April 2012 - Can't Stop the Movies
Can't Stop the Movies
29Apr/122

The Pirates! Band of Misfits (2012)

Danny no longer writes for Can't Stop the Movies, and can be reached at his fantastic site Pre-Code.com

It's not very often I get a movie that comes along with an exclamation point in its title. The Pirates! Band of Misfits  is about halfway there. They're excited about pirates (!), but not the band of misfits. But, in a shocking twist, the pirates (!) are the band of misfits. I should be excited; instead I'm needlessly confused.

But, then again, that's almost a constant anyway. However, I'm willingly to let bygones be bygones when it comes to animated family movies the director of Chicken Run (Peter Lord) and the men behind the "Wallace and Gromit" franchise since their track record is pretty fantastic.

Based on a children's book series, The Pirates! Band of Misfits concerns a pirate captain aptly named Pirate Captain (Hugh Grant), who counts among his crew Number Two (Martin Freeman), Albino Pirate (Anton Yelchin), The Pirate with Gout (Brendan Gleeson), The Surprisingly Curvacious Pirate (Ashley Jensen), and The Pirate who Likes Sunsets and Kittens (Al Roker-- yes). They're one of those amiably daffy lots of pirates who get more of a kick out of Ham Night than any of the looting or plundering options that are currently available.

However, Pirate Captain is of an egotistical lot, so when the annual Pirate of the Year competition once again comes around, he enters to meet his own humiliation as all of the other pirates have robbed, murdered, and roamed the seas to their hearts content. Dejected, Pirate Captain vows to bring back a reason for him to win the competition.

28Apr/124

The Lucky One (2012)

Danny no longer writes for Can't Stop the Movies, and can be reached at his fantastic site Pre-Code.com

I, occasionally, miss first kisses. Don't get me wrong, I'm much happier now than I've ever been, but there's something about anticipation that I relish. I think great romantic dramas rely on that same sort of anticipation; since they're one of the few genres that gets to experiment with the unhappy ending in modern cinema, from Love Story to The Notebook, I had high hopes that the new Nicholas Sparks-based drama The Lucky One would enliven my tear ducts and enjoin my heartstrings.

Suffice to say, no, that didn't happen. In fact, so little emotional ground is explored in the film that it feels like we're watching the director play high school melodrama with an assortment of China dolls. The Lucky One could be a textbook case for displaying emotional sublimation on cinematic screens since it so perfectly embodies solemn dutiful stares and characters embroiled in wordless thought.

Not always a bad thing. But the movie itself, dressed in the last issue of "Country Living" you saw on the shelf and baked in the warmest honey-sunned glows, has no passion underneath, no characters worth exploring. Great romance requires conflict as well as anticipation, and the main conflict behind The Lucky One is extremely hoary.

27Apr/122

A Couple on Kubrick: Eyes Wide Shut (1999)

Well, sweetie, it has come to this. The last movie Stanley Kubrick was the primary auteur for.  It was widely hyped, it had a very sexy trailer (that I still remember even though this came out when I was 12), some people were upset about some CGI used in order to keep the movie at an “R” rating, and everyone was talking how Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman were not sexually compatible.  Are you ready for it? OK!

Let me start off by saying that, in spite of remembering the promotional material surrounding the movie, I’ve never actually seen Eyes Wide Shut until now. Now that I have seen the  movie, I am left with many questions.

For now, I am going to skip the questions and focus on what I liked about the movie, which I can fully express in my favorite scene of the movie. Dr. Bill Harford (Cruise) and his wife, Alice Harford (Kidman) are smoking pot and enjoying themselves, when Alice decides to ask if Bill slept with the two nymphet models at the party they attended the night before. Bill assures her that he did not. That exchange leads into a heated discussion about why men interact with women (sex, according to Bill), how that applies to Bill (is he not sleeping with other women out of devotion or out of courtesy), and lastly, whether cheating lies along gender line while Bill explains that even though Nicole was dancing with an older Hungarian gentlemen who wanted to have sex with, he trusted her. The reason why he trusts his wife was not only because she was a devoted wife and mother, but also that women have no evolutionary need to cheat, so she is unable to cheat.

Alice, angry and high, shifts her mood from bubbly and annoyed to deadly serious and cruel when she tells Bill how she saw a handsome and nameless Naval Officer and how she would have had sex with the Naval Officer regardless of the dissolution of her marriage and family if given the opportunity. Alice’s revelation stuns Bill and leaves him insecure and confused, starting his journey into sexuality, morality and consequences leading him into the sex cult. This scene has it all. A great performance by Tom Cruise, a scarily familiar conversation about sexuality and human interaction across gender lines, the start of a great character journey for Bill and the only part of the movie where I like Alice.

26Apr/120

The Wicker Tree (2012)

Robin Hardy's original The Wicker Man remains one of my cinematic blind-spots.  It's been praised up and down as one of the cult classics of horror and received a Nicholas Cage do-over which is either the funniest film of the last decade or one of the worst re-imaginings in film history.  Based on the obvious twists on display in The Wicker Tree, I'll take the crazed man in a bear suit drop kicking cultists please.

The Wicker Tree panders to a certain kind of atheistically inclined cineaste who likes being in on some kind of inside joke and mocking others for never being able to catch up.  The truth is The Wicker Tree telegraphs all of its religion mocking intentions with a couple of doe eyed Texan singers just looking to spread the word.

I am completely fed up with films that portray Christians as simplistically and idiotically as this one does.  It has very little to do with my religious background and mostly consist of my distaste of filmmakers using the motif as shorthand for creating stupid characters in otherwise avoidable situations.  Instead, Hardy's film is content at sitting back and repeated rolling eyes at the two would-be shepherds and failing to engage in their world at even the most superficial level.

25Apr/120

Nazis at the Center of the Earth (2012)

I'm reluctant to call Nazis at the Center of the Earth horror.  But it shares a number of trends seen in horror films of the past.  A sensitivity toward current social trends (for better or worse), a sympathy toward the gender politics of the time (again), and a willingness to acknowledge the racial tensions of a given region (ad nauseum).  All of these facets were touched on very well in the entertaining, but very broad, Cabin In The Woods, now comes an Asylum production where, I must admit, a limit is reached only the analytics dare to tread.

Fret not, those of you looking for an escape to drunken revelry in the bowels of B-movie abandon.  There is much to enjoy here, and I take all of it in gladly.  The film may be an Asylum production, but it is one bolstered after the many years of putting out films like Transmorphers and A Haunting In Salem.  If the theory of a thousand monkeys chittering away at a thousand typewriters has any evidence, it is that Nazi's at the Center of the Earth (NatCotE from this point on) is self-knowing cheese and sleaze of the highest low-grade order.

We're in desperate times, those of us who cling to film as a bastion of the liberal social order.  Yet, in a recent interview, Jason Reitman (Young Adult) and Bennett Miller (Moneyball) could not stand toe-to-toe with Steve McQueen's (Shame) rage as to why minorities are not better represented in their productions - either in their representation or their construction.  NatCofE stands as a strange counterpoint to their reluctance.  It's like we're back in the 1930's, looking to the pulp and supposedly trashy arts to see how our country really feels about these issues.

If this has gotten too deep, let me tell you that zombie-Hitler rises from the grave in a steam-punk urn to wreak vengeance in his steel battle suit atop his Hitler-saucer.  At it's most basic level, this film is really in the everything and the kitchen sink B-movie way, so enjoy the superficiality if that's what gets your money spendin'.