October 16, 2009, - 6:07 pm

Weekend Box Office: Boring “Wild Things” & “Game,” Pointless, Gory “Law-Abiding,” Anti-Semitic “Serious,” Rerun “Stepdad”

By Debbie Schlussel

There’s nothing new worth seeing at the movies, this weekend.  Ironically, the best of the bunch–the lame, predictable, but mildly entertaining Madonna-produced “The Stepfather”–was not screened for critics.

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*  “Law Abiding Citizen“:  This horrible, wannabe, very substandard “Death Wish” is sickening, stupid, and predictable.  Gerard Butler plays an American father who strangely has a Scottish accent that keeps creeping out.  His wife and daughter are slain by thugs.  Why?  We don’t know.  They never tell us.  And frankly I didn’t care because the movie is that lame.

Years later, one of the thugs gets the death sentence, but the main man–the murderer–gets a deal, in order to testify against him.  The prosecutor tells the angry American father this and he gets upset.  Suddenly , things go haywire, and everyone involved in the case, from the actual murderer to prosecutors are picked off.  The main prosecutor (Jamie Foxx) tries to fight back.  And Foxx’s and other actors’ “acting” in this movie was stilted, put on, and excessively officious.

The movie is a mess, completely ridiculous, and vile and bloody.  We’re shown the gruesome dismembered parts of a man’s body.  And it just gets very predictable who’s going to die and when.  Butler’s true identity–an evil Defense Department mastermind our government “created” (only in leftist Hollywood)–and how he perpetrates the murders is simply preposterous.  I found this movie, which was so full of action, so extremely boring after the first half hour.  The only thing that disturbed me more than gory dismembering scenes, was when the mostly urban audience–with whom I watched the movie–applauded the blowing up of an innocent judge via cellphone.  Yeah, let’s applaud killing innocent authority figures, ‘cuz, hey, those Whities deserve it . . . even if we have to live vicariously through what’s on-screen.  That’s life in the age of Obama.

The ghost of Charles Bronson called.  He wants his magnificent movie back.  Skipworthy.  This movie’s an IQ test.  If you like it, you failed.

THREE-AND-A-HALF MARXES
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*  “Where the Wild Things Are“:  As a kid, I always thought the Maurice Sendak book, “Where the Wild Things Are,” was over-rated.  As an adult, I know that for sure it was.  But this boring waste of time makes that book look like a masterpiece.  Do you really want to take your kids to a boring melodramatic soap opera between characters in furry animal costumes?  I hated this movie.  I wanted to walk out and do errands, and I wish I had.  Although it’s being marketed as a kids movie, it isn’t one.  I’m not even sure if kids will understand what’s going on or care.  I didn’t on both counts.

Giant, imaginary animals pretending a kid in an animal costume is their king, building a house out of twigs, then fighting and crying?  What’s the point?  Don’t ask me, because I’m not quite sure . . . other than to make James Gandolfini  (who voices one of the animals) some more money post-“Sopranos.”  When my little brother was three, he could have written a much more entertaining story than this.  A sleep inducer to be sure.

Buy your kids, “My Side of the Mountain,” instead.  It’s a far more charming, entertaining kid-appropriate movie about a young boy’s adventures alone in the wild with animals.

TWO MARXES
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*  “The Stepfather“:  As I noted above, this wasn’t screened for critics, usually a sign the movie stinks.  I went and saw the Midnight Show on my own dime, late Thursday Night, so I could review it for you.

You and I have seen this movie a million times before . . . on Lifetime, on USA Network, and in the movies in the ’80s and ’90s.  In fact, it’s a remake of the creepy 1987 movie of the same name, starring the very effective Terry O’Quinn.  A murderer who has previously murdered his wives gets engaged to a gullible, lonely divorced mother.  Her son comes home from school to find this fiance of his mother, whom he finds extremely suspicious.  Soon people show up dead everywhere.  Been there, seen that.

Still, in this incarnation–with Sela Ward as mom, Dylan Walsh as the creepy, murderous suitor, and the mostly shirtless Penn Badgley as the suspecting son–was mildly entertaining and slightly scary . . . even if you knew what was going to happen, more or less, every step of the way.  This movie is clearly aimed at teens and 20-somethings, who are the primary audience of Badgley’s star vehicle, TV’s “Gossip Girl.”  And for guys, there are many, many shots of his beautiful, scantilly-clad, on-screen girlfriend shrieking, laughing, and cavorting about.

Madonna’s Maverick company and her Israeli guru, Guy Oseary, produced it.  Not a great movie by any stretch.  But better than the other choices and there was nothing objectionable in it.  All things are relative.

ONE REAGAN
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*  “A Serious Man“:  After seeing this movie, I’d say that the cinematic brother team of Ethan and Joel Coen is the most anti-Semitic, self-hating Jewish duo in Hollywood.  But to say so would be to ignore the sea of other stiff competitors emanating from Hollywood.  It’s a safe bet, though, that like their other brethren–my fellow co-religionists in the entertainment biz–they definitely voted for Barack Obama.

How do I know this?  Well, this movie portrays Jews the same way anyone who hates Jews would portray them.  A stereotypically “Jewish-looking” actor, Michael Stuhlberg, plays a loser Jewish math professor whose life as a Jewish middle class suburban married man and father stinks.  And even his character’s name, “Larry Gopnik,” sounds self-hating and stereotypical.  I think the next time some anti-Semite attacks me, instead of calling me a “hymie” or “kike,” they can call me a “Gopnik.”

The man lives the life of Job.  His wife is a shrewish bitch.  She’s cheating on him with a fat, older Jewish guy from their Reform Temple and wants a divorce.  The rabbis are stereotypical idiots, too.  And so are the pot-smoking son and ugly, annoying daughter.  And his brother is a sickly free-loader who lives on their couch.  And that’s just the beginning of his problems.

I found this movie disgusting and despicable.  The studio expected me to like it because there was a lot of Hebrew and Jewish stuff in it.  Big whoop.  Should I like “Mein Kampf” better if some Hebrew and Jewish words were thrown around in it?  Watching this was almost as bad as seeing Mein Kampf on video.  And I have no idea how they expected the mostly non-Jewish movie critics who’ve watched this (and audiences who might see it) to understand the Hebrew parts or what the heck is going on.

Sorry, but I grew up in a Jewish-American middle class family in the ’70s, not too far from the 1967 setting of this movie.  And it was nothing like this lie.  If it were, I wouldn’t want to be a Jew.  And maybe that’s the point of this movie.

Regardless, Ethan and Joel Coen will probably get a gazillion Jewish awards from the typical dominant Jewish groups (which are dominated by liberals) because they sprinkled Hebrew and rabbis amidst their venomous attack on the Jewish middle class upbringing in America.  Mazel Tov, scumbags.  You’ve mastered the art of high-quality Protocols of the Elders of Zion cinema.

This mostly unfunny, self-hating, Judeo-centric movie was supposed to be a comedy.  But the joke is on the Jews. . .  and anyone who plunks down ten bucks to see it.

FOUR MARXES PLUS AN ARAFAT
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*  “More Than a Game“:  If  you’re looking for a great sports documentary a la “Hoop Dreams,” try again.  This ain’t no Hoop Dreams.  Not even close.  Instead, it’s a gushing, self-congratulatory exercise in boring.

You could make this movie about any five Black guys playing basketball in high school, and I guarantee it would be infinitely more interesting than this Nike-funded, LeBron James-promoted ode to himself.  If this is a documentary, so is a Coca-Cola commercial.  I was bored to tears by the self-absorption of four brothers who would be nowhere if it weren’t for the fact that they had a future NBA star in their midst.  The movie follows James and his four friends through four years of playing hoops at a private high school.

You would think that White people are just extras and support staff, if you saw the world through the lens of this movie.  Would it have killed them to have one single sentence uttered from one of the White players on LeBron’s high school team?  Would that give us the cooties?  Apparently so, since the only White people interviewed in this movie are coaches and sportswriters (and one tiny angry quote from a White teammate’s mother).

Instead, we’re treated to sappy stories about how one player, Dru Joyce III (yes, there are now three generations of men who can’t spell the name Drew in a non-ebonics manner), is short and still was good at basketball, even though he never grew tall.  So what?  This isn’t new.  In fact, like everything else in this waste of time, it’s stale.  College basketball and the NBA has had a slurry of short players, from Spud Webb to Muggsy Bogues (with whom I once had my picture in The Washington Post–we’re both short) to Earl Boykins and plenty of others.  So this guy made it in high school basketball as a teammate of LeBron James?  Who cares?  There wasn’t much in this movie to care about.

There was nothing critical or enlightening on the screen here, so it’s hard to see how it was a “documentary” of anything.  In contrast, “Hoop Dreams” was  a gritty, critical look at two men’s attempts to make it in basketball amidst inner city social problems, like out-of-wedlock pregnancy, etc.  That stuff is skipped in this promotional video movie.  The movie doesn’t show us or even mention that LeBron James is now a babydaddy.  His life as the son of a nomadic, mostly-homeless single mother was glossed over as were the very big stories of LeBron James getting a Hummer via a suspicious loan to his welfare-dependent mom and all of the free stuff James got as a supposedly “amateur” hoops star in high school.

Boring as heck.

TWO MARXES
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24 Responses

Debbie, you do have a point on “where the wild things are”. When my mom read that to me a a little boy, it gave me nightmares of a big giant monster kidnapping me.

Matthew on October 16, 2009 at 11:10 pm

FOUR MARXES PLUS AN ARAFAT?!?!?

More abominable than ‘Capitalism: A Love Story’?!? Is the world coming to an end?!?

Norman Blitzer on October 17, 2009 at 12:35 am

is hollywood self defeating or what? they continue to put out garbage. the movies were boring 3 weeks ago, last week and this weekend too…stayin home and studying or cleaning.

I’ll watch for the numbers on step dad, law abiding cititzen and the serious man. to me, stepdad looked like “the orphan” movie from last month or a few months ago.

I am better off watching House marathons.

lindapolver on October 17, 2009 at 8:43 am

I see you really liked “A Serious Man”. I didn’t recall you ever throwing in an “arafat”, so point well made.

codekeyguy on October 17, 2009 at 11:24 am

The truth is that Hollywood HATES suburbia. Have you seen a movie lately that doesn’t excoriate suburban life? Same with TV shows. I’ve lived in suburbia my whole life and haven’t experienced any of the things the movie geniuses seem to think occur here. I do know I have no street crime, no gangs killing people, no neighbors locked in their houses at night afraid to walk the streets.

JeffT on October 17, 2009 at 11:57 am

“The truth is that Hollywood HATES suburbia. Have you seen a movie lately that doesn’t excoriate suburban life?”

Lars and the Real Girl, and Junebug, in my opinion, anyway. Also A History of Violence, kinda, maybe. But other than that, you’re totally right! I don’t think there’s a movie I hate more than Pleasantville, except perhaps American Beauty. Hollywood these days is truly determined to destroy decency and values. We’re all much better off watching TCM!

Adrian on October 17, 2009 at 1:24 pm

What does a “Jewish looking” actor look like?

Who’s the real bigot here?

Susan

S: Did you not notice the word “stereotypically” preceding that and the quotation marks surrounding “Jewish-looking”? Please learn to read my work more closely. RIF–Reading Is Fundamental. DS

Susan Cahne on October 17, 2009 at 2:08 pm

    A mind is a terrible thing to disuse.

    Sorrow01 on October 18, 2009 at 2:57 am

“This year Pioneer Valley Jewish Film Festival and Amherst Cinema to help promote Jewish related films” are giving away two tickets to see A Serious Man.

How do you win these tickets? By writing a 60 word essay entitled “Why Do We Need A Local Jewish Film Festival? What Does It Mean To You?” or giving them $100 by 6pm Monday.

sandy on October 17, 2009 at 5:12 pm

Debbie’s not here Cirronga!!!

tita8juju on October 17, 2009 at 5:31 pm

One can see why Hollywood is faltering with such cast off flicks. Most of this stuff should be direct to DVD, if that. From what I have heard, there is going to be a remake film of “The Three Stooges”. Are we going to be subject to a revival of “The Bowery Boys”? These franchises produced period pieces that would be completely out of place if produced today. Moe, Larry, and Shemp would have more class than most of the low grades performing today. Also, “Slip” Mahoney would not even recognize his old neighborhood today. The crime, grime, and moral relativism would bring that old street tough to tears.

Sorrow01 on October 18, 2009 at 3:13 am

Hmmm, I wanted to see Law-Abiding Citizen, since there are so many stories of victims not receiving justice in the real world, I always go for movies where the victims take out the bad-guys, no questions asked (I REALLY like Taken with Liam Neeson). Now I think I’ll pass.

And “4 Marxes + 1 Arafat” is the greatest movie rating I’ve ever seen. Hilarious!

Incidentally, I just saw a commercial for a remake of the old 80’s miniserious V, about the aliens coming to earth. I think it’s official: Hollywood is out of ideas.

Matt on October 18, 2009 at 3:42 am

Ummm…that should be “miniseries V,” not “miniserious.”

Yikes.

matt on October 18, 2009 at 5:08 am

Maybe I’m off, but until this review of “A Serious Man” the fact that the Coens are Jewish hadn’t occured to me. They’ve made some great films, and more good ones than bad.
I would pass on this movie even without the “plus one arafat” rating. (sidenote-Wow!) I only saw their last few movies when friends loaned them to me. While they may be good craftasmen, their movies always seem a bit cold, their characters almost too reserved, standoffish, to touch my heart. It just occured to me that I don’t have a single movie of theirs in my collection.
Maybe I’ll buy “Raising Arizona”

Douglas Q on October 18, 2009 at 8:56 am

“Moe, Larry, and Shemp would have more class than most of the low grades performing today.”

Yes, even without Curly!

Gary Rosen on October 19, 2009 at 1:59 am

I am not going to see ‘Wild Things’, but not because of your review. While the book was a fun kid’s fantasy, and the movie was promoted as such, it lost me when Maurice Sendak, the book’s author who worked closely with the filmmakers, told parents wondering if the film would be too scary for their children to “go to hell”.

mr. smart guy on October 19, 2009 at 9:52 am

Well, like the sitcoms on TV, the writers for the movies today seem to all be videogame enthusiasts with the scattershot, unfocused imaginations of teenagers who never grew up. Movies don’t have messages anymore. They’re only made to make money for special effects people and overpayed move stars, producers and directors. My question is HOW exactly DO they make money? Usually any movie you go to see nowadays is sparsley attended. When will reality catch up with the money train?

saveher on October 19, 2009 at 12:33 pm

You are not wrong with your characterization of the Coens, and I say this from direct personal experience. I grew up in Lexington, MA literally across the street from their aunt (their mother’s sister) and uncle. Their first cousin has been among my closest friends from the time we were small children, and remains so today as we both turn 49 this month, and my own first cousin was Joel’s classmate at NYU film school, and so I had a few interactions with them before the Coens put their family in their rearview mirror.

The Coens are talented, but more than anything else, they are immature. Like so many of their ilk, they are desparate for validation as not just great moviemakers but great intellectuals; in point of fact, to be considered by whom they see as their peers as “serious men.” Much as they try, however, they have nothing truly profound to say. Their movies are well-made and often amusing, but essentially all fall into two categories: the screwball character study (e.g., Barton Fink and the Hudsucker Proxy), and the violent yet screwball-comic chase movie (from Blood Simple to Fargo to No Country for Old Men). The Oscar is now their curse, because to get what they really yearn for, they will need to top “No Country …” with something more substantial, and in my estimation they lack the intellectual candlepower (and, thinking about Barton Fink here, I suspect they fear the same thing, too). Picking on their own father and mother (may she rest in peace) strikes me as an act of desparation; having no actual insight into much beyond themselves, they went with what was easiest. I agree with your analysis, they failed miserably, in more ways than one.

Thus, while the self-hatred of and malign towards Jews in this film is evident, I see more of the Coens personal self-hatred than anything else.

Love the site, Debbie

Michael on October 20, 2009 at 2:19 am

I disagree, as an atheist who thinks of himself as a “cultural jew,” with your assessment of “A Serious Man” as Anti-Semetic. Jews have a long history of self-degrading humor, and A Serious Man falls into that tradition. Often, it was a survival technique used to cope with the horrors of everyday existence. This may seem counter-intuitive, but it makes sense when you consider that openly mocking their oppressors could lead to sever punishment. Now it is an integral part of our tradition, from the Jew-Chasing festival in the Orthodox Sacha Baron Cohen to traditional jokes whose creators are long forgotten. Some are made uncomfortable by this mocking. You may be one of them, but it’s no excuse to dismiss the Coens as self hating Jews.

ExJew on October 21, 2009 at 5:10 pm

Debbie,

I love you, you’re fabulous. Yes, you look pretty cute in the photo above, but I have never seen you or read your reviews before…it is your honesty, from the LeBron fiasco(where Drew can never be spelled an un-ebonics way)to the oh-so self-deprecating style of the Coens that keeps them
“cutting edge,” to the fact that Where the Wild Are really wasn’t so wild and marvelous. You’re right…but you know what?
Watch Death Wish again (one, two, three or whatever):it wasn’t very good either -even back then.

patrick luna on November 2, 2009 at 6:00 pm

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