend that he mustn't have any fun and he'll never know peace until they grow tired of challenging him in public. They walk off with great lack of wisdom.

A mean paramilitary teen throws sand in Swanky's eyes during their fight. The tide turns against her, until Morita says FOCUS, and she regains her sixth sense by putting her hands together, thus sensing the impending kick. She swats her opponent away with great wisdom.

A near-slow-mo fight finale between Pat Morita and Michael Ironside that proves 1) good triumphs over evil no matter how old, 2) no one involved in the production knows any martial arts, 3) freak-out paramilitary teens who just torched your car and gang-beat your boyfriend will see the error of their ways when a small Asian man defeats their mentor in mild combat, and 4) the best way to end a fight is with humorous mercy--in this case, blowing lightly in the face of Michael Ironside instead of gouging his eyes out.

Unlike other Hilary Swank movies, we luckily never see her bush.

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Saturday, March 26, 2011


Mark your calendars, Oprah fans -- the last-ever original "Oprah Winfrey Show" will air May 25.

Tickets are selling on the black market for upwards of $16k. Just kidding—no one will sell. Instead, holders of the precious golden tickets are being murdered in their sleep by ticket-hungry fiends. In response, Oprah has changed the topic of her finale to "A Tribute to All Those Who Died Trying to be Here." She will yell, "Let's hear it for the victiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiims!" followed by a barrage of false ebonics. Ms. Winfrey has promised to debut the phrase "me pleeps" before the show ends.

Footnote to "The Opraverse"
I wrote about this a few months ago—should have known Bill Maher would beat me to it:
Bill Maher Downer Bomb 


Saturday, March 19, 2011

Oh Bachelor Where Art Thou?

I'm going on the offensive.

Who are you to make fun of me just because I love The Bachelor? And The Bachelorette. And Big Brother, Flavor of Love and Celebrity Whore Dash (still in production). I'll admit, I'm often lost by what others like you count as drama. Watching CSI Boca Raton investigators stumble around in the dark just doesn't do it for me anymore. Seriously, there are no F-in' lights in the lab? It's a lab! Marge, and her seventeen facelifts, stuck in eternal midnight blue. Marge Helgenberger is 52 years old.

As long as we're all going to be lulled into lives of working misery, suckered into chasing pride or power and cashing in our dignity for minivans or pats on the back from the youth pastor for laughing at his off-putting knock-knock joke 10 seconds after he justified Almighty God's need to ask Abraham to kill his own son to a six-year-old, we should get something to keep us quiet. Something that can satisfy our need to stare at others.Yes, I'm talking about the real tears of mortals.

And nobody works harder to make real people cry than our reality television producers. So, how do you make people cry without making people feel guilty about wanting to watch people cry? Well, it's not as easy as you might think.

First, you have to start with pretty people. Fit and muscular twentysomethings are preferred, but old irascible veterans work, too.

Then you give them the opportunity to achieve wealth and fame. You know, the things crusty actresses like Helgenberger have killed people for. Then, just stick them all in a maze with only one piece of cheese. If you are really sophisticated, like producers of The Bachelor of The Biggest Loser, you allow the piece of cheese to be love or self-worth. Did you know that when contestants on The Biggest Loser get voted off the show for not dropping enough L-B-Ss they pan to a refrigerator full of sweets topped with said contestant's name to watch the light on the calorie box go dim? Shouldn't the bulb go bright since Mrs. Tummyontv is heading home to eat a cake in misery, you ask? Shhhh. This is drama.

Keep them away from their families. Check. Make them eat bugs. Check. Make them starve and vote each other out and then show them their baby's first steps on video. Action! Elitist like yourself turn to Hill Street Blues and talk about the great writing or the importance of supporting the true craft of acting. That's real drama. Fooey!

The Biggest Loser, better than perhaps any other show, takes reality television to its natural conclusion: suffering is spectacle. King of the Mountain is the only game in town. All pain is justified so long as one big shot gets glorified in the end. It's everything we know.

I like to watch The Bachelor with my wife after she has been slaving at her big-box retailer all day and tell her which blondes I'd pick. Sometimes we'll have lively debates, but for the most part, we agree with each other. We have the most fun when we imagine our own outcomes.

This Bachelor season, we were praying that Brad Womack would get to the end and pick two girls. You know, mix it up. The possibilities for entertainment are endless. This year they didn't even announce who the next Bachelorette was going to be. I guess Michelle was too crazy. Ho hum.

I've talked myself quiet. Go back to your SVU, elitist snobs!

Knock-knock. Who's there? Eternal salvation....

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Sunday, March 13, 2011

When Commercials Go Bad

Local commercials have great lameness potential. Here and there we get a good one, like a recent one from our local ABC affiliate, KSPR, where kids amp up into grandiose slo-mo celebratory gestures when they find out school is cancelled. But more often, local commercials are a showcase for awkward theme songs, unfortunate local business owners and their spoiled kids.

One of the standouts in this category is one featuring a local lawer, Aaron Sachs. He does fine, but his son secretly steals the show. The blonde boy, who has the oddly piercing eyes of a Tazmanian Devil, is supposed to be doing homework for the camera. But if you watch closely, you see that he is doing his homework with manic, almost psychotic intent, like homeworking on methamphetamines. The father speaks calmly while his son spins just slightly out of control.

Even more subtle downfalls occur when the wording in local commercials gets weird. Upon entering a time of economic uncertainty, the market for gold and silver coins & jewelry has heated considerably. Here in Springfield, it must have reached a fever pitch, because the commercials for The Gold Exhange and R&K Coins are on a rampage. Of course they all promise "top dollar" in the buying and selling of your gold and silver. Any mention of "dental gold" tends to freak me out a little. Maybe it's just me, but it brings to mind people pulling their teeth out to get the riches within... maybe working a crown off with needlenose pliers. Of course there is the chance that they're appealing to those dentured senior citizens whose dental gold already resides away from the mandible. R&K Coins seems to confirm a pandering to old folks when they say, "We're not here to make a quick buck like some of those slick willies would have you believe." Aside from my suspicion that "a quick buck" is exactly what they would enjoy making, their use of the phrase "slick willies" seems like a heat-seeking missile aimed precisely at that retired segment of society that still revels in the impeachment of Bill Clinton.  

The latest local oddball commercial is for a store called Clothes Mentor. It's a weird name to begin with, suggesting a slightly bossy and intrusive role for the store, but the commercial insists on repeating the phrase "gently used clothing." My wife complained that she didn't like the phrase "gently used," so of course I thought about it later while driving. I decided that it seems odd to me, too. Something in the alchemy of word connotations brings to my poisoned brain images of a patient under sedation who gets molested by a doctor or dentist. I'm sure that's not what Clothes Mentor intended, but they sure choose weird wording. 

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Saturday, March 12, 2011

Infant in the Age of Gluttony

OK, the blog title "Weekend Wasted" was not available, so I made up the above and away we go. Below are the inspirational posts that inspired the topic, and here comes the logistical info recently posted for group consideration:

(Disclaimer: Although They Live features elements of movie lameness, I think it is awesome. The image has been stolen to inspire you to similar awesomeness.)

I'd like to have a communal blog for harsh write-ups of bad movies and TV, such as my previous post. I will try to watch something terrible periodically, and invite you to do the same. This would probably be easier to do in a Facebook group, but I don't want Zuckerburg dragging us down.

WEEKEND WASTED is the best title I have so far. I think my Dungeons and Dragons entry sets up a pretty good template, but we also need a ratings system. I don't think it works just to give a bad movie fewer traditional stars, because what we're craving here is that rare bad movie that is so bad it's also mutating into good; thus, a certain one-star movie might be ridiculously funny, whereas another one-star movie may just be unwatchable and boring. Here are ideas:

• 1-4 BLACK STARS: inverted stars that denote anti-quality
• 1-10 on the ED WOOD scale
• or make up your own, designed for the occasion. We'll understand.

It might also be funny to say where you "acquired" the movie—in the bargain bin at Mal-Wart, or on local late-night TV.

We can also nominate certain movies that need to be tackled, like a list for bounty hunters. I hereby nominate those "Left Behind" movies with Kirk Cameron.

Weekend Wasted—Episode 1

Dungeons and Dragons (2000)

After my wife and a friend exclaimed about Jeremy Irons on a Law and Order episode, I used it as an excuse to come to terms with Dungeons and Dragons, a movie I never saw because it looked like crap.

A truly awful movie can be a joy to behold, at least in the comfort and privacy of home. In the case of Dungeons and Dragons, joy may not be the primary feeling involved, but it does come bearing many gifts: feats of lousy acting, bizarre stupidity, feeble theft from greater films, and a dragon's hoard of floppy cliches. How much does this movie stink? Let us count the ways.

1. It has a Wayans brother. As soon as the tale begins you'll get to see him in action. This Lesser Wayans is the first, best sign that you've boarded the chump train. You might be like me and point him out with the same weary dread that Boromir used in Fellowship of the Ring when he said in Moria, "They've got a cave troll…." “They have a Wayans.”
2. It has a Beholder, but they don't do anything with it.
3. The effects are weak-ass. The only inventive visual comes when a Persian rug turns into a pit of oatmealy quicksand, and even that isn't mind-blowing.
4. Most of the actors can't even be bothered to adopt a faux British accent to boost their medieval mojo. There are some very non-human races who speak modern casual. For instance, a blue guy with a third eye in his forehead who sounds like he works at Fast & Friendly.
5. The main badass villain, the Darth Vader to Jeremy Irons's Emperor, has nonsensical blue lips.
6. Just when you think you might be treated to one scintilla of originality, that doesn't happen.
7. Some of the weakest fight scenes ever filmed. As if no one ever planned, trained, practiced, or cared. Most of the fights count on the scene being very crowded with people, so they just scramble around and bump into each other, but with swords in their hands.
8. Rip-off Town: Take the Princess and the Emperor from Star Wars, take Gimli, Elrond, Sam & Frodo, and the giant tree from LotR, take a brain-worm vaguely like Chekov’s ear-grubs from Wrath of Khan, run your hero through a maze challenge kind of like Indiana Jones, then mash them all together into a charmless gruel.
9. Apparently, the good guys dissolve into fairy dust at the end and follow the dead Wayans brother to heaven! Jesus Christ.

Talking Points:
• When Ghost World came out, Thora Birch and Scarlett Johansson seemed equal. When did Thora Birch officially lose the fame race with Scarlett Johansson? Either at birth or when this movie came out, depending on your level of cynicism.
• Lord of the Rings was in production when this movie came out. Did they just rush it out to cash in on sword-and-sorcery fever?
• Why would anyone make shit like this?
• There is a theme of class warfare built into the script, where Mages are the ruling class and likened to the rich and powerful. Everyone else is poor, powerless, and rag-tag. This socio-economic theme is resolved by a computer-generated ruckus of fire-breathing red dragons.

Cast of Characters:
• Two thief buddies—Some Fucking Wayans and Bland Young Stud. They are the embodiment of the worst in buddy movies, plus a bit of Abbott and Costello. SFW is supposed to be hilarious because he's both cowardly and flirty, while BYS is supposed to be full of admirable gumption and loyalty. It is a relief when SFW dies, and a constant worry that he’ll be resurrected by magic.
• Empress Thora Birch—She dresses and functions just like Princess Amidala in Star Wars, except when she rides a dragon, in which case she wears a secondhand Penthouse magazine Joan of Arc get-up.
• Foodbeard the Dwarf—he’s like a homeless Gimli, but with a lot less class. He gets so much food in his beard throughout the movie that it often resembles a beard of vomit. Between this and his overly expressive face, he is the second best presence in the movie, because he is unapologetically moronic.
• S&M Spock Elf—She’s a mysterious battle-bitch with above average skills. She looks like a Vulcan, but wears a sky-blue Madonna-tits breastplate, pastel plate-mail, and leather work gloves from Race Brothers Farm Supply. When Bland Young Stud is stabbed in the collar, he swoons like Morgul-blade Frodo and she takes him to be healed by her Elf-lord father, faux-Elrond. He chides the humans: “You USE magic… WE are PART of it.” All eyes moisten with wonder.
• Cut-rate Anne Hathaway—sort of a magical grad student. Semi-hot; moistly harmless.
• Blue-lipped Prick—Bad guy who is so bad he’s really bad. He stabs, beats, and lies under the command of Jeremy Irons, who controls him with a mean-looking brain parasite. Potentially one of the more interesting items in the film, but it fizzles predictably.
• Jeremy Irons— When things get serious, he takes off his white clothes and puts on his black clothes. Everyone knows he can act, but he does his best to prove otherwise. Maybe he’s trying to beat his co-stars to the Shit Trophy. The director must have told Jeremy Irons to act to the point of seizure, because that’s what he does.
• There’s this talking skeleton tied to the wall of the dragon’s treasure chamber. He is the best actor in the film, and I commend him.


The two buddies have to steal things in lively fashion, because they are thieves. Right up the street there must be ripe pickings at the Magic School, so they break in to steal. The smarty-pants grad-student girl nabs them with a magic binding spell. They argue about their values and begin building a little sexual tension. Then they all run around. Meanwhile, Jeremy Irons throws caution to the wind and fucks with red dragons, bending them to his will whilst twisting his teeth into various grimaces. Then they all run around. The good guys have to do some feats of skill to win a map from the Lord of Thieves. They win, but he screws them over because he’s the biggest thief, and laughs at the concept of “honor among thieves.” Blue-lipped Prick shows up and they all run around. Soothingly, the Prick kills the Wayans brother. The remaining good guys follow the map and get to the dragon’s lair, where they steal a gem, put it in a secret slot, and get magical results. Thora Birch rides a dragon in her Penthouse Joan of Arc suit, winning the hour. A pissed-off red dragon bites the bejeezus out of Jeremy Irons in the Superbowl of dragon fights, which plays like a video game. Then they have a modest funeral for the Wayans brother, and—I fucking shit you not—they all turn to fairy twinkles and rise into the air!

Did my friend Chris DeLozier write this in junior high when he was our dungeon master?

TV Time

1. The Judge Judy Feedback Loop

As the chicken is to the egg, so is Judge Judy to that dominant mindset of our elders: that here in Hell’s handbasket, young folks are verminous and should be treated with the sourest suspicion. I rarely see Judge Judy, but today it happened, and her cold-blooded impatience shook me with the ball-cupping horror of coming awake in a sleeping bag full of snakes. Well, not quite, but as she chewed some defenseless human’s dignity off, I wondered if she causes old people (who love watching her, I’m told) to think most (younger) people are foolish scum, or if that basic retiree’s outlook is what drives Judge Judy to arrange her Theater of Justice to skin them alive. Today she all but said that she just bases her decisions on fuck-all, when she said, “You’re lucky today, ma’am—any other day, this decision could have gone the other way,” begging the question, BASED ON WHAT? Zodiac signs? Menopausal biorhythms? I know when you’re a professional bitch paid to prey on an endless parade of humps, there are no bonuses for politeness, but they do stamp the word JUSTICE on the show here and there.

All that’s beside the point, which is ratings. You don’t become a household name through careful onscreen deliberation. Much better to snap, fume and excoriate, to embody that frustrated demon that gestates in the bellies of so many elderly Americans: The World Will Never Be Good Again, Because Young People Are Lazy Nogoodniks and Liars, Not To Mention Mostly Not White. Ironically, Judge Judy is mostly not white, yet she has been channelling her fickle Dr. Laura WonderBread prejudices for so long that she gets a free pass. That’s not to say she’s racist. She just seems to hate all human weakness to the point of sadism. Today she berated a young woman for moving a 4-year-old child from one state to another, changing jobs, and for having a relationship that went bad. Well, sorry Judy, not all of us make millions on our own TV show. Some people lose their jobs, relocate, start over, and get so desperate that they appear on JUDGE JUDY to be reamed in exchange for paid legal fees.

The other day, my mom quoted a friend of hers as saying, “The world will never be the same again,” in the usual context that suggests everything used to be so much better… I think what most old people are lamenting, if they were being totally honest, is the world where they were young, and foolish enough to think they were in control of it.

There’s plenty of blame to go around. I’m laying some of it on Judge Judy/old people/Judge Judy....

2. COPS: Proof that Abuse of “Innocent” Citizens is Always Justified

Like JUDGE JUDY, COPS does a good job of painting the world in shit-tinted pigments. I always groan inwardly when my wife flips on COPS because, even though it can be entertaining and even educational, it’s corrupt at heart. First, nearly everyone is treated as if guilty until proven innocent. Then, as if by magic, 99% of all suspects end up being guilty, usually of drug/alcohol use/possession. Of course all the footage of innocent people gets edited out because it’s not exciting TV, leaving a clear portrait of Cesspool, USA: mostly poor, defeated users and abusers for us to laugh at. Laugh you should, because if you take it seriously, be prepared for a total disregard of human rights, an endless parade of cop-on-perp physical abuse and overreaction.

Of course, if you just finished watching JUDGE JUDY, you’ll be relieved to see beefy Boys in Blue punish the crap out of strung-out Mexicans and white trashoids, EVERY ONE OF WHICH is carrying either a crack pipe or a gun in his pants or his car. At first, you might mistakenly think, Hey, why are they pulling that guy over? (Oh, they say he rolled through a stop sign—OK, that wasn’t filmed, but whatever). Then you might indignantly say, Why are those THREE BIG COPS ramming that skinny loser’s face into the sidewalk? He’s obviously no threat to them! But watch carefully—all will be revealed. Yes, all suspicious-looking people are guilty after all. There’s nothing that can’t be tagged as illegal, and if the police do something REALLY cruel, they’ll edit that out for you. In the end, you’ll forget even your own Constitutional rights.

If you missed it, tonight's episode featured a Mexican guy caught peeing outside ("suspicious activity"). For some reason, not only did an officer show up for this negligible offense, he chased him down (actually the fat cop fell far short of catching him, but some quick civilian grabbed him), mashed him on a lawn and humped him a few times as if simulating prison sex, cuffed him, let two other officers pile on, jerked the guy up, clonked him around and into the squad car, bound his legs, put some kind of padded helmet on him, and found him to be intoxicated. Thank god they got that urinating menace off the streets!