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Greg, it’s time to watch George Clooney’s biting critique of suburban America.
More like his ultra-liberal wet dream – Suburbicon. Let’s Recap.
We meet Gardner Lodge (Matt Damon), his crippled wife Rose (Julianne Moore), sister-in-law Margaret (Julianne Moore), and son Nicky (Noah Jupe). They live in Suburbicon, a fictitious all-white middle-class neighborhood in 1959 America.
Young Nicky Lodge neighborhood is up in arms because a black family has moved in next door. Nicky’s invalid mother Rose tells the boy to go play with the family’s young boy. This causes unrest in Rose’s sister, Maggie. That night, two men come to Nicky’s house and tie him, his father Gardner, his mother, and his aunt up and chloroform them into unconsciousness. But just as Nicky is drifting off, he sees one of the men give Rose an additional dose of chloroform. When he awakes in the hospital, he learns that his mother is dead.
Greg, Suburbicon is a Coen brothers misfire. Intended to be a dark comedy, the film is instead a soul-crushing story that left me thinking, “what’s the point?” There are two stories running parallel here, the main one involving a love-triangle murder to collect on a life insurance policy. The second storyline isn’t so much a story as it is a neighborhood’s violent tirade against an African-American family. The connection between these two tales isn’t fleshed out, and all I can figure is that the main story is about family dysfunction while the secondary story shows us societal dysfunction.
Everyone in this film is a vile character, with the exception of Nicky’s uncle, who dies while saving the boy from one of the killers. I get the impression that the Coen brothers felt like producing something dark a la Fargo but they forgot to insert Fargo’s cleverness or charm. There are no real heroic journeys to follow, only an anti-hero story that went basically nowhere. Even the film’s ending fell flat, with Nicky deciding to go play ball with his African-American buddy next door while blood-soaked bodies are littered about his home. I suppose this ending is intended to offer a sliver of hope, but I found it to be totally contrived.
I fully concur, Scott. This film is supposed to be some sort of cynical look at White America in the 1960s. I suppose what the twin stories is supposed to show is that Suburbicans thought the nice Black family were monsters, when in fact the true monsters were right next door.
There’s a point in the story when the insurance adjuster proclaims “There are just so many coincidences. One coincidence smells bad, but too many make a story smell really bad.” He could easily have been talking about this very movie. The boy, Nicky is not supposed to be at the initial police line up, but there he is. He’s not supposed to be in the room, but there he is. Someone turns the light on, and the bad guys can see him through the two-way mirror. And this is just in the first 20 minutes of the film. Truly, a more contrived set of circumstances could not have been created in a motion picture.
The thing that really grinds my gears is that this is not the film we were sold in the trailers. If you look at them, they sold us a dark comedy about a milquetoast man who defends his family, home, and neighborhood from the onslaught of an external mafia invasion. That seems interesting. But this film, whatever it thought it was, was not anywhere near what was promised.
There is an anti-hero’s journey of sorts, with Gardner descending into a dark world (which he’s made for himself). His descent gets deeper as one mishap after another seals his fate. Gardner doesn’t really undergo any type of transformation, although one could possibly argue that his villainy escalates during his attempt to save his skin. The secondary plot is void of any hero’s journey or transformation unless, again, one makes the argument that the neighborhood’s intolerance of the African-American family grows increasingly hostile over time.
I fully agree, Scott. The confusing thing about this story is that it’s told pretty much from the point of view of the young boy, Nicky. And yet, it’s the story of the anti-hero father. The story of the next-door-neighbor Black family is merely a side-by-side comparison. Nothing is learned and the artistic statement falls flat. This was a total waste of celluloid. Oh wait, this was a digital movie, so there’s a small win in that no film was harmed in the making of this story.
Suburbicon was a complete waste of time and resources. George Clooney and his Coen brother friends have lost their minds thinking that they were telling some sort of tale of White corruption. In fact, they promised a campy comedy and delivered a complete zero of a movie. Sadly, several very good performances, camera work, and costuming were also wasted. As much as I wanted to give zero Reels, I have to at least appreciate the visual appeal of this film. I give Suburbicon just 1 Reel out of 5.
The main character is the anti-hero Gardner Lodge. But the story is told through the eyes of young Nicky. If we view this as an anti-hero story we have to decide if the decline and eventual downfall of the protagonist delivered a cautionary tale. I’d say it did not. There is no real message to this story and the journey that both Gardner and young Nicky take leave us nothing of value. I give them 0 out of 5 Heroes.
And finally, we look for transformation in our movies and there is little to be found here. Almost anyone of note in the story ends up dead. Even Gardner is killed not by any action of his own or his son’s, but by accidentally eating the poisoned sandwich Margaret had intended for Nicky. So, Nicky doesn’t even stand up for himself but is saved by happenstance. I award 0 out of 5 Deltas for Suburbicon.
Suburbicon might as well have been named Subpar-icon. It baffles me that the Coen brothers and George Clooney bought into this anemic and unsatisfying screenplay. The main story simply describes a crime gone awry, and the peripheral story is merely the depiction of angry racists. It’s sad to give the Coen brothers only 1 Reel out of 5 but that’s all this film deserves.
I see that you’ve given both the heroes and their transformation a rating of zero, Greg. You make a good argument that there is nothing heroically of value, yet there may be a smidgeon of an anti-hero’s journey worth considering. Unlike you, I do see a cautionary tale here, with Gardner reminding us that crime never pays and that karma is a bitch. So I’ll give the anti-heroes 1 measly hero rating out of 5. The paucity of transformation merits (if that’s the right word) a barren 0 out of 5 Deltas.
Great Scott! Ridley has another movie out, this one is called The Counselor
And it appears he didn’t get much counseling on making an interesting movie.
The Counselor opens by showing our lead character, an attorney in El Paso, Texas (Michael Fassbender), in bed with his soon-to-be-fiance Laura (Penélope Cruz). The attorney, who is never named in the movie, is lured into participating in a lucrative drug deal by one of his clients named Reiner (Javier Bardem).
Reiner’s girlfriend Malkina (Cameron Diaz) is fascinated with cheetahs – so much so that she has spots tattooed down her back. Reiner warns the counselor of the dangers of getting involved in drug trafficking but the counselor is not dissuaded. But things go horribly wrong when someone steals the drugs and it looks like the counselor is involved. What proceeds is a look into the dirty underworld of drug trafficking in South America.
Greg, this is one of those movies with some good pieces, but the good pieces never quite get around to forming a good whole. The good pieces include the casting. Brad Pitt, Fassbender, Diaz, and Bardem truly shine and execute their roles to near perfection. There is some excellent dialogue here and there, and Ridley Scott displays some clever and deft directing in several key scenes.
But all these commendable parts never coalesce into a good movie. Part of the problem is a heavy-handed script that perhaps tries too hard to be clever and stylish, at expense of some much-needed pacing. There is also the problem of the film being so dark and lacking in heroic direction that we’re left with a story that is bereft of much of anything redeeming or worth admiring.
Scott, I think you’re being too generous. This is a stylish movie – there is a lot of opulence. And a lot of talk about sex. But there isn’t much sex. In fact the sex talk is enough to make one blush. This film has a bad case of “talking heads.” There is scene after scene of people talking about what is going on in the film.
And there is a lot of very circular talk about morality. Which is strange because virtually no one in this film has any moral character at all. When you say the film is bereft of anything redeeming you’re not just talking about the characters in the film, but of the entire film-going experience. I get the feeling that this was someone’s idea of a good novel but lost something in translation when it was written as a screenplay instead.
Now that you mention it, Greg, all the ridiculous sex-talk was a strange distraction from the basic plot of the movie. I’m not a prude, and I enjoyed seeing Cameron Diaz as sexy and as sultry as ever. But one gets the feeling that Cormac McCarthy, the screenplay writer, is either a hypersexual or is not getting any at all. It would be an entirely different matter if the sexuality ended up playing some role in advancing the plot, or explaining a character’s motives, but it does not. And we’re left wondering why 10 to 15 minutes of film is devoted to this needless diversion.
I also think you are correct that the movie has far too many ‘talking head’ scenes, but a few of these scenes worked for me. It’s hard to believe that 20 years have passed since Pulp Fiction perfected the art of extended dialogue within a suspense film, and scores of movies have since tried to emulate Tarrantino’s masterpiece without success. I’m afraid that, overall, I have to agree with you that we can add The Counselor to that long list of movies that can’t even begin to touch the greatness of Pulp Fiction.
And to add insult to injury there are plot lines that are exposed and never completed along with a dozen characters who are introduced without explanation. A case in point is Ruth (Rosie Perez) who is a client of the counselor. Her son is in a Texas jail for high speed racing his motorcycle. The counselor springs the boy and ultimately he loses his life. There are a couple of people that we never meet until the end who give the counselor sage advice. We don’t know who these people are or why they’re important but somehow their meanderings on the state of existence is supposed to matter to us.
This has to be one of the worst movies I’ve ever seen. It has some luminary stars which makes it very pretty to look at, but there is nothing of value to be gleaned from the dialog. All the characters (save one) is bad. Everyone is greedy. Nobody learns anything. I was bored to death through the whole experience. Ridley Scott had all the materials to make a great film, sadly he elected to use this terrible screenplay as the recipe. I give The Counselor zero out of 5 Reels and zero out of 5 Heroes and humbly nominate it for the Reel Heroes Hall of Shame.
Au contraire, Greg, we’ve seen a lot worse than The Counselor this year. I do agree with you that The Counselor was a dank, dour movie lacking in any heroes, unless we go out on a limb and call the counselor himself a tragic hero. Greed and hubris sends him down an irredeemable path. Ultimately, this movie fails by making it impossible to like any of the characters, except for a relatively minor figure, as you mention. The people who populate this film are far too verbose and their occasionally clever chatter cannot compensate for the volume of unnecessary dialogue. I give The Counselor just 1 Reel out of 5 and 1 Hero out of 5.
Scott, this week we were invited to The Big Wedding. It looks like someone got cake on their face.
Greg, it was a Big something. ‘Wedding’ is not the noun I would use. But I’ll save my thoughts for later. Let’s recap first.
Our story begins with Don (Robert De Niro) and Elle (Diane Keaton) Griffin who have been divorced for 10 years. Elle walks in on Don and Bebe (Susan Sarandon) who are fooling around and creates an awkward situation. Elle is visiting because her and Don’s son Alejandro (Ben Barnes) is getting married. Alejandro is Don and Elle’s adoptive son from Columbia. The problem is, Alejandro’s biological mother Madonna (Patricia Rae) is coming to the wedding and she’s a devout Catholic and believes divorce is a sin. So, Don and Elle have to pretend that they are married in an attempt to fool non-English-speaking Madonna.
There are additional attempts to inject awkwardness into the festivities, as when Don and Elle’s other son, a 30-year-old virgin named Jared (Topher Grace), meets his beautiful and horny Columbian step-sister-to-be (Ana Ayora). Don and Elle’s daughter Lyla (Katherine Heigl), arrives in sadness after having recently separated from her husband. She’s so upset that she vomits all over Don. To cap it all off, we have an alcoholic priest (Robin Williams) who doesn’t really act like a priest but who’s there to counsel everyone.
And we’re off… oh and not to mention that the in-laws are bigots and can’t stand the thought of beige grandchildren. This is a very convoluted story which is worthy of a Shakespearean comedy. However, the writing is not in the hands of the immortal bard, but rather Justin Zackham, who approaches the script with all the delicacy of a sledgehammer. We’ve seen all of these tropes in prime-time sitcoms.
But here, the writers throw political correctness to the wind. For example, Nuria (the Columbian sister) decides that she wants to go swimming so she strips down to her birthday suit in front of several onlookers. We’re led to believe that she is naive in the ways of the modern world and prone to throwing herself on men. Later, she surreptitiously gives Jared a hand job under the table at dinner. But she’s corrected by Jared’s mother who (in a single off-screen bathroom conversation) convinces her that women should be respected and turns the girl into an instant feminist.
Greg, I knew we were in trouble from the opening scene, when we’re witness to one veteran actor, who is nearly 70 years-old, interrupting two other 70-year-old actors about to perform a sex act in the kitchen. One buckles to the floor, hiding his erection, while the other two toss out jokes about body parts and intercourse. I guess we’re supposed to find this funny, but I was genuinely embarrassed for the actors involved, all of whom — until now — have had worthy careers.
This disastrous opening scene told me that the writing in this movie was going to be so weak that any laughs were designed to come from contrived situations, sophomoric behavior, and shock value. Apparently, none of the characters in this movie have anything but sex on their minds, and they also appear to be unable to censor any tasteless thoughts that pop into their heads.
Everyone in the story treats the mother (Madonna) like an idiot. She simply could not speak English. But they talk loudly and gesticulate in front of her. The main players were trying to hide Don’s relationship with Bebe by standing in front of a naked portrait of her. Or by rushing to remove pictures of her.
And (potential spoiler) Don has sex with Elle and proudly proclaims it “was the most pipe I’ve laid in 20 years.” Which begs the question, what has he been doing with Bebe for the last 20 years? The characters are embarrassing to themselves and to the stereotypes they portray.
The choices these characters make defy explanation, other than to serve as a set-up for the next sex joke. Don has to pretend to be married to Elle, and so of course that means Elle has to sleep in the same bed with Don instead of the obvious alternatives like, say, sleeping on the floor or in the chair. Their tryst is obviously preventable but that would thwart the movie’s apparent goal of showing an endless parade of unrealistic, sexually clumsy situations.
We’re also supposed to laugh when Madonna stares incredulously at one of Don’s sculptures of a woman pleasuring herself. Did I mention that these are 70-year-old actors, not middle-school kids?
By the end of the story everyone’s “problem” was resolved one way or the other – just as you knew it must. The answers to the questions are telescoped from the very beginning. This is not usually a problem. In these types of stories it’s not whether or not people get what they want, but HOW they get what they want. And in the case of The Big Wedding, everyone gets what they want in the most trivial and obvious ways possible.
The Big Wedding is a bore and simplistically structured. The laughs are a result of embarrassing situations, not clever dialogue. I give The Big Wedding 0 Reels out of 5 and 0 Heroes out of 5. And I think it deserves a nomination for the Reel Hero Hall of Shame for the worst movie we’ve seen so far this year.
Greg, it was a mess, and these actors should fire their agents and do some soul-searching for having participated in this project. Yes, half of the actors involved are in professional decline, perhaps making them willing to take just about any acting job that comes their way. Being in this film only accelerates their decline. Robert De Niro, you’re better than this — please stay home and play golf rather than be part of a film that has absolutely no merit to it at all.
There was no hero story here. Just an ensemble cast that is largely interchangeable. One juvenile and buffoonish character could easily have substituted for any of the other juvenile and buffoonish characters. People in the real world don’t act like any of these people. Heck, people in most bad movies don’t act like them, either. So it’s a Big Mess. For that reason, I also nominate The Big Mess for the Hall of Shame, giving it as many Reels as there are good characters — zero — and as many Heroes as there are heroes in the movie — again zero.
Starring: Ashley Tisdale, Simon Rex
Director: Malcolm D. Lee
Screenplay: Pat Profit, David Zucker
Comedy, Rated PG-13
Running Time: 85 minutes
Greg, we just saw Scary Movie 5. I’m still trying to process all the gags, carnage, and mayhem.
Scott, this is the fifth in the series and the first not to follow the escapades of recurring characters Cindy Campbell and Brenda Meeks. It was penned by Pat Profit and Airplane! veteran David Zucker. It’s a parody of several films including Mama and Black Swan. When you have one of the Zucker brothers involved you can expect an extreme farce. I was mildly disappointed.
The word ‘disappointed’ doesn’t exactly describe my reaction. But we’ll get to that later. Let’s run down the plot — as if it really mattered in a movie like this.
We start out with a bizarre bedroom scene involving Charlie Sheen and Lindsay Lohan, who play themselves in this movie. Sheen and Lohan are both haunted by an alien presence, who occupies Lohan’s body, forcing her to kill Sheen, whose three children then become missing. Later, Snoop Dogg and a friend discover the children in a Cabin in the Woods — yet another movie spoofed here. The three kids are then raised by Sheen’s brother Dan (Simon Rex) and his wife Jodie (Ashley Tisdale).
The movie then takes off parodying the heck out of Mama with paranormal activity such as the pool being overrun by automatic pool cleaners and pans falling from the kitchen ceiling. Meanwhile, Jodie is trying to get the lead in the local production of the ballet Black Swan. And that pretty much describes the whole film. From there it’s just one set up gag after another.
Greg, I really have mixed feelings about a movie like this. On the one hand, I appreciated the cleverness of the gags throughout. If you liked Airplane!, and you like parodies of scary movies, then this movie might be for you. I found myself chuckling here and there throughout most of the film.
But I also found myself looking at my watch several times, hoping the movie would end. It basically works in small chunks, the way that a Saturday Night Live skit does. But 90 minutes was hard to sit through.
I agree with you whole-heartedly. There were bits that were enjoyable, but usually they were the parts where Molly Shannon or Darrell Hammond from SNL provide cameos. And most of those bits were driven into the ground (like how everyone in the movie had a handi-cam and the Point of View was through the lens of either a handi-cam or security camera). And then there was the Cabin in the Woods scene where Jodie kept reading evil words and the Mormon Bible-thumpers upstairs turned into demons – over and over again. You’re right, the bits were fun – once. But 90 minutes of repeating bad gags was too much. This could have easily been a hilarious 30-minute short.
And therein lies the challenge of reviewing a movie like this. Like other gag-fests (e.g., Movie 43), it’s unfair to compare it to conventional movies that actually attempt to deliver a coherent story with legitimate characters. Let’s face it. The gags here are all that count and everything else serves as just an excuse to show the gags.
The filmmakers were clearly going for shock value. Sometimes seeing something shocking is funny, and sometimes it’s just plain dumb. Do we really need to see a baby’s head set on fire? Is it necessary to show Heather Locklear’s birthing fluids gush onto someone’s face? Or popsicles and toothbrushes shoved up people’s butts? Eww.
I have to disagree with you, somewhat. I think a good parody will stand up against a traditional movie. When I saw the first Airplane! movie I laughed for a week and went back for seconds. When David Zucker is attached to a film, I expect something special. I expect sharp, smart writing. But, as you say, Scary Movie 5 was just an excuse to see blood spew and body parts detach – much like actual horror movies, in fact. I laughed at a few places, but I can only give it 1 Reel out of 5. As for the heroes, they were absent – a mere shadow of the characters that were being parodied. I give Scary Movie 5 an unprecedented zero Heroes.
A good parody is hard to find these days. For me, the quintessential parody was 1999’s Galaxy Quest, a spoof of Star Trek that is every bit as good, if not better, than every Star Trek movie made.
Scary Movie 5 was no Galaxy Quest, and in fact it wasn’t even close. Scary Movie’s gags were fast and furious, and the cameo appearances of brand-name actors were somewhat amusing. But there wasn’t any meat on this bone. And I found myself gagging at the gags. Generously, I give this film 1 Reel out of 5. There were heroes (Dan and Jodie) but they were ridiculous heroes, and intentionally so. Ridiculous heroes get just 1 Hero out of 5.
Just in time for the new year, it’s Movie 43!
And what a way to recover from Christmas. Deck the halls with bowels of holly.
Movie 43 almost defies explanation. It is an anthology of sixteen (16!) different storylines. Each one raunchier and more ridiculous than the last. The running gag in the movie is that each scene is actually a pitch for a movie idea by struggling screenwriter Charlie Wessler (Dennis Quaid). He’s holding a movie producer Griffin Schraeder (Greg Kinear) hostage forcing him to listen to each and every story idea, regardless of how horrible it may be.
And man, are the stories horrible. And dumb, and ultra-vulgar. At gunpoint, Schraeder brings Wessler’s movie idea to the studio’s chief executive, who ridicules and embarrasses Schraeder. To get even, Schraeder decides to invest huge resources into the film, knowing it will cost the movie studio millions.
I don’t think we’ll have time to review all the stories here. But to give you an idea, the first one deals with a woman (Kate Winslet) on a blind date with a surprisingly eligible bachelor (Hugh Jackman). The only problem: he has testicles on his chin and nobody but she seems to notice.
Then there’s the one where a girlfriend (Anna Faris) is so in love with her boyfriend (Chris Pratt) that she wants him to poop on her chest. He, in his desire to do the deed properly, eats enormous amounts of Indian food and overdoses on laxatives. The end result is the most massive explosion of diarrhea in film history.
Yes. For this scene, I thank the makers of this film from the bottom of my…. well, from my bottom.
The premise of Movie 43 pretty much guarantees the movie’s failure. We know that Wessler’s ideas are terrible as he is pitching them to Schraeder, and yet 95% of Movie 43 is spent showing these bad ideas in their full, ahem, glory. At one point, Wessler suggests that Kate Winslet play the role of the chin-balls’ date, to which Schraeder points out that Winslet would never agree to such a role. But in this movie, where ridiculous reigns supreme, Winslet does indeed play this character.
Movie 43 is full of hits and misses, and unfortunately, the ratio of hits to misses is about 1 to 4. Much of the content of the skits is revolting and bloated with shock value. Nothing is sacred here. Jokes about incest, menstruation, and feces abound. The more outrageous, the better. In any bad movie, vulgarity is a proxy for good writing, and that’s certainly true here.
Movie 43 comes to us from Peter Farrelly of the Farrelly Brothers (who brought us last year’s The Three Stooges). The Farrellys are known for their low-brow humor and Movie 43 seals that reputation. This is the worst movie ever – but that is what it is aiming for. Many of the actors originally slated to be in the film found a way to opt-out. It took nearly 10 years to bring the whole picture together as reluctant luminaries were brought in to fulfill their obligations.
There is no rhyme nor reason to these vignettes. Although I get the impression that several of them were actual movie synopses that were turned down. If you like Saturday Night Live, you just might like Movie 43. However watching 90 minutes of SNL rejects may be more than you can take. Still, knowing is half the battle. I found Movie 43 delivered on its promise to be lewd, crude, and indecent. And I respect that. I give Movie 43 1 Reel out of 5. No heroes were harmed in the making of Movie 43 so I award it 0 Heroes out of 5.
Anthology movies rarely work because there is insufficient time to develop characters and storylines. Each story is reduced to a single thematic gimmick that is milked for about 5 or 10 minutes and then runs out of steam. And if the gimmick is truly dumb to begin with, 5 or 10 minutes feels like forever. The iBabe story is an example of a bad idea that went nowhere. It’s one long sexual joke dragged out to 10 minutes. Ugh. Then there’s the aforementioned defecation story. While the idea of pooping on someone is shocking and perhaps even mildly funny, we’re subjected to this fecal theme for 10 tortuous minutes. No thank you.
Movie 43 is 90 minutes of shocking attempts at humor that are clever at times but miss the mark far too often. The conflict between Schraeder and Wessler was uninteresting and served as a bad, bad excuse to film so many truly tasteless mini-stories. Like you, Greg, I award Movie 43 just 1 measly Reel, with the film on the reel donated to the exploding-bowel man to use as toilet paper. There were no heroes here, only victims. And so zero Heroes out of 5 from me, too.