Sunday, September 14, 2008

Movie Madness

Since I live in Mayberry, I've been seeing a lot of movies lately because it's about the only thing to do. However, I haven't been very good about actually sharing my opinions of these movies with the unsuspecting world. I'm going to do that now.

I've heard a lot of bad reviews of this movie, but quite frankly I don't get them. Apparently some people think that it's supposed to have some kind of subtext or something--I've heard that it's everything from Will Smith dealing with his fame to a commentary on black America. My opinion is that these people went to see the wrong movie. This is a Will Smith 4th of July movie, and there are certain things we can expect from those: 1) Will Smith will play Will Smith, but that's ok because we like Will Smith; 2) There will be some explosions and shit; 3) The plot might not be great and there won't be any deeper meaning, but that's ok, because it's got Will Smith and explosions and shit. If you go in expecting anything more, you're setting yourself up for disappointment.

So, there's this secret society of weavers who are also trained assassins with semi-magical gun-fu powers. They've got a magical loom that tells them who they're supposed to kill. Yeah, this movie is fucking stupid. Fortunately, the utterly ridiculous plot isn't a deal breaker, because you're going to see Angelina Jolie and guns, both of which are present throughout the movie. Plus, you get hear Morgan Freeman say "mother fucker," which just doesn't happen that often.

Journey to the Center of the Earth
This is a fun movie with some neat special effects while you're watching it, but it doesn't really leave a lasting impression--sort of the film equivalent of Chinese food. Apparently the company that made it went bankrupt before it was even released and some people (I think F/X guys, but possibly writers) didn't get paid. Brendan Frasier is trying to help them, which just proves once again that Brendan Frasier is a swell guy. That's why I still think somebody should cast him as Superman. We know he can do action and we know he can do the aw shucks boy scout Clark stuff, so what's the holdup?

Pineapple Express
Seth Rogen, like Will Smith, plays the same guy in every movie, but, again like Will Smith, we like Seth Rogen, so we're good with that. Throw in James Franco as a wacky drug dealer, Gary Cole as the bad guy, and lots of typical action movie stuff played for laughs and it's hard to go wrong.

Swing Vote
Nobody has (in the immortal words of Warren Ellis) given two tugs of a dead dog's cock about Kevin Costner in quite some time, but this movie has Dennis Hopper and Kelsey Grammer as the two Presidential hopefuls,and that's just the kind of thing that convinces me to pay good money to see a Costner movie. Despite the cliched kid/parent role reversal, this is a good movie up to a point. You see, Bud (Costner's character) is the average American voter (ie, a stupid, uninformed hick), and the movie does a good job of showing how catering to this guy (as both parties do every election cycle) is ultimately detrimental to the god of our country. That is, until they punk out and give him a brain. After all, the average voter is also the average moviegoer.

Death Race
Jason Statham and cars tend to mix well, so he was a natural choice for the Death Race 2000 remake. Throw in a combat Mustang built by Ian McShane and Joan Allen as an evil prison warden, and you've got brainless action movie gold. I challenge you not to enjoy the hell out of this flick.

The House Bunny
There's a lot of eye candy and some mild amusement value in this movie, but Anna Faris is funnier than this. Watch Just Friends instead.

The Rocker
The makers of this movie know what it takes to make a good Rock n' Roll comedy. Namely, Howard Hesseman. He's only got a few scenes in the movie, but his mere presence adds legitimacy to the whole thing. Overall, the movie is about what you'd expect, but thanks to a few nice touches--for instance, the British accents that come with fame--and a good supporting cast including Jeff Garlin, Christina Applegate, and Will Arnett (who is perfect as the lead singer of hair band Vesuvius), and the end result is a much funnier movie than you might expect from the previews.

Disaster Movie
Yeah, I knew this would suck, but there wasn't another movie starting for like 45 minutes. Maybe because of my extremely low expectations, I actually enjoyed parts of this movie. Juno's "overly written, clever-for-clever's sake" dialog was great in the first few scenes (though by the end it was just random webspeak), the Princess was pretty damned amusing, and there were some funny gags. Then there were the Death Metal Chipmunks, which I'd watch an entire movie about right damned now. Otherwise, it's Another BLANK Movie.

Burn After Reading
Ever since True Romance, we've known that Brad Pitt is great at playing stupid, and Burn After Reading lets him really shine at being dumb. The rest of the cast is just as good as you'd expect it to be, but nobody else really stands out any more than usual. Former Coen regulars Hunter, Goodman, and Torturo are (again) regrettably missing from the cast, but the addition of JK Simmons helps to make up for their absence, at least a little bit. Not the Coen's best work, but still a Coen Brothers movie, and therefore well worth watching.

Tropic Thunder
This is one of those movies that reminds you how funny Ben Stiller can be. Of course, since both Stiller and Jack Black are both kind of hit or miss with me, I didn't really have many expectations of this movie until I found out that Robert Downey, Jr. was playing the black guy. That made me want to see it, and Downey was by far the best part of the whole movie. The way the role is written and played, there's not even any real guilt about laughing at a guy who's essentially doing blackface. In addition to the main cast, there's a fun bit role by Matthew McConehoweveryospellWoodersonslastname and an incredibly uncharacteristic performance by--well, I'll just say "Les Grossman." Because if you don't already know that this guy's in the movie (or, like me, had already forgotten Stiller mentioning it on The Daily Show), I don't want to ruin the great "holy shit" moment when you find out who plays Les Grossman.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Facebook: A Skewed Sample of America?

Some people claim that the strip-malling of America has led to a citizenry that clamors for the lowest common denominator in all things. In order to find out whether this is true, I decided to compare the number of Facebook fans for various pairings. Since numbers don't lie (except on Fox News), this should tell us whether or not the average American is truly as dumb as a lot of people seem to think.

Death Match #1: Mark Twain vs. P.J. O'Roarke
Mark Twain: Humorist, novelist, essayist, and arguably the greatest American writer of all time.
PJ O'Rourke: A reasonably funny guy with horrific political ideas. O'Rourke is sometimes compared to Twain, and he probably has whatever Libertarians consider an orgasm every time that happens.
Facebook Fans:
Mark Twain: 138
PJ O'Rourke: 309
Winner: Mr. Let's Privatize The Fire Department

Death Match #2: George Carlin vs. Carlos Mencia
George Carlin: One of the greatest comedians who ever lived, and the man who Robert Anton Wilson once called "America's Greatest Philosopher."
Carlos Mencia: Aka Ned Holnitz. A man whose primary talent is the ability to steal other comics' material.
Facebook Fans:
Carlin: 3,531
Mencia: 450
Winner: Originality and Actual Humor

Death Match #3: Guinness vs. Budweiser
Guinness: Can the entire nation of Ireland really be wrong about beer?
Budweiser: America's most mediocre beer.
Facebook Fans:
Guinness: 42,024
Budweiser: 5,282
Winner: The one that doesn't taste like warm piss.

Death Match #4: Backyard Burgers vs. McDonald's

Backyard Burgers: Sure, it's fast food, but at least their beef is made of something approaching an actual cow.
McDonald's: You ever notice how right after you eat a Big Mac, you need to take a shit? That's because an alarming percentage of McDonald's "beef" is composed of cow feces, so there's no digestion necessary.
Facebook Fans:
Backyard Burgers: 3
McDonald's: 258,436
Winner: Toilet Paper Manufacturers

Death Match #5: Edward R. Murrow vs. Bill O'Reilly

Edward R. Murrow: Generally considered to be the greatest television newsman of all time.
Bill O'Reilly: Political hack who Stephen Colbert has made a career of parodying. Based on his appearances on The Daily Show and Colbert Report, I've developed a theory that Papa Bear is doing the same thing Colbert does, he just doesn't have the good taste to publicly admit it.
Facebook Fans:
Murrow: 76
O'Reilly: Doesn't even have a fan page.
Winner: America

Death Match #6: Terry Gilliam vs. Michael Bay
Terry Gilliam: Visionary filmmaker (and former member of Monty Python) whose works include Time Bandits, Brazil, The Fisher King, 12 Monkeys, and Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, just to name a few.
Michael Bay: A guy who does explosions real good, if you can sit through the often ridiculous plot lines that lead up to them.
Facebook Fans
Terry Gilliam: 4,806
Michael Bay: 631
Winner: The man I hope gets to finish his Don Quixote movie one day.

Death Match #7: John Prine vs. Justin Timberlake
John Prine: The man Bob Dylan once called the greatest songwriter of the 20th Century.
Justin Timberlake: The guy who sang "Dick In A Box."
Facebook Fans:
Prine: No fan page. I find this deeply disturbing.
Timberlake: 466,819
Winner: J.T.

Death Match #8: Alan Moore vs. Todd McFarlane
Alan Moore: Author of Watchmen, V for Vendetta, From Hell, and countless other ground-breaking comics. Believed by many to be a magical being of pure energy.
Todd McFarlane: Creator of Spawn, the revenge story that never ends.
Facebook Fans:
Moore: 6481
McFarlane: 257, though Spawn has 903 fans (The Todd McFarlane is a Fucking Prick group has 7--soon to be 8--members).
Winner: Alan Moore. As it should be.

Death Match #9: Michael Chabon vs. Dan Brown

Michael Chabon: Award-winning author of The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, an incredible book about comics, golems, and the American Dream.
Dan Brown: The man who swiped the plot of Holy Blood, Holy Grail, added the most two-dimensional characters this side of porn, and somehow ended up with a best-seller.
Facebook Fans:
Chabon: 528
Brown: 8,442
Winner: The worst author I've ever read an entire book by.

Death Match #10: Johnny Depp vs. Ben Affleck
Johnny Depp: Amazing actor whose roles include Captain Jack Sparrow, Edward Scissorhands, Ed Wood, and Hunter S. Thompson.
Ben Affleck: The man who can only act when Kevin Smith is behind the camera.
Facebook Fans:
Depp: 224,152 (413,110 for Depp as Captain Jack Sparrow)
Affleck: 12,371
Winner: The right one.

The Results
In a surprising 60% of my test cases, the higher quality competitor had the most Facebook Fans. On the surface, this seems to suggest that George Bernard Shaw's math was off and the 100% American is actually only 40% an idiot. Unfortunately, this fails to take into account two important factors: (1)The international nature of Facebook; and (2)the fact that many, um, let's call them "Michael Bay Fans" are probably not Facebook users (though there's an excellent chance many of them have Adspace accounts). So, in the tradition of the Christian Right, I'm going to boldly ignore science and continue to believe that the average American is dangerously stupid.