May 21, 2010, - 7:02 pm

Weekend Box Office: “MacGruber,” “Harry Brown,” “The Square”

By Debbie Schlussel

The only new movies worth seeing–and that’s only kinda/sorta–this weekend, are foreign films, albeit foreign films from English-speaking countries (so does that count?).  I did not see the latest and last installment of “Shrek” because I’ve never seen any of the other Shrek movies, so why start now?  Plus the screening was on the Jewish holiday of Shavuot, so I couldn’t see it even if I wanted to.  Here’s what I did see:

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thesquare

*  “MacGruber“:  MacStupid.  The good news:  it wasn’t as bad as I expected it would be.  The bad news:  it was still awful.  Vile, disgusting, dumb, and mostly not funny.  Since it’s written by idiots with no sense of humor, the movie repeatedly relies on stupid sex jokes that rely on the name of a villain that sounds just like the c-word and disgusting anal sex references.  Come on, Hollywood.  You can do better.  Or can you?  More proof that really bad, very stupid “Saturday Night Live” skits make even worse feature-length films.

The “story”:  MacGruber (Will Forte) is a highly decorated military veteran who left to become a monk in Mexico, after his enemy, the villain with the c-word name (Val Kilmer), blows MacGruber’s wife up with a bomb at their wedding.  Now, the c-word villain has a nuclear warhead and is planning to blow up something in America with it.  MacGruber is pressed into service by the Pentagon and ends up teaming with a female friend from the ’80s and a young soldier played by Ryan Phillippe (who must be short on cash for those child support payments to Reese Witherspoon–shameless name-drop: boy, has he fallen since he sat across from me at my cousin, David’s, wedding). I was sad to see the great actor Powers Boothe co-star in this. His class doesn’t belong here.

Yes, there were a scant few funny moments, like MacGruber’s stuck-in-the-’80s car, soundtrack and detachable car radio.  But mostly, it’s just dumb.  And a low-class, vulgar waste of time.  Not that you were expecting anything different.  The moronic college-aged and 20-something boys in the audience just loved it.  And you wonder why I’m not optimistic about America’s future.  You don’t have to be a prude to hate this.

THREE-AND-A-HALF MARXES
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Watch the trailer . . .

*  “Harry Brown“:  If you like “Death Wish” (as I do–read my 35th anniversary tribute), you might like this.  But this isn’t nearly as good, even if it stars the great Michael Caine, one of my fave actors.  He adds class and depth to what is basically a cold, slow, half-assed version of “Death Wish” and is set in an English working-class apartment complex in London.  Whereas the Charles Bronson version had charm, rhythm, and knew when and where to end, this one isn’t tight and when it isn’t boring, it’s dark, disturbing, and very graphic.  Still, it’s better than a good deal of the flicks I’ve seen this year, and you can’t beat a Michael Caine performance. His co-star, Emily Mortimer, as an English detective who is eventually on to him, is pretty good, too.

Caine plays a retired British Marine who fought in the war.  His wife has Alzheimers and isn’t conscious.  She is living in a hospital, and she doesn’t know who he is anymore.  Caine plays chess with his fellow lonely senior citizen, Leonard, at the local pub.  Their neighborhood is infested with young criminal hoodlums and gangs who terrorize the residents and have been taunting Leonard.  But soon Leonard is dead.  They’ve killed him, and Caine avenges his friend’s death.  While at some points, it’s satisfying, at most points it isn’t because it doesn’t have the punch that “Death Wish” had or the speed.  And it’s much, much darker.  I found it interesting, too, that most–if not all–of the young criminal thugs in this movie are White. Given that it’s working class London, where are the Black and Muslim criminals. The movie seemed to skip that fact, though one hood looks vaguely bi-racial.

But like I said, I love me some Michael Caine flicks, and for him alone, it’s worth seeing. Plus, you can’t beat a tough senior citizen kicking some young thug ass.

TWO-AND-A-HALF REAGANS
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Watch the trailer . . .

Bonus trailer . . .

* “The Square“: This dark thriller and lovers’ triangle wasn’t as good as I expected it to be. But it was entertaining enough, even if I didn’t like the ending. One of the twists is barely hinted at if at all during the movie, and it seemed unfair to the viewer. But that’s a minor point against it. The movie is Australian and has been compared to the Ethan and Joel Coen film noir style.

A woman who is married to a working-class mob-style thug is having an affair with an upper middle-class builder. She finds a bag filled with cash in her attic and knows it’s her husband’s. The woman proposes that she and her lover steal the cash and run away. But the builder says they’d need to burn the house down in order to take the cash, undetected. Soon he is hiring an arsonist. But something goes wrong. The woman’s mother-in-law dies in the house fire and more things start to go wrong.

It was definitely entertaining and different, and you don’t know what’s gonna happen next. Plus the film weaves in a lot of characters together with deft, tight stitches. Even scenes with a water dog are woven in, which adds some charm.

TWO REAGANS
reagancowboyreagancowboy

Watch the trailer . . .

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19 Responses

All the critics are raving over MacGruber but it wouldn’t surprise me if it’s really crap. It was the same for Wayne’s World. All the critics were saying it was the best comedy of the year so my girlfriend and I saw it and after the movie finished there were no laughs or claps more like ‘that was it?!?!’.

Norman Blitzer on May 21, 2010 at 9:59 pm

Norman, did you see Wayne’s World II? Made the first look like a masterpiece, which had it’s moments though too far and few.
Some of the best SNL skits make the lamest movies, don’t you think?…remember Coneheads?
When I saw the ad for the Mac Gruber movie the first time I thought it was just another joke. Well, I guess I was right.

theShadow on May 21, 2010 at 11:18 pm

    @theShadow
    No, I can’t bring myself to see Wayne’s World II, but yeah, most movies based on SNL skits don’t work because they got to stretch a 5 minute sketch into a 90 minute movie. The only one I sort of liked though was A Night at the Roxbury.

    Norman Blitzer on May 22, 2010 at 9:30 am

I’m waiting for “The A-Team.” I LOVED that show. I hope it doesn’t have islamo-pandering because then I won’t be able to watch.

DS_ROCKS! on May 22, 2010 at 3:41 am

Most movie critics, like the movies they write about, have been dumbed down. Write a good review and you get your name on a trailer. What’s not to question about that process? Reviews are, by and large, irrelevant. The things they should tell us, like the levels of gratuitous violence and sex, that they don’t mention. Kids are going to see this crap anyway, and besides, most probably can’t read the reviews thanks to our wonderful educational system. :)

JeffT on May 22, 2010 at 9:14 am

I think, Norman, that the reason critics are ecstatically raving about MacGruber is that it parodies macho 80s films like Die Hard, Rambo, Hard to Kill, et al. These 80s macho films were patriotic and conservative and critics were probably resentful that they took in more money than “superior” movies like The Crying Game and Remains of the Day. After viewing the first twenty minutes of M, I was pretty sure that there was only one point to the film: to bash the Reagan years and mentality. Then, though, the film grew more imaginatively silly and I found myself laughing more. Like Pineapple Express and The Hangover, it was “guy humor.” I liked it pretty much on balance, though there were stretches in the film I’d describe as “misses.” Now, does this reaction of mine make me a “moron”? Probably.

I like your description of Harry Brown, Debbie. I agree it doesn’t have the polish and rhythm of Death Wish 1 (forget the sequels), but it’s still good. It’s astonishingly conservative! It takes all the resentments English conservatives have of thugs, pushers, juvenile delinquents (and the Irish!) and lets hero-geezer Michael Caine take them on–no thanks to the ineffective criminal-justice bureaucracy. And Caine, of course, does this all with a British mix of restraint and resolution. I don’t think something like this could currently be made in our country–our Death Wish days are over– so thankfully there are still imports.

Shrek was okay. There were a few inspired moments like the scenes with the witches but there was also a lot of retread. I agree with the critic who put the film half way between II (pretty good) and III (pretty awful). Nothing has come close to I, unfortunately. (I’ll just add that sentimentality and cuteness can ruin an otherwise good cartoon.)

Burke on May 22, 2010 at 9:46 am

Most of the thugs and criminals in “Harry Brown” are WHITE?

Why, how typically ,and deliberately, inaccurate,
how typically,and deliberately, Politically Correct,
how typically,and deliberately, same old same old ,of the movie business!

Phineas on May 22, 2010 at 11:19 am

Hairy Brown is the typical description of the global criminal class. Get it? Even “critics” did not pick up on that or that most criminals in this awful movie are inexplicably Hairy Whites. The prisons are full of toxic democrats and so is this awful government.

Demonization of Anglos on May 22, 2010 at 12:10 pm

Call me cynical but aren’t most movie titles just picked because a particular word has not been used before? The title “Square” does not have any relevance to the movie unless you consider the movie makers did not for one second think out of the box. Harry Brown sounds like a description of an ape!

Lars on May 22, 2010 at 12:16 pm

    Or maybe the Square is called the square because instead of a lover’s triangle there are four people involved, making it a square.

    And maybe Harry Brown is called Harry BRown because that’s the name of the main character.

    Pete Bone on May 22, 2010 at 1:49 pm

How dare you criticize Miss USA?

Harry Brown is a Bitch on May 22, 2010 at 12:19 pm

This is who commits nearly all the gun crime in London.

(Actually, probably the whole of the UK)

http://www.londonwired.co.uk/articles.php/61638-Man-wounded-in-shoot-out-at-London-Fields-festival.

Btw, this is where Tony Blair lived in the 80s. Google it and be stunned by the spectacular lack of deprivation.

Richard on May 22, 2010 at 6:17 pm

But,but,but how can there be gun crime in England when guns are not allowed? This must be NRA, Bushhitler, propaganda!

grayjohn on May 23, 2010 at 1:25 pm

Debbie wrote: “Plus the screening was on the Jewish holiday of Shavuot, so I couldn’t see it even if I wanted to.”

I don’t think that Debbie meant that literally. I believe she feels more like me, in that when it comes to religious holidays, I CHOOSE to be advised by tradition and the law, instead of commanded.

Salek Orzechowski on May 23, 2010 at 1:49 pm

its pretty funny that nobody cares about any of your posts that aren’t absurdly racist. maybe you do it for attention. either way, this post like all of your others show how valueless your opinion really is to everyone, schlussel.

Jay on May 24, 2010 at 2:30 pm

in the house fire and more things start to go wrong.

jersey on May 26, 2010 at 4:00 am

I watched Harry Brown. The production values were better than British TV shows like New Tricks. If you’ve watched British detective shows Harry Brown will feel very familiar to you.

But the movie grabs you with the very first sequence and Caine is very effective. The movie is very dark and depressing, which may be a fair description of modern Britain.

However, the movie would be very alien to a North American viewer, so many things are different in the UK. There really isn’t much of the kind of totally pointless yob crime on this side of the Atlantic. Criminals here always have either a monetary motivation or a political one (aka Democrats and leftists).

Carl Hardwick on May 30, 2010 at 9:42 pm

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