August 17, 2007, - 1:33 pm

Weekend Box Office: Thrilling Sci-Fi Remake, Hilarious Depraved Comedy, and More Duds

By Debbie Schlussel
There are so many new releases out this week, but the only one I really liked was “The Invasion.” “Superbad” was depraved, but hilarious. Here are my reviews:
* “The Invasion“: This remake of the original “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” also bears resemblance to “Night of the Living Dead.” I liked it a lot and recommend it for non-stop action, creepiness, and everything you’d want in a thriller.

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In place of the original’s male Dr. Bennell, Nicole Kidman plays the modern, female version–a divorced psychiatrist. She begins to notice weird behavior among her patients and her ex-husband, who suddenly has an interest in their son. She notes that people have a lack of emotion in their eyes. She and her fellow doctor friend, dashingly played in this movie by James Bond’s Daniel Craig, discover a weird virus from outer space that mutates and causes humans to become zombies who try to infect the rest of the human race.
Together with Craig, they try to save her son from her ex-husband and the rest of the zombies.
While I found the film exciting and filled with edge-of-your-seat, non-stop action (car chases, staving off the infected zombies, etc.), I had a few reservations. Nicole Kidman speaking in a feigned American accent with exaggerated “R”s, is always a little weird and hard to believe. A little bit of cognitive dissonance comes with her ever spoken line. Sticking with her authentic Australian accent wouldn’t have affected the movie and would have made her more credible.
Did not like the single-mother-as-hero bit, with every man in the movie–even the dashing doctor played by Craig–ultimately being unreliable, creepy, and worse. We get enough of that message from a daily dose of “Oprah.”
While there is a fantastic conversational scene at an Embassy dinner party, I could have done without the political statements made by a Russian diplomat, who asks Kidman’s psychiatrist character,

As an American, how do you explain Darfur, Iraq, New Orleans? Give me a pill to see the world as you Americans see it.

HUH? America didn’t cause what’s going on in Darfur. That’s Muslim Arabs, comrade. New Orleans? G-d and the weather caused that, NOT Americans. Iraq? Are you forgetting how “peaceful” it was there for Iraqis under Saddam Hussein. Puh-leeze.
He goes on to say that it’s impossible to have a peaceful world because that’s not human. In later scenes, when the viral zombies take over and there is no emotion, we see newscasts of peace breaking out all over. “President Al-Sadr” is a “peaceful development”?! On which planet?
As my friend, Detroit Free Press film critic, Terry Lawson, points out, “Invasion of the Body Snatchers,” on which this one is based, was a clarion call against the spread of Communism. I like that message better, and today, they could have made it about Islam. **** UPDATE: I stand corrected (or Terry does). Read reader Red Ryder’s comment on “Body Snatchers” (in the comments section below). ****
Still, overall, I really liked and enjoyed the movie, for the thrills and the overall entertainment value. I’ve learned that with Hollywood, you can’t have everything. And with this one, the negatives are minor and far outweighed by the complete package.
* “Superbad“: More like, Superwarped. Boys will be pigs. That’s the theme of this one.
I have mixed feelings about the movie. The only thing supergood about it is the soundtrack. While I cannot really recommend it because of its extreme depravity and disgusting themes and antics, I must admit I found it extremely hilarious and laughed non-stop. Very difficult not to.
Still, it’s movies like this and the callous “do anything to get laid” teenage attitude on-screen that sends awful messages to America’s boys as they attain manhood. It puts added pressure on them to grow up earlier and earlier and help further decay America’s broken moral culture. Blame Hollywood for making my saying so prompt accusations of prudishness, rather than looking beyond the comedy to the disturbing mantra of this movie. In short, while funny, it’s low class.
The plot: A day–and night–long odyssey featuring two best friends and their nerdy sidekick. All three are virgin geeks who dream up the idea to buy alcohol and get their female friends drunk so they can have sex with them that night at a party. The movie follows their journey–full of twists and turns and two crazy police oficers–to get alcohol at a party store and at a random party. Probably the funniest gag in the movie is uber-nerd Fogell’s fake Hawaiian driver’s license with the one word name “McLovin.” Not a spoiler, since it’s in the movie’s trailer ads on TV.
Yes, I laughed, but again only while being embarrassed for laughing . . . and a little nervous, too. Sometimes what’s funny is kind of sick. And there was a lot that was just flat-out sick and indecent in this movie. The guys who thought it up–actor Seth Rogen and his friend Evan Goldberg–were pretty warped to dream up some of the things they did. And the messages for American teens–most of whom aren’t old enough to get into this “R”-rated movie–are not good ones.
The friendship of the two main characters, the two best friends, is one of close comraderie and male soulmates. But that really isn’t enough to justify the depravity that goes along with it and for which the friendship back story was really developed only as an excuse for unlimited raunch.
As I said, I found the movie hilarious and sick at the same time. And I’m embarrassed to admit I found it funny. Definitely not for kids, and definitely not for parents accompany their kids.
Thank G-d most guys I know are not like the ones in this movie. G-d help us from those who are.
You’ve seen them before in “Porky’s,” “American Pie,” and now, this. And you neither want them to date your daughter . . . or turn out to be your own son.

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* “Death at a Funeral“: The only funeral that should have taken place is the one at the the production and distribution houses that chose to put this movie out. Completely disgusting, stupid, and not funny, this funeral “comedy” merits skipping at all costs.
The plot: Two English brothers are putting on the funeral of their late father. A comedy of errors ensues, from the wrong body being delivered to a wheelchair bound great-uncle who has accidents with his catheter and flying fecal material and sewage. That’s funny? Not to me. Meanwhile, a cousin is about to announce her engagement to a man who mistakenly ingests drugs and goes into hallucinations. He gets naked and rants and raves at the funeral. Funny? Again, not. And finally, there’s the midget who threatens to show photos of their father and himself engaged in a homosexual love affair. Funny? Not on your life. And maybe that’s why a dead person is at the center of this lifeless, disgusting bore.
Avoid like the plague. Gives new significance to reasons why Americans hate arthouse movies.
* “Arctic Tale“: Environmentalist global warming tripe costumed in cute animal characters and their scary ends. Meant to traumatize your kids into believing. Read my complete review.
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* “The Ten“: This movie is made up of ten vignettes that are supposed to remind us of The Ten Commandments. But instead it’s just a depraved display of the sickening and silly, perverting The Ten Commandments with their mention in this waste of time film. Jessica Alba and Paul Rudd are in this celluloid disaster.
Sorry, but neither repeated gay rape scenes of inmates in prison, nor Wynona Ryder having sex with a ventriloquists’ dummy, remind me of The Ten Commandments. Ditto for two neighbors competing to see who can buy the most MRI machines. Like I said, just stupid. And a waste of your life.

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12 Responses

Debbie–
Sorry to burst Terry Lawson’s (and your) bubble, but you’ve got The Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956) exactly wrong!!!
The pod people were meant to be the “McCarthy-infested” common-man dolts who, clone-like were doing their witch hunt for Communists.
The movie was anything BUT a clarion call against Communism!

Red Ryder on August 17, 2007 at 4:37 pm

Debbie,
“As I said, I found the movie hilarious and sick at the same time. And I’m embarrassed to admit I found it funny”.
People appear to ignore the Pavlovian conditioning that encourages them to laugh at what they know is bad behavior in spite of what their gut tells them. Deliberate or not is debatable, but people are being conditioned to stiffle that uncomfortable feeling about laughing at what they know is plain wrong. Those denying this should explain why smoking is being removed from the media for fear that it will encourage children to smoke;however, when they place overly graphic adult situations in the media, the media believes that you should censor what your kids watch 24/7.
The best example of this type of conditioning that immediately comes to mind is: once watching Last Comic Standing, one of the “so-called” comedians remarked that “I like my scotch like I like my women, 12 years-old and mixed-up with coke”, the audience laughed uncomfortably – I sighed and changed the channel. Ignore your gut at your own peril.

eloopd on August 17, 2007 at 5:22 pm

eloopd–
Points well taken, and you’d think Debbie would be all over this.
How did we ever get to the point whereby PC is such that you can’t say anything negative about any protected racial/relgious group (Muslims, anyone?), but even the sky is not the limit to how far “comics” will go to get a cheap laugh.
Deb is correct to point out all the times that incredibly incompetent/corrupt govt officials are not held to account for their misdeeds if they are Black/female/other “minority”, so why not just realize that the nervous laughter is a self-correcting mechanism to prevent one from speaking out?
There is no free speech, only certain forms of protected speech, but the public is very slowly wising up, and maybe, just maybe “racist” won’t be the all-powerful argument stopper it once was.

Red Ryder on August 17, 2007 at 6:04 pm

Red Ryder;
I think you got it wrong –it was a real accomplishment for Hollywood propaganda to make one of the most staunchly anticommunist movies ever made into a anti-McCarthyism one; that’s how critics et al usually refer to it, and their insistence that it is so always stroke me as a bit self-conscious… remember that the movie’s director was Don Siegel, the man who created Dirty Harry and Coogan (from Coogan’s Bluff), and to my knowledge he never said with so many words that this movie was a ‘clarion call against’ McCarthyism (for instance, in that long interview with Peter Bogdanovich in ‘Who the Devil Made it’). My own guess is that he wouldn’t want to be blacklisted by the liberal establishment in Hollywood, hence his eloquent silence on the subject.
BTW, the name of the main character in ‘Invasion’, the one who managed to scape the body snatchers was Kevin MCCARTHY!

ebenezer on August 17, 2007 at 7:07 pm

ebenezer–
A few remarks…
1. Kevin McCarthy was the ACTOR who played Dr. Miles Bennell.
2. While it might be *possible* that the movie could be interpreted as a warning against Commies, there is absolutely no doubt that the official critical interpretation of the pic is anti-the supposed anti-Communist “hysteria” of the 1950s.
3. As you demonstrate, the revisionist version of this has fooled a lot of folks, and was created only after we won the Cold War, and Hollywood wanted to make itself look good.
4. Whatever Don Siegel’s personal politics were, at the time he was a “B” movie director, and he was simply directing another of the many invasion from outer space pics of the time.
5. Every time this pic has been re-made, there has always been a liberal political interpretation attached to it.
6. I will grant you that in 1956, the moguls were very conservative and anti-Communist, but the “B” releases were really grindhouse fare, and did not get much notice from the suits, beyond how much money they made. As such, if something were to be “passed off” as an allegory, it would have been with a “B” movie, and very likely would have been pro-Leftist.
Frankly, there would have been no need to hide an anti-Communist viewpoint, since the public and the moguls were overwhelmingly in favor of McCarthy and the Hollywood blacklist.

Red Ryder on August 17, 2007 at 8:16 pm

That it was piece warning against the spread of Communism seems more plausible to me. Perhaps even to the point of parody.
That’s the interpretation I’ve heard the longest. The ‘its about McCarthyism’ with the pod-people those who believed McCarthy is a spin that’s new to me.
But the main reason I feel its about the spread of Communism is from the movie itself.
One, the pod-people were soul-less like a world full of “God-less Commies”. Not to mention Communisms kills the individual and the desire to excel.
The idea that people contemporary to McCarthyism would identify soul-less drones with people who followed the anti-communist propaganda would be unlikely except by a very small core of people sympathetic to communists. So as a warning against McCarthyism, it seems like it would be lost on almost everyone. In which case it would be more of an inside joke. In fact, the idea of those following McCarthy as drones seems more like a more recent retrospective view of McCarthyism.
Two, the warning of the time was that a communist could be your neighbor, your doctor, the clerk in a store, etc. This is pretty much how conversions to pod-people ran. Almost random members of a community. If it was a parallel to McCarthyism, one might expect a top-down envelopment or take-over. Primarily the authority figures first, followed by the general populous. The latter take-over pattern was followed in The Faculty. In “Invasion of…”, it isn’t until towards the end of the movie any type of serious organization amongst the pod-people emerges and only when they reach critical mass.

jpm100 on August 18, 2007 at 2:01 am

Debbie, as think I’ve said before, it’s no wonder the world has such a warped/bad view of US. The world sees the US via Hollywood and all of its depravity on the screens. AND, it’s a further condemnation of our society by what we laugh at, what we consider humor. Yes, Hollywood and anyone has a first amendment right to speak whatever they please on film or otherwise including Michael Moore. But it is up to us to exercise our discretion and refuse to patronize the crap. If more of us (…US) did that there wouldn’t be any money to produce “the crap”. We bring it on ourselves, sadly. I’m not a prude, I just don’t care to expose my mind to “the crap”, in the movie theater or on TV. My TV has been off most of the time the last few years. I refuse to watch. When the “guvmint” makes the digital requirements take affect in ’09 and I’m forced to get a converter box for my antenna, well, I may just say screw’em as it’s not worth the trouble. Cable/Satellite? Not worth it except for the science/discovery/history channels. Other than those…naw. I’ll watch my Star Trek/Jag, etc., tapes. Yeah. I’m a disgusted-old fart-baby boomer!

Floyd R. Turbo on August 18, 2007 at 12:06 pm

jpm100–
Here’s the problem:
The pod people as Commies interpretation makes sense, especially by today’s conservative standards. However, there was no need to make an allegorical movie like that in 1956.
As stated, the public was overwhelmingly anti-Communist, and no “code” was required to put that sentiment over. In addition, the movie was probably just made and set out as a space invasion pic.
The point is that the Left-wing elite media (and that’s all there was back then) were the taste-makers, and THEY created the interpretation of the anti-McCarthy allegory.
It does not matter whether this was the intent or not. Any film history will give this spin on “Body Snatchers.”
Most people (including some actually alive then) are unaware of how distorted an impression is now painted of this era. As mentioned earlier, the public was overwhelmingly anti-Communist and pro McCarthy, pro HUAC, and pro the blacklist.
Despite what you may have read, the public was also overwhelmingly against the Rosenbergs (atomic spies), and it was pure Commies who were demonstrating against their conviction. There was never the slightest doubt of their guilt.
It is also important to remember that most of the movie community may have not liked a blacklist, but they also despised those who were blacklisted, who were incidentally all party members. They were in no sense of the word heroes, and most of them kept working during the blacklist under different names.
Thus, given this as the pop culture of the time, there would have been no reason to hide an anti-Communist sentiment as an allegory.
As a student of American history, and film buff, my contention is that the movie was made as a space invader picture, with the leftist spin added by the “elite” critics. But, that is now the “official” version, regardless of the abstract truth of the matter.
Even though your interpretation is more logical, it simply does not apply, as logic had nothing to do with it. Being avid Leftists, the elite media would try to put a pro-Commie spin on everything.
The only difference nowadays is that they seldom get away with it.

Red Ryder on August 18, 2007 at 1:11 pm

I had a different take on Superbad. I thought it was hilarious, but the boys will be pigs theme was only part of the story. In the end, Seth and Evan realized that they were going to miss each other when they go away to college in the fall. Evan’s girlfriend was real drunk at the party and told him that she was going to give him a “blow j” and he said no because she was very drunk (and maybe because he realized he really liked this girl and wanted to get to know her first). Seth thought he needed to get the girl he liked drunk, but came to find out that she didn’t drink and when he started to talk to her, he found out that she was interested in talking with him. McLovin, the 25 year old Hawaiian organ donor, finally got up the courage to talk with the girl he adored (and she didn’t appear to be drunk at the time).
It’s a fair point to say that it shows adolescent boys thinking the goal is to sleep with girls, but I don’t think that is such an outlandish take on things. When I was 17, I know that’s what I was hoping for. Now I think differently.
Thanks for the reviews, Debbie. I enjoy reading your blog.
DANDY:
THANKS. I, TOO, THOUGHT IT WAS HILARIOUS AND REMARKED THAT THE BACKSTORY WAS THE FRIENDSHIP OF THE TWO. BUT, AS I WROTE IN MY REVIEW, THAT BACKSTORY WAS THE JUSTIFICATION FOR LOTS OF RAUNCH. YES, IN THE END, SOME OF THE MESSAGES WERE CORRECT. BUT NOT ENOUGH TO JUSTIFY WHAT WENT ON IN BETWEEN. BUT, YES, VERY FUNNY (IF OFTEN IN A SICK WAY).
DEBBIE SCHLUSSEL

Dandy Walker on August 18, 2007 at 9:28 pm

Red Ryder corrected Debbie stating:
“Debbie–
Sorry to burst Terry Lawson’s (and your) bubble, but you’ve got The Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956) exactly wrong!!!
The pod people were meant to be the “McCarthy-infested” common-man dolts who, clone-like were doing their witch hunt for Communists.
The movie was anything BUT a clarion call against Communism!”
Primarily focusing on either director, Don Siegel, or screenplay writer, Daniel Mainwaring, the interpretation of this film has been debated over the years. Factually neither interpretation is correct.
The movie was based on a screenplay adapted from the novel “The Body Snatchers” written in 1954 by Jack Finney. When Jack Finney, the author, was questioned about the intended interpretation of his novel, he maintained it was simply to entertain. This not only was published via various new sources in his obituary from November 1995, the New York Times published the following response from his son and daughter to an article on April 9, 2006:
http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9502E3D91030F93AA35757C0A9609C8B63
“DON SIEGEL; The Real Auteur
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Published: April 9, 2006
To the Editor:
Re ”An Auteur? Smile When You Say That” by Dave Kehr [March 19]:
If anyone truly wants to know what was intended as the inner meaning of ”Invasion of the Body Snatchers” he should ask the auteur of the novel on which it was based, and neither the director Don Siegel nor the screenwriter Daniel Mainwaring was that man. When Jack Finney, the author of ”The Body Snatchers,” was asked that question, he told us: ”Oh, I don’t know. I was just trying to entertain people.”
Ken Finney
Kensington, Calif.
Marguerite Finney Sausalito, Calif.
The writers are the son and daughter of Jack Finney. ”

PsychoKat on August 20, 2007 at 1:52 am

Debbie, you must agree though that there has not been a more haunting version of “These Eyes” in quite some time. :)

Dandy Walker on August 20, 2007 at 11:23 am

At the risk of extending this thread beyond reason, unfortunately, it doesn’t matter what the original talent says, since the “official” intrepretation was pasted on by the critics.
As I noted, it probably WAS just a space invader flick.
As Walt Disney once said: We make the movies, and you guys tell us what we meant.
American pop culture and history are full of the conventional wisdom being wrong, not the least of which example could be:
We WON the Tet Offensive (Vietnam War), but everyone thinks we lost–you could look it up…
(Yes, we sued for peace when we were winning)
In that particular case, this misinterpretation was literally a world-changing event.
Another example is that no major antitrust case in American history EVER helped the consumer.
Almost invariably, the pop interpretation is really the Leftist spin–and it is incorrect.

Red Ryder on August 20, 2007 at 7:50 pm

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