2012: Doomsday

 Posted by at 8:47 pm  9 Responses »
May 062010

Words cannot accurately describe the way I feel after watching “2012: Doomsday” but it’s something along the lines of lividity and total bafflement. This is Evangelical Christian propaganda, plain and simple. The movies tagline reads, “An ancient prophecy foretold. A scientific discovery revealed” but, in my opinion, should instead read, “In the face of insurmountable scientific evidence, we have co-opted the Mayan calender to legitimize our crackpot religious theories.” There are no scientific discoveries in this movie. In fact, “2012: Doomsday” kicks science square in the baby maker and laughs, as poor science is left to cry for its dignity.

This is an actually scene which takes place within the first ten minutes of the movie. It perfectly sums up the movie, and the entire 2012 argument:

    Science Guy A: “We believe the earths rotation is slowing, due to the solar systems alignment with the black hole at the center of the galaxy.”

    Science Guy B: “That’s impossible. NASA has known about these alignments for decades. We’ve run the calculations and there’s no way the gravitational force can significantly impact this planet.”

    Science Guy A: “(scratches head) I don’t know what’s causing it, of all our calculations, this is the only one that makes sense.”

In other words, it doesn’t matter what those hoity-toity snobs at NASA think, the only thing that could possibly explain an end of the world catastrophe is this insane cosmic alignment theory. Science be damned. As it turns out, Neil deGrasse Tyson says that on December 21, 2012 the center of the galaxy, the Sun and the Earth will align. Maybe there is some truth to this whole 2012 business… or maybe not. Tyson also explains that the center of the galaxy, the Sun and the Earth perfectly align every year on December 21. As for the science involved with the Earth slowing to a stop within the span of 48 hours, if the Earth slowed to a stop, we wouldn’t need to worry about earthquakes and tidal waves killing us all, because we would all be CATAPULTED INTO SPACE!

All of the scientific fallacies aside, the movie also rewrites history by audaciously claiming the ancient Mayans were actually practicing Christians. This is revealed when some archeologist discovers a crucifix within a Mayan ruin that dates back to 200 A.D. I think this is supposed to comfort Evangelicals who were a bit hesitant about buying into the theories of a heathen culture.

It might seem as though I am unfairly putting “2012: Doomsday” under the microscope. Sure, movies don’t always need to make sense. Sometimes you just have to ignore the inane and try to pull as much enjoyment from a shitty movie as possible, but “2012: Doomsday” isn’t simply a mindless action flick. Faith Films (the company that produced this movie) clearly states, “Faith Films is a new production and distribution company dedicated to creating exciting films that HONESTLY portray subjects, themes, and people of faith.” There is nothing honest about this movie. And I doubt any of their other films, such as “Apocalypse,” “Countdown: Jerusalem” and the upcoming “Meteor Apocalypse” (sequel to “Apocalypse?”) contain much honesty either. This is propaganda, and terrible propaganda to boot.

If you want to watch a mindless action movie about the end of the world in 2012, just watch the movie “2012.” Sure, it’s just as bad, but at least it will spare you all of the religious sentiment, plus you finally get to see Danny Glover as the President of the United States (the role he was born to play).

I give 2012: Doomsday: Time out with the dunce cap (Remember the dunce cap? The pointy hat that teachers used to make stupid kids wear. Those were mean times).

(P.S. I do not want to give the impression that I consider all Christians to be dunces, only the insane ones which pray for the end of the world.)


 Posted by at 8:44 pm  Comments Off on JCVD
Apr 262010

“JCVD” is not the typical high action, low budget, straight-to-DVD, movie we’ve all come to expect from Jean-Claude Van Damme. In fact, with the exception of one of the greatest credit sequences in movie history, JCVD doesn’t deliver much in the karate department. But what the movie lacks in martial arts, it more than makes up for in cinematic arts. This isn’t an action flick, it’s a moving and intimate portrayal of an actor turned industry joke. During Van Damme’s 25 year career in Hollywood, he has been consistently typecast, labeled a one-trick pony and found himself at the center of drug and relationship scandals. Jean-Claude Van Damme could have easily rectified his problems with karate chops, but in JCVD he faces all of the criticisms without resorting to violence, and in the process displays more vulnerability and humanity than any other actor in Hollywood to date.

Here’s the plot: after losing a messy custody battle with his ex-wife, not to mention losing a movie role to Steven Seagal, Van Damme heads back to Belgium to get his life in order and to get back in touch with his roots. Upon arriving in Belgium, tired and out of money, Van Damme heads over to the local bank to retrieve a wire transfer, but the bank has been taken over by three gun wielding maniacs. When the police mistakenly pin the whole mess on Jean-Claude, he soon becomes intrinsically wrapped up in the robbery. Jean-Claude Van Damme finds himself in a familiar predicament, but this time it’s real life and his Hollywood training can’t save him.

I know that this all seems like the perfect formula for action but as it turns out, it’s actually the perfect formula for exposing the human flaws within Jean-Claude Van Damme. Between the scenes inside and outside the bank, there are vignettes which reflect JCVD’s deteriorating situation. These scenes expose his failed marriage, the rocky relationship with his daughter, and his ailing movie career. Once all of these elements come together, why JCVD doesn’t simply clobber the bad guys is understandable; he’s no action hero, he’s just a has been and he knows it. So he doesn’t save the day with extreme prejudice, instead he does like all of the other hostages and obeys commands in order to walk out alive.

If this all sounds a bit too touchy-feely, well, I guess it is. Sure, there’s plenty of action and excitement too, but when all of those aspects are forgotten, what you will remember about this movie comes in at about the 1 hour mark: at this point the camera locks in on JCVD and the movie stops. JCVD is lifted out of the scene and then he delivers one of the most stirring monologues I’ve ever heard. In this five minute monologue JCVD confronts the criticisms that have plagued his career, taking responsibility and showing true remorse and character. I don’t want to give too much away, but by the end of the scene JCVD cries, and then you cry. When this scene comes, don’t fight back the tears. Let them come naturally (they will come) so that you and JCVD can share this moment together.

As JCVD Appreciation Week draws to a close I can’t think of a better movie to end it with. Whether you love or hate JCVD, after seeing this movie I guarantee you are bound to walk away with a better appreciation of the man, and his movies.

I give JCVD: Custody of my heart

Universal Soldier: Regeneration

 Posted by at 8:58 pm  Comments Off on Universal Soldier: Regeneration
Apr 242010

For the few of you who are unfamiliar with the “Universal Soldier” franchise (shame on you) let me bring you up to speed. So the story goes two badass soldiers die in Vietnam, and the US military (in their infinite wisdom) decides to use the dead bodies to create an army of unstoppable (though brain-dead) killing machines. Luc Deveraux (JCVD) and Andrew Scott (Dolph Lundgren) are the first two “UniSols” created to combat terrorist threats. The situation eventually evolves into good Unisol vs. bad UniSol when Deveraux begins to remember his past life, and Scott attempts to stomp Deveraux out of existence. Then Luc Deveraux returned for the 1999 flop, “Universal Soldier: The Return.” This was a terrible movie and most likely the reason you haven’t seen “Universal Soldier: Regeneration” yet. Well friends, when it comes to “Universal Soldier: Regeneration” let me tell you this: last night I dreamed that I punched a man to death. A man head-butted me, and I punched him in the face until he was dead. This was no coincidence. Universal Soldier: Regeneration, you made your point.

Universal Soldier: Regeneration begins with an awesome kidnapping heist. Masked men armed with automatic weapons rush into a museum and nab the son and daughter of the Russian president. Then there is a phenomenal car chase scene, and a daring escape via a helicopter. The action kicks in at about the 30 second mark and never stops. As it turns out, the presidents kids were kidnapped by the leader of a rebel group seeking to secede from Russia. To show that they mean business, the rebels have occupied Chernobyl and rigged the nuclear power plant with enough explosives to create a blast 100 times larger than that of Hiroshima. As if things weren’t bad enough, the rebels also have UniSols, in the form of Dolph Lundgren and Andrei “The Pitbull” Arlovski. Holy shit! Did you click on that link? Did you see that guy? I bet it’s going to take some sort of one man army to stop these fellas.

Not long into the movie it’s revealed that Luc Deveraux (remember, from the first movie?) is undergoing some kind of rehab in Switzerland in an effort to prevent his murderous tendencies and help revive his lost memories. Due to this plot device, JCVD spends the first half of the movie out of sight. This might be my chief complaint about this movie if JCVD weren’t consistently kicking the living shit out of people whenever he was on screen. The first taste of JCVD’s martial arts fury comes at the expense of some hapless Swiss towny who’s in the wrong place at the wrong time. This scene is terrific and it establishes that Luc Deveraux is an untamable animal who’s eternally hellbent on taking lives. Knowing that old dogs don’t learn new tricks, Deveraux heads off to Chernobyl to put an end to an international nuclear threat, and to stop the evil UniSols once and for all.

Sure, die hard science nerds might argue the logistics of freezing and reanimating corpses, let alone the bodies ability to withstand numerous point-blank gunshot and stab wounds, but I say to hell with those science nerds, Universal Soldier: Regeneration is plain old, action packed, fun. By and large the acting is never too over the top, but director John Hyams wisely decided to keep the focus away from the script, and more on the action. As a result, JCVD, Lundgren, and Arlovski all have minimal lines in the movie, which just maximizes their ability to kick ass. It seems that after 18 years, Hyams finally realized what made the Universal Soldier franchise worth watching. After a brief search online, I found that this movie was made on a 14 million dollar budget. While that may seem like a lot of money, the original was made on a 23 million dollar budget, and those were 1991 dollars. So while the movie never feels like a blockbuster on the scale of Roland Emmerich’s original, it instead manages to feel like a well directed episode of “24” boiled down to all of the action, and this is not a bad thing. As far as JCVD movies go, put Universal Soldier: Regeneration on the top of your Netflix queue (oh, I almost forgot to mention how Dolph Lundgren dies. It involves a pipe and a shotgun and is probably the best death scene I’ve ever witnessed).

I give Universal Soldier: Regeneration: 8 Three Mile Island incidences out of 10 Chernobyl catastrophes


 Posted by at 8:46 pm  Comments Off on Replicant
Apr 192010

Jean-Claude Van Damme can’t be expected to contain his awesome martial arts talents to just one character at a time, that’s why he’s played duel roles in not one, but two movies. In 1991, JCVD broke cinematic boundaries in “Double Impact,” playing both Alex and Chad Wagner, two brothers who were separated at birth, but reunite to kick faces and break bones. Now I know you’re thinking that nothing could possibly top two Van Dammes delivering devastating body blows side by side, but what if I told you that you could see JCVD fight himself? When you watch “Replicant,” my friends that’s exactly what you’ll get.

Replicant’s first scene features an evil JCVD kicking a woman to death. If kicking women until they’re dead doesn’t convince you that this dude is evil, his long, greasy hair should do the trick. Long haired JCVD is Edward “The Torch” Garrotte, a serial killer whose modus operandi is seeking out young mothers and burning them to a crisp. Garrotte’s been at this serial killer business for a long time, and all the while hardboiled cop, Jake Riley (Michael Rooker) has been hot on his trail. In an act of desperation the government decides to clone The Torch. Knowing that the clone would inherit all of the memories of the original, the government plans to use the replicant as a human hound dog, sniffing out all of Garrottes old haunts, and hopefully leading the feds to the maniacal killer.

Incredibly, the government decides to team up Replicant with Jake Riley, the man who above all things despises Edward Garrotte and by extension Replicant. At this point, the movie turns into an action packed version of “Rain Man,” with Rooker playing the role of Tom Cruise, and JCVD playing the role of mentally challenged killing machine. Although Replicant was able to retain some of Garrottes memories, he couldn’t remember anything else (like how to talk). Riley is forced to lead Replicant around by a leash, barking commands like “down” and “stay” as though he were a dog. At first I thought this premise was ridiculous (and I suppose it is) but about halfway through the movie I was completely invested with JCVDs dim-witted doppelgänger. I couldn’t help but feel bad for this clone, who never asked to be created and only wants to be hugged. By the time JCVD and Michael Rooker are walking through the park, ice cream cones in hand, I couldn’t have been happier.

But Replicant isn’t just a movie about a dumb but lovable clone, it’s a movie about a serial killer. While at first the action is sparse, if you wait patiently you will not be disappointed. By the second half of the movie good and evil Van Damme lock eyes and the action is set in motion. I’m not going to ruin the action, but believe me, it’s there. In the pool hall, it’s there. In the hospital, it’s there. And in the hotel with the knife wielding pimps, it’s there. Throw in a JCVD showdown, and Replicant is top-notch.

If you’re a fan of Jean-Claude Van Damme, you will not be disappointed with Replicant, and if you’re not a fan, well, I question your worth as a human being. Watch this movie and be somebody.

I give Replicant: 4 out of 5 roundhouse kicks to the heart

Good Time Max

 Posted by at 3:52 pm  Comments Off on Good Time Max
Apr 102010

James Franco, I want to like you, I don’t know why, but I do. You were alright as Daniel Desario on “Freaks and Geeks.” You were no Bill Haverchuck, but you held your own. I couldn’t of cared less for your role in “Spiderman,” but you really pulled your shit together and knocked one out of the park as the lovably dopey stoner, Saul Silver, in “Pineapple Express.” Even though you haven’t dazzled me, for some reason I’ve been keeping my fingers crossed. But after watching “Good Time Max,” the movie that you co-wrote and directed, I’m throwing in the towel.

“Good Time Max” is a movie about two brothers. Older brother Adam works really hard in school and gets good grades, while younger brother Max prefers to smoke cigarettes and dance on rooftops… and still gets good grades. Alright, skip ahead about 20 years. Max is hard at work dealing drugs until he pisses of the wrong huge black dude by selling him a bogus kilo of cocaine (and also sleeping with his girlfriend). After Max becomes an accessory to murder, he hightails it to California, hitching a ride with his brother Adam who is bound for med school. It doesn’t take a genius to see where this movie’s going. There’s a lot of built up resentment on the part of Adam, because all of his life he’s had to bail out his dickhead brother, and there’s just as much resentment on the part of Max, who just wants to be loved. The two fight inner demons, fight with each other, and eventually learn a thing or two about life and the importance of brotherhood.

If i didn’t know any better, I would have assumed the part of Max was written by a nine-year old. Max is handsome, liked by everybody, and is always the life of the party, but to top it all off he’s also a certified genius. Franco really drives this point home too as he solves moderately difficult math equations (like 36 times 24), lands himself a cushy job writing computer code, and constantly states, “I am a genius.” This would all be fine if it ever went anywhere, but it doesn’t. The genius aspect is completely irrelevant, and though we’re all supposed to connect or relate with Max, I couldn’t feel anything but contempt and annoyance with him, from beginning to end. I think James Franco tried his best, but like swimming against a rip tide, the harder he tried, the worse the situation got.

The cover of “Good Time Max” shows that it was an official selection at the Tribeca, Hollywood, Vancouver, and Austin film festivals, as if having those emblems on the cover will convince you that it is worth watching. I honestly feel that James Franco made this movie in an attempt to grasp hold of some lost indie credit that he never had in the first place. It’s like he pulled a indie movie all-nighter and woke up the next morning thinking to himself, “I could do that.” But he wasn’t going to undertake this challenge alone, so he called up indie darling Merriwether Williams (of Nickelodeon’s Spongebob Squarepants and Camp Lazlo fame) to crank out an indie film to end all indie films. It’s not surprising that Merriwether’s only writing experience has been in cartoons, because “Good Time Max” ends up feeling like one big, long, boring live action cartoon.

Don’t waste your time with “Good Time Max.”

I give Good Time Max: an F+ (way to go, genius)


 Posted by at 11:55 pm  Comments Off on Special
Apr 032010

Man, Michael Rapaport is awesome. Remember his role as Dick Ritchie in “True Romance,” or his part as Murray “Superboy” Babitch in “Copland?” Classics! So why has this man been resigned to playing bit roles and doing voiceovers for video games? Wait a minute, what’s this? Michael Rapaport has a starring role in a movie called “Special” and it was released in 2006? How the hell did this one slip past my radar? Thanks for picking up the slack, Netflix. This is why I pay you 16 bucks a month.

In the movie “Special” Michael Rapaport plays Les, a lonely peon parking attendant in some nondescript city. When he’s not busy writing tickets, he’s busy reading comic books and day dreaming about how sweet it would be to have the power of flight (pretty fucking sweet). Les isn’t totally miserable, but not completely content, so he decides to add a little pizzaz to his humdrum life by volunteering as a guinea pig for a new antidepressant called Special. So Les starts popping these little blue pills and before long he is levitating in his living room, reading the minds of people on the street, and teleporting through walls. During his weekly checkup, he demonstrates his newly acquired powers to his doctor (played by Jack Kehler) by jumping off a desk and hovering inches above the floor. But it turns out Les isn’t really hovering, or reading minds, or teleporting. The drug he’s been taking has shut down the area of his brain which regulates self doubt. Absolutely delusional and without inhibition, Les puts on a homemade costume and starts patrolling the streets as a superhero. Oh yeah, and that kid from “The Wackness” works in the comic book store, but in this movie he’s a lot younger and a lot fatter.

Homemade SuperheroDon’t be fooled by the blurb on the cover of Special that reads, “Laugh-out loud funny,” this movie isn’t a comedy. But it is sort of billed as a comedy. Why does this happen? Remember that movie called “The Ice Harvest?” Every single advertisement I saw for this movie had me believing I was going to see some slapstick buddy heist movie. Did you see that trailer? Oliver Platt got kicked square in the dick. But no, that movie wasn’t funny. It wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t really funny either. The same thing happened with “Burn After Reading” and more recently, “A Serious Man.” Both of those movies were pretty good, but just because they didn’t pour on the humor, critics shit all over ’em. What is going on in Hollywood? If I had to guess, I think it’s something like this:

    PR guy A: We’ve got this new movie called “The Ice Harvest” starring John Cusack and Billy Bob Thornton.
    PR guy B: Sounds pretty funny.
    PR guy A: It’s not.
    PR guy B: Let’s pull one over on the hardworking American public and make them think it’s a funny movie.
    PR guy A: But won’t they all be pissed once they find out that it isn’t funny?
    PR guy B: Who the fuck cares? By the time they wise up, we’ll already have their money (maniacal laugh).

So Special has it’s funny moments, but by and large it’s a drama (Netflix categorizes it as a Sci-fi drama). It definitely managed to keep my attention but it seems like all of the critics just wanted bigger laughs. I read a review that mentioned all of the missed opportunities for humor in this movie which is sort of sick, because when Special starts building momentum it turns into a story about a mentally disturbed man trying to fight crime. Besides, Hollywood already made a comedy about a mentally disturbed superhero. It was called “Blankman” and it co-starred George Costanza in a wheelchair (now that’s entertainment). This was writer/director Hal Haberman’s and Jeremey Passamore’s first and only movie and I think they managed to pull off something special (no pun intended). Going to their IMDB page and seeing that they haven’t directed anything since, I feel like they were defeated by a bunch of hypercritical assholes. Don’t be an asshole, check out Special.

I give Special: 8 out of 10 improperly tested pills

The Atomic Cafe

 Posted by at 2:24 pm  Comments Off on The Atomic Cafe
Mar 182010

The documentary “The Atomic Cafe” was released way back in 1982, but that doesn’t matter, this movie is timeless. There’s no narration, no interviews, no subjective opinions about nuclear power and atomic weapons. The entire documentary is made up of old public services announcements, news real footage, and military training films. It’s all pieced together to create a pretty interesting look back to a time when atomic energy wasn’t so much a science, but rather a test in bravery and stupidity. You know all those times you had to listen to grandpa talk about the good old days? Well, it turns out that grandpa was full of shit.

The movie starts with the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and from there it spirals out of control into the cold war. If you’re as fascinated with the Cold War and the Nuclear Arms Race as I am, then you’ll probably get a kick out of these old clips. Families dress up in full fallout gear, complete with crazy scary gas masks. Soldiers stare stupidly into nuclear blasts, mouth agape to catch all of the irradiated dirt that’s blown their way. Native islanders from Bikini Atoll are convinced to leave their nice little tropical paradise so that the U.S. Army can blow it to smithereens (with the power of the atom!). Plus, there’s more footage of gigantic explosions than you can shake a stick at.

After watching The Atomic Cafe, I felt a lot better about my lot in life. Sure, today we have to worry about shoe bombers and exploding underwear on airplanes, but these stupid sacks, they had to worry about total nuclear annihilation! And how did they cope with this horrifying threat? They drank a lot. So next time your watching Mad Men and you’re all like, “Jeez, Don’s such a scumbag for cheating on Betty” give the guy a break. Alcohol makes people do stupid things, and the Cubans have the goddamn bomb!

If you’re used to the usual, run-of-the-mill documentaries, with the production values, and the voiceovers, and what have you, then you might be a little bit bored by The Atomic Cafe. But if you’re into American history, atomic bombs, the cold war, or just interested in learning about the overwhelming ignorance which was so prevalent during the 1950s and 60s, you should probably give this movie a go, and remember, in case of a nuclear attack, just duck and cover. Duck and cover.

I give The Atomic Cafe: 4 megatons (out of 5 megatons)

Dead Snow

 Posted by at 6:58 pm  Comments Off on Dead Snow
Mar 082010

Zombies are fucking terrifying. Whether they be dead old dude, dead little girl, dead accountant, whatever, it doesn’t matter; dead anything shuffling towards you in droves is the ultimate, end all, be all, scariest thing in horror. So who gives a shit if the zombies happen to be nazis? But “Dead Snow” comes from Norway, and all I know is that Vikings come from there, and they churn out super scary black metal bands (those dudes burn down churches… with people in ’em). Based on those two things, I knew these nazi zombies were going to scare the shit out of me. Whoops, I was wrong (sorry).

Dead Snow starts with the most hackneyed premise in horror: a bunch of youngsters head to a cabin in the middle of nowhere to get drunk and act stupid. Okay, I’m willing to let this slide, because the actors themselves poke fun at this trite premise. Let’s see if this movie can take an original turn further down the line. A half hour later there’s a grizzled old dude sitting on the cabin couch, telling the scary story about nazi zombies in the mountains. But these kids ain’t no dummies, in fact, they’re all med students. “This old guys crazy,” they all say, and they continue to get drunk. You can probably guess what happens next: young people have sex, nazi zombies invade the cabin, young people become bloody and dead.

When I hear “nazi zombie” I instantly think, “fuck yeah, this will be sweet!” but it turns out, it’s completely arbitrary. These zombies could have been dressed up as cuddly teddy bears for all I care, it would have made no difference. How the nazis wound up in Norway is explained (turns out Germany occupied Norway during WWII) but why the hell they’re all still dead-alive in the mountains 65 years after the war isn’t explained. Explanations aren’t always necessary (Night of the Living Dead), but when an entire platoon of dead German soldiers are running (running!) after these kids, I want some goddamn answers. It’s clear that they’re not out to eat brains, so what gives? In my opinion, zombies don’t run and they live for one thing only: to eat fucking brains. Take away those two elements, and you don’t have zombies, you have monsters.

When it comes down to it, Dead Snow is a cookie cutter horror movie. There are a few awesome scenes of gore, but lets be honest: you want to watch this movie because of the nazi zombies. If that’s the case, you’re going to be let down, because these aren’t zombies, these are monsters. And dressing up monsters as nazis is like dressing up Reginald Veljohnson as a cop. Sure it makes sense, but isn’t it a bit redundant?
Dead Snow tries to be a zombie comedy, but if that’s what you’re looking for, check out “Zombieland” instead. That’s out on DVD now.

I give Dead Snow: 2 out of 5 zombie teddy bears.

Mar 022010

Netflix has spent the last month trying to get me to watch “Dear Zachary” and I finally caved. Oh man, I had no idea what I was getting myself into. The premise sounded sweet and endearing: A guy named Andrew Bagby died, leaving behind an infant son who would never know his father. So, Andrews best friend Kurt decides to make a movie for the poor kid. That’s the only thing I knew about this movie prior to watching it, but that’s not the half of the story… not by a long shot. I’m not too proud to tell you I cried. I turned into a blubbering mess of tears and sobbed uncontrollably. Kurt Kuenne sought to make a documentary that would tell the life story of his best friend, but wound up documenting one of the most shocking and heart-wrenching stories I have ever seen.

When Kurt Kuenne discovered that his best friend had died, he wanted to put together a movie to preserve his memory, but when it’s revealed that Andrew had been murdered by a jealous ex-girlfriend, his movie takes a dramatic turn. It’s then discovered that Andrew’s murderer, Shirley Turner, is pregnant with his child. What follows is a moving story of two grief-stricken parents, Kate and David Bagby. When Shirley flees the United States for Newfoundland, the Bagby’s sell everything and move to Canada, hellbent on rescuing their grandson and seeing that this sociopathic maniac pays for her crime.

The story of the custody battle and extradition process which emerges within this documentary are bound to unleash all sorts of terrible emotions. I found myself cupping my hands over my mouth in disbelief, anxiously bitting my nails, and crying honest to god tears of pain and horror, but the movie isn’t all heartbreak. Balanced evenly throughout the movie are interviews with everyone who knew Andrew, and Andrew knew a lot of people. His friends, and family are interviewed, including his relatives in England with whom he spent summers. When all the parts come together, Kurt Kuenne is able to weave the most compelling story about a mans life I have ever heard. By the end of it, I felt things for this guy and his family that I have never felt (and probably never will feel) about my own family. I regretted the fact that I will never be able to meet Andrew Bagby.

Let me just warn you now; there is no happy ending to Dear Zachary. You will cry (probably a whole bunch) but don’t let that stop you from seeing this movie (you need to see this movie). Even though there is a cavalcade of depression, there is just as much warmth and happiness. A word to the wise, though: don’t watch it alone. You’ll need somebody to talk to about it afterwards.

I give Dear Zachary: I’m not going to give this a score. It’s terrific. See it now.

The Rage in Placid Lake

 Posted by at 10:59 pm  Comments Off on The Rage in Placid Lake
Feb 272010

The Rage in Placid Lake, unfortunately, is not a showdown between Muhammad Ali and a giant alligator (which would be awesome). Rather, Placid Lake is the name of a human being who is the protagonist of this movie. As if naming this dude “Placid Lake” weren’t bad enough, his mother sends him to his first day of school in a dress, in order to “challenge the preconceived notions of sexuality.” As a result of this crazy woman’s need to break gender boundaries, Placid gets beat up every day until he graduates high school. He tries to avoid the daily beat-downs, but it’s no use; his parents set him up for failure. So he figures, if I can’t beat ’em, I’ll join ’em. He gets a haircut, buys a suit, gets a corporate job, and totally sticks it to his parents, but at the same time he may end up ruining the only healthy relationship he has.

Considering the movie is called “The Rage in Placid Lake,” I would have expected more rage. I think a better name for this movie would have been “The Indignation in Placid Lake.” Placid is clearly bothered by his parents and his life, but there’s never much rage. There is one scene where he screams in front of a mirror, and another where he yells at his parents, but who hasn’t done that? I’ve yelled at my parents plenty – where’s my movie? Regardless, it’s still enjoyable. Ben Lee (who apparently is some sort of musician) gives a solid and funny performance as Placid, and Rose Byrne is super cute and terrific as the quasi-love interest, Gemma. Also, Claire Danes makes a baffling cameo. Plus, the movie is shot in Australia, and it’s fun pointing out the quirky little things they’ve got down under (like doorknobs mounted at shoulder height).

All in all, The Rage in Placid Lake is watchable, though nothing totally noteworthy. As far as coming-of-age comedies go, it’s alright. Ten years ago I might have found some sort of profound meaning to this story, but now that I’m married and boring, it was just a nice movie to watch with the wife on a weeknight. If you’re hard pressed to find a movie, this one should do.

I give The Rage in Placid Lake: 3 out of 5 wallabies