Fuck. I've been going through the songs on my iPod and I can't listen to half of them now because they remind me too much of better times. Shouldn't that be the reason why I SHOULD be listening to them? Anyway, three well-reviewed movies opened this weekend: Zombieland, The Invention of Lying, and Whip It, but because I only had $3 on me, I went to the discount house and watched Gamer instead.
Gamer is the second film of the year from the tag team duo Neveldine/Taylor (Crank: High Voltage being the first) and stars Gerard Butler with the Quagmire shaped head as a guy serving time on Death Row for something we will all know he was either framed for or had a good reason for doing. In the meantime, he's volunteered himself for a game called Slayers where he and other Death Row inmates give up control of their bodies so they can act as living, breathing avatars for rich asshole kids to play them online, involving them in real-life Call of Duty type scenarios. If the Slayer can survive 30 missions, he or she can go free, and it happens to be that Butler's character (named Kable) is a couple missions away from the Promised Land.
Dexter from Dexter is the villain of the piece, a sort of cooler and more douched-up combination of Bill Gates and the motherfuckers who created Grand Theft Auto. You're supposed to figure that he's an odd duck because he does things like smell everything he comes into contact with; he sniffs a potato chip before eating it, or he'll sniff a woman's hand before kissing it. Of course, he gives up this little quirk halfway through the movie, I suppose because the filmmakers were too busy making everything XXXTRREEEMMEE that they forgot to give a fuck about shit like character continuity. Personally, I knew this guy was an asshole when I noticed he wasn't wearing socks with his expensive suit.
So while Kable is stuck fragging fuckers for freedom, his wife on the outside is trying to make ends meet by volunteering herself in one of Dexter's other online inventions, Society. Like Slayers, Society involves human beings letting other human beings control them like a video game, only here it's in a real-life Second Life environment. That means that fat, disgusting, sweaty, dirty motherfuckers in power chairs turn on their computers, log in, take control of people like Mrs. Kable and dress her up in crazy outfits (no matter the style, it all screams Slut) and try to pick up other Society members. I really liked the idea of this and it had potential, but because this isn't being made by filmmakers interested in anything more than People Suck as a theme, it doesn't go anywhere other than, you know, People Suck.
Of course, there is an underground gathering of people who hate the idea of being controlled by others, and they call themselves the Humanz, and they are led by Ludacris, which makes perfect sense. They try jamming into the television and computer signalz to give warningz about what Dexter and his programz are doing to people and that they should stand up, unplug and fight the power, but no one seems to care. Mr. Cris and the Humanz obviously have never seen The Running Man, otherwise they'd know that people will only revolt if they are shown a video that incriminates the person they are following and exonerates the man they thought was guilty. Luckily, Neveldine/Taylor *have* seen The Running Man, so I guess you can guess how the movie's gonna end now.
It's a shame when you see a movie with potential for a kick-ass time completely shite it, and it's even worse when you consider the wasted talent. Like, I've never seen Dexter, but I understand that it's The Greatest Show Ever Made (alongside Mad Men, Breaking Bad, The Wire) so it's kind of a head-scratcher that this is the movie he decides to make during hiatus. I noticed that shit happens with big stars from the small screen; fuckin' Tony Soprano never came close to matching his Sopranos work doing flicks like The Last Castle and The Mexican. The guys from Nip/Tuck get Fantastic Four and The Stepfather Remake as their rewards. The only actor who got a movie worthy of his talents is Jeremy Piven with that shitty comedy The Goods.
Now you have Dexter in Gamer. I'm sure it's a money thing. Or maybe he did this movie because he liked the idea of having a genuine song-and-dance routine late in the film. What's that, you ask? Yup, there's a full-blown number with Dexter crooning "I've Got You Under My Skin" while Kable owns a bunch of his henchmen, and that should have been yet another WTF Moment in a film full of WTF Moments, but no, I'm still yawning over here. And that's fucking sad.
Alison Lohmann also shows up, looking like she was dragged out of hell (See what I did there? Komedy!) and straight to the set. I wish I could say more about her, but there's really not much to her role, so that's it. Kevin Bacon's wife plays a kind of Barbara Walters type, John Leguizamo is doing his character actor thing, Ludacris is damn lucky to have been cast in Crash, Keith David appears in one scene just to remind you how awesome this movie ISN'T being, Lloyd Kaufman has a quick cameo (this motherfucker could probably produce a far more entertaining version of this flick with a far smaller budget) and then you got Ms. Zoe Bell, appearing long enough for you to go "Is that Zoe Bell in cornrows?" before her head gets exploded.
Terry Crews is also in this movie, and every time I see him in a movie, I smile. Some website once had an article about actors who make a movie something like 20% better simply by appearing in it. To be a Twenty-Percenter, you can be well known and you can star in a movie, but you can't be a Movie Star. They're either very talented or very likable or both -- Willem Dafoe, Jane Lynch, and the aforementioned Keith David, for example, are Twenty-Percenters (to me, anyway). I'd have to add Terry Crews to that list, and I guess his role in Idiocracy might have a lot to do with that. Anyway, he has the best goddamn role in the movie, playing a psycho ringer thrown in to fuck up Kable's shit. It's so over-the-top and go-for-broke, that it's just too bad the filmmakers were not making the same movie Crews was acting in.
The teens/young adults sitting behind me seemed to dig it all; a lot of WOW and KEWL and OH SHIT was exclaimed at the explosions and blood and sparks, and I'm glad they were having a good time, because I honestly found it boring. This kind of shit worked in Crank: High Voltage because the content and style were never more made for each other, but it does nothing for Gamer. All the XXXTRREEEMMEE filmmaking reeks of desperation here, and so do the rampant attempts at bad taste. Like with the Crank movies, it seems to come from more of a "Ha ha, I bet this will really piss people off" type of assholery which I guess is fine if you know what the fuck you're doing, but it just comes off like some lame-ass poseur shit when Neveldine/Taylor try to pull it off here. You have a scene where the snarky dipshit video gamer in charge of Kable is dealing with all these girl fans online, and they all have screen names like "Kumdumpstaz" and I guess you're supposed to be like That Shit's Fuckin' Hilarious Bro WOOOOOOOO or something, and yet I'm just trying not to yawn over here, you dig what I'm saying?
So why'd you buy a ticket then, asshole? I know, I know, but I thought I'd get a fun, brainless action movie at the very least. But not only is it surprisingly joyless, it then tries to have it both ways by wallowing in severed limbs, blood-spattered lenses and juvenile humor and then suddenly throwing in some super slow-motion and dramatic music in an attempt to fool you into thinking that this is About Something. Don't you get it man, why do we do this to ourselves? The violence, the controlling of weaker people, why? We watch and cheer as these monsters destroy each other...but doesn't that mean WE are the monsters? ask Neveldine/Taylor before they take another hit of ecstacy and high-five each other while laughing their asses off at the sight of their high-priced hooker eating cocktail franks from a doggy bowl because they paid her to do so.
When the occasional moment of emotion that isn't tainted in Hate creeps into the frame, it feels fake as fuck coming from these filmmakers. You can tell they're as uncomfortable with it as Major Payne was when that little kid gave him a hug. These motherfuckers only work in the area of Fuck You and that's why the Crank movies worked and not this one -- shit, the second one literally ends with a Fuck You to the audience. They seemed to embrace their true soul, the Inner Asshole with that movie, but here they're flirting with shit they should have nothing to do with because they are incapable of pulling it off; concepts like Love and Sympathy are totally alien to these guys so they shouldn't even fucking bother.
You have a movie full of cool shots but all the flashy visuals in the world won't mean a fucking thing when the audience can't give one iota of a fuck about the subjects within the well-composed frame. There's a Blade Runner reference when we see Mrs. Kable being made up exactly as Daryl Hannah's Pris character, so I guess that means they're BR fans? But if that's the case, they must only be fans of the atmospheric cinematography and the vast futuristic production design and not of the themes and characterizations.
The discount house was also playing Ponyo, and I should have just bought a ticket to that one again.
Enough of my rambling, let's move on to some ranting. I was reading a review for the latest volume of 42nd Street Forever, a DVD compilation of old trailers from the 70's and 80's, mostly grindhouse fare. The reviewer spent most of the piece talking about how In His Day people took chances going to see these movies in seedy, rat/homeless infested grindhouse theaters and that the kids today are watching these movies in clean, safe environments like the Alamo Drafthouse and you'll never get it kids, you'll never get it, and that's why you're all a bunch of irony drenched hipsters who act like you're all above these films. I guess it's no surprise that he manages to put down Tarantino for this as well. Ugh.
While he has a point about how the element of danger is gone, and that I never knew the experience of smelling urine and watching drug deals go down at the other end of the aisle, I hate the way he generalized the young grindhouse fans of today. Basically, we're all snarky douchebag kids who go out to see these movies to laugh at (rather than laugh with). Now, sure, there's a healthy number of people like that who go to see these movies, but I also know a lot of people who watch these flicks hoping to like them. We don't always want to see The Room, you know.
First and foremost, I want my grindhouse flick to be an honest-to-goodness cool movie. If it turns out to be shitty, well then, fine, I'm going to try to have some laughs with it, because if it's a bad movie, at least be entertaining about it. My last rambling was about a movie called Massacre Mafia Style, and as cheaply made and rough as it may have been, I thought it was a genuinely good flick. Of course, I have to season my review of it with lots of Dick and Asshole, but that's because I'm not a good writer, so I have to snark it up even when I'm being complementary.
I'm all over the place here (and hungover like a mutha, which is why I'm out of Sobieski) so my sudden anecdote here shouldn't come as a surprise, but here goes: I remember when I went to the New Beverly last year for their first horror movie marathon. People were into the flicks, giving mad respect to the U.S. cut of Argento's Phenomena, Fulci's Zombie, and The House on Sorority Row (the original, bitch!). When we laughed, it was because something funny happened and when we applauded, it was because we totally dug what was going on, not because we were being ironic about some shit.
Well, then they put on a movie from the 60's called Teenage Mother, and I'm sorry, but that movie was TERRIBLE and it seems like most of us in the audience agreed on that. Slowly, but surely, the joint turned into an R-rated, not nearly as cleverly written version of MST3k as people started yelling stuff at the screen and laughing at the on-screen proceedings. We had our fun at its expense, and then the movie had the last laugh by climaxing with graphic footage of an actual birth. The movie that followed was called The Power, and I guess a few people still thought we were in Teenage Mother mode, because they would yell out stuff during the first 5 minutes. And do you know what happened? They were shushed by the rest of us. That's right, the people in the New Bev were telling the others to shut the fuck up because Goddammit, We're Giving This Movie A Chance To Prove Itself. The Power turned out to be kinda lame, but we gave it a shot, we didn't come in wanting to mock it and as it turns out, none of us did (or maybe we were too tired by then). I don't know what my fucking point is, with this anecdote and my ramblings in general. I just keep going and going like some fuckin' asshole. I'm sorry.
3 days ago